“As we become more secure and confident in our ability to find someone else, usually someone better, monogamy and the old thinking about commitment will be challenged very harshly” (Slater).
Although time can be beneficial in many life situations, with technology and relationships individuals are plagued to the idea that they can easily find a new relationship should their current one go rogue. With the development of various dating sites and apps individuals have become so used to the fact that they have a multitude of options at their fingertips, especially when they find that their current one isn’t meeting their perfect checklist. Knowing this, as identified by Dan Slater, distinguished author and researcher of love in the time of digital development, it seems as if the concept of commitment to a singular individuals is slowly fading from the foundation of relationships. One of Slater’s main subject discovers that various apps has made his transition from relationship to relationship a breeze compared to the past as he states, “When I sensed the breakup coming, I was okay with it. It didn’t seem like there was going to be much of a mourning period, where you stare at your wall thinking you’re destined to be alone and all that” (Slater). As is obvious from Slater and his subject, technology serves as a cushion for others knowing that even if this one doesn’t work out they’ll get the next one. Consequently with such mindset one is never fully able to fully commit or found trust within any one relationship that they seek to create. The train never seems to stop rolling.
“While anyone can potentially read or view a digital artifact, we need a more specific conception of audience than ‘anyone’ to choose the language, cultural referents, style, and so on that comprise online identity presentation. In the absence of certain knowledge about audience, participants take cues from the social media environment to imagine the community (boyd, 2007: 131). This, the imagined audience, might be entirely different from the actual readers of a profile, blog post, or tweet.” (Marwick)
Due to the increasing prevalence of social media and the internet, the fundamental ways in which we interact with those around us and form our personal identities have been altered. Because social media has introduced a unique and relatively new way to connect with those around us, our view of our identities and what we consider to be proper interaction with the people we encounter is changing with each new app that is developed. Alice Marwick addresses this notion of a changed approach towards behavior and interaction in her article discussing the effects of “context collapse” in which our perceived audience is not necessarily aligned with the audience we actually address through social media. Marwick emphasizes that we rely on the knowledge of who are audience is in order to decide the appropriate way to behave, meaning the part of our identity we choose to present depends on the situational context. Because of this, social media users then have to imagine an audience in order to cater an identity to that specific audience, which may not be accurate. Marwick’s ideas surrounding “context collapse” can be applied to the way in which we form our identities in that it makes it difficult to develop identities that are specific to certain situations, which is a large part of our personal identity formation.
“Within months, Kogan and Cambridge Analytica had a database of millions of US voters that had its own algorithm to scan them, identifying likely political persuasions and personality traits. They could then decide who to target and craft their messages that was likely to appeal to them for those individuals – a political approach known as “micro-targeting” (Cadwalladr and Graham-Harrison).
The fear of our online identities and personal information being exploited or taken without our consent has always been a fear of internet users. Today, people commonly refer to the internet as having traits of “Big Brother”, a nod George Orwell’s futuristic science fiction novel, 1984, where the government is able to watch your every move. This notion is indeed terrifying, but many dismissed it saying that mass data stealing against the consent of internet users was preposterous. However, just under a year ago it was discovered that this fear was a reality when Cambridge Analytica was discovered to have the information of millions. In Cadwalladr and Graham-Harrison’s article, it is noted that Facebook advertised a test created by Cambridge Analytica that administered questions and could then take their answers and determine their political tendencies. All of this data was stored and combed over against the consent of the users. Subsequently, based on the stored data, Facebook could determine what political agendas their users should be exposed to. This illegal, and quite frankly terrifying tactic, limited the political scope voters were exposed to and has raised questions of just how much it had affected elections.
“At our focus group on online dating in Manhattan, Derek got
on OkCupid and let us watch as he went through his options. These
were women whom OkCupid had selected as potential matches for
him based on his profile and the site’s algorithm. The firstwoman he
clicked on was very beautiful, with a witty profile page, a good job,
and lots of shared interests, including a love of sports. After looking
it over for a minute or so, Derek said: “Well,she looks okay. I’m just
gonna keep looking for a while.”
I asked what was wrong, and he replied, “she likesthe Red Sox.”” (Ansari)
The online dating scene can transform the way people see potential partners. Being exposed to so much variety and so many options leads to unrealistic nitpicking that can make it hard for someone to reach out to that person because they think they can easily find someone better who meets all of these unrealistic expectations. As Ansari mentions, this man, Derek, was pretty boring, average man. If it were not for the world of online dating, Derek would not have the luxury of being so picky when it comes to insignificant details such as what baseball team is her favorite. Ansari also mentions that if Derek met this woman in person twenty years ago, the situation would be completely different. Derek would have started a conversation and maybe would have started to like her for other reasons such as her personality or her sense of humor and by that point, the fact that she routes for the Red Sox may seem very insignificant. By participating in dating apps, people become pickier and get hung up on small details that wouldn’t have impacted a relationship only a few decades ago.
“Created mainly by teenagers and 20-somethings, finstagrams are intimate online spaces intended for an audience of friends, with the number of followers purposely kept in the low double digits,” (Safronova).
I think the main point I want to take away from this article is how interesting it is that in many ways social media has flipped. It is designed to be a place of sharing, and yet people actually create entirely separate accounts in order to share different ideas from the public eye. I find it interesting that social media is meant to connect, and yet we still desire privacy, and attempt to discover other ways in which we can “undo” many of the things social media and other technologies have done.
“But it has since become clear that Snapchat holds a deeper appeal. It satisfies a craving for immediacy and ephemerality, one that has lately grown to encompass all of social media. Posts can’t simply disappear after they’re viewed—they have to expire, whether they’ve been seen or not” (Johnston).
Casey Johnston in her article, “Snapchat, Instagram, and the Internet of Forgetting” demonstrates the recent craving for ephemerality amongst social media sites. Users have had more of an inclination to use social media sites such as Snapchat and Instagram, rather than Facebook, because posts can disappear in merely seconds, in other words you do not have to live with this post forever. This is view juxtaposes that of the internet does not allow us to forget. The internet has caused us to never be able to forget certain events, even though a major part of the human brain’s activity is forgetting useless information and processing the important ones. Snapchat and Instagram has created features so that users can forget. What does this say about our modern day relationships that we are promoting? Our digital presence often creates a lot of anxiety about how others will perceive our posts. This ephemerality allows us to be less stressed about our posts because they are not permanent, but rather fleeting after 10 seconds or 24 hours. Does this new feature on social media sites make it harder for us to form stable relationships and does it promote spontaneous ones?
“Now that our privacy is worth something, every side of it is being monetized. We can either trade it for cheap services or shell out cash to protect it. It is increasingly seen not as a right but as a luxury good. When Congress recently voted to allow internet service providers to sell user data without users’ explicit consent, talk emerged of premium products that people could pay for to protect their browsing habits from sale.” (Amanda Hess)
Our privacy has now become a monetary good, instead of an intrinsic right, and it is being treated as so by our government. Protection of privacy now has to be bought, and people who can’t pay for this protection have no other option. Amanda Hess, in her New York Times article explains about our privacy that “It is increasingly seen not as a right but as a luxury good. When Congress recently voted to allow internet service providers to sell user data without users’ explicit consent, talk emerged of premium products that people could pay for to protect their browsing habits from sale.” Our control over our own privacy has been taken out of our hands and now requires money to regain. With the consent of Congress, businesses can now buy data about users of electronic devices that we don’t even know is recorded. Hess cited a personal example with her use of the free service Unroll.me, which offered organization to their customers’ email accounts. Not only did the site organize her email account, but Hess learned after the fact that the service combed through its customers’ trash folders. Unroll.me would locate Lyft receipt emails, selling this information to Uber. It is troubling to consider what other personal information Unroll.me can uncover through the trash of their customers’ email accounts, and it is unlikely that many of the customers of Unroll.me are aware that their data is being sold. The data of internet users is being taken advantage of in a multitude of ways that are largely unbeknownst to us, and the government is facilitating this. It’s now time for internet users to become aware of the new monetary status of their privacy.
“Facebook in 2015 changed its policies, including altering rules about how third-party apps can gain access to information about users’ friends. But user data collected through such apps over the years probably remains in the wild, not to mention the models that can continue to be used to target people around the world” (Collins and Dance).
Without consent, users are being targeted by political campaigns, causing their views to be unknowingly swayed. “Researchers believe their algorithms can predict the nuances of your political views with better accuracy than your loved ones.” Based on interests and assumed personality traits, Facebook has been using its users’ data and activity to create algorithms to personalize people’s feeds with the hopes of swaying their thinking. “Specific user information was merely a means to an end, a building block in a far more ambitious construction: a behavioral model powerful enough to manipulate people’s activity and, potentially, sway elections.” People are able to be controlled by their social media activity through the creation of these models. Through simple data such as a user’s favorite movie, researchers have been able to draw conclusions about their personality traits and tailor their feeds to fit their subconscious interests without knowing. Studies have shown that someone’s likes have been more accurate in determining an individual’s personality traits in comparison to a friend, family member, or colleague filling out each-others personality quiz answers. This invasion of privacy has granted immense amounts of control to researchers and the people behind the screen running Facebook and other internet sites and apps. These shocking results reveal the ultimate power behind these internet sites and their ability to brainwash its users without requesting their consent.
“Much of online dating, Finkel and company argued, is based on the faulty notion that the kind of information we can see in a profile is actually useful in determining whether that person would make a good partner. But because the kind of information that appears on a profile-occupation, income, religion, political views, favorite TV shows, etc.-is the only information we know about that person, we overvalue it. This can actually cause us to make very bad choices about whom we go on a date with.” (Ansari)
Technology whittles down identity and turns individuals into data when matching people online. The profile of a dating app user does not accurately represent them as an individual. Since things like religion, occupation, and favorite TV shows are easier to describe and understand, users of dating apps put these in their profile. This does not completely capture the personality of an individual, it is merely a list about them. With this type of information users are encouraged to treat other people like products (Iyengar). Users can browse and select the person they want based on their interests. However, this kind of selection may not be beneficial for the future of the relationship. As Ansari, the author of Modern Romance, explains, the qualities that make a person lovable cannot be put into words. Only in person interaction can determine if a couple is compatible. Technology can spark conversations but it cannot accurately match people based on their identities because it cannot be provided that information. Technology cannot handle that type of complexity.
“Identity shouldn’t become an unshakeable shadow. The ultimately irony of an identity-driven Web where one is pressured to use a single log-in across many sites and apps is that it actually makes us less secure, in more ways than one. Knowing that every interaction is linked to our real-name accounts, we find it easy to become neurotic about what might become part of our digital records or what might be shared, without our consent, on the home platform. Surveilance is nothing if not a form of pressure, in its capacity to cause us to preempt our usual habits, knowing that we’re being watched and recorded. It may also cause us to share more in order to alleviate that anxiety, in pursuit of the same nebulous degree of authenticity promoted by Facebook. We feel the need to post more in order to demonstrate our real selves, to overcome the strictures of Facebook’s rigid environment” (Silverman 165).
Online identity should not be rigidly restricted by single log-in across sites, rather the internet should allow our identities to be ever-changing, as they are in the real world. The issue, which author, Jacob Silverman notes, however, is that the Web provides an everlasting archive of one’s beliefs, making old ideas and identities seem somewhat inescapable (Silverman 165). The creation of a single log-in across media platforms would result in a less authentic representation of identity in our “digital records”, either in the form of fear of sharing, in order to prevent regrettable posts, or oversharing, in order to seem more authentic (165). The creation of a single log-in could be detrimental to authenticity on the internet because of users’ sense of context collapse. Forming an identity that traverses platforms on the internet can prevent differentiation of identity. Choosing different parts of ourselves to highlight on various forms of social media is common. For example, one would not be very likely to share the same information on a professional site like Linkedin as one would post on Snapchat, a more relaxed and personal account, usually reserved only for the closest of friends. That being said, being picky about what information one shares on each site would not be an option in a world in which single log-in is widely used because all accounts would be inherently connected.
“This is all wrong. If you secretly harbor the idea that Snapchat is frivolous or somehow a fad, it’s time to re-examine your certainties. In fact, in various large and small ways, Snap has quietly become one of the world’s most innovative and influential consumer technology companies” (Manjoo).
Although there can be several negative implications with social media apps, there is the availability for these apps to bring people closer together, at times. This source is in support of the fact that social media has become a revolutionary tool in today’s society. This article by Manjoo emphasizes how Snapchat even includes aspects of journalism on the app. Farhad Manjoo attended Cornell University and has been recognized as the “State of the Art” columnist for The New York Times. He also explains that Snapchat is a refreshing change as it does not use feeds like most social media does. He also states that it feels as though the app encourages people to put on less of a show to others and that the app is more similar to that of real life. I found his points to be quite interesting, although the article was written back in 2016, and think it would be a good piece to incorporate into my paper.
“We’ve known for years that the Web allows for unprecedented voyeurism, exhibitionism and inadvertent indiscretion, but we are only beginning to understand the costs of an age in which so much of what we say, and of what others say about us, goes into our permanent — and public — digital files. The fact that the Internet never seems to forget is threatening, at an almost existential level, our ability to control our identities; to preserve the option of reinventing ourselves and starting anew; to overcome our checkered pasts” (Jeffrey Toobin)
The advent of the internet has brought about a great deal of change in the way individuals not only access information, but store it and share it with others. While this holds great promise for expanding the pool of people that can be connected with and has revolutionized social lives, such progress does not come without a cost. It is the same permanence of online interactions that allows for such social connection that threatens people’s sense of identity (Toobin). An essential part of identity formation is the selectiveness with which humans pick and choose which memories and experiences come to define them best. It may be nice that the internet “never seems to forget” (Toobin) when one wants to remember the good times with pictures immortalized online, but just as often it preserves the memory of something that is better forgotten. With everything on the internet never truly going away, the ability for individuals to make changes in themselves that they find beneficial and to move on from, say, more rowdy childhoods is practically nonexistent anymore (Toobin). This has serious implications for not only the development, but especially the refinement of identity for the generation growing up today and those who will come of age in the future.
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