With all of the social networking sites (SNS) today, a lot of what we do is transferred from analogue to digital. I worry for my children; I want them to experience a bit of analogue before being sent into the unforgiving culture of digital.
Social networking sites (SNS) have increased in numbers by large amounts over the past few years. We now have Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Bebo, MySpace, Friendster, Orkut, Netlog, Buzznet, Blogster and that doesn’t even cover the tip of the iceberg. This doesn’t even include networking sites created for more local purposes such as Rhodes University’s RUconnected or Ratchat created by anonymous Rhodes students.
Digital nation generation to come?
When last did I write a letter? Emails, Whatsapps and Facebook messages, even SMS’s don’t create intimacy the same way a handwritten, heartfelt letter can. I’m actually quite sad that my children are going to grow up with Facebook already so prominently in the public sphere (unless another social networking site takes its place).
My generation is the last to live in both an analogue and a digital world. SNS was still finding its roots when I was a child. Facebook was only introduced into my social circles in 2006 – my first year of high school. Twitter has only grabbed my attention in recent years and emailing was never a culture for children when I was young.
I get nostalgic when I remember all of the things future children will never know. Generations to come will never experience the pleasure of paging through old photo albums found in the garage. Why? When last did you see a family use a camera that gets the photos developed?
Digital ruined that for me. I have a ton of pictures in my album up to about age 12 and then my mother bought a NEW GENERATION camera with a viewing screen and a delete button and a USB cable and and and…
… and they will never be able to unwind their parent’s cassette tapes with pencils. Sound trivial? It is but it’s these kinds of memories that I hold onto. In a way they make up a part of a culture that no longer exists due to the change in technology options.
That’s just the beginning. Twitter has just come out with the option to mute people. It allows users that use Android and iPhones with the Twitter app to mute whatever certain people are doing (even if they are followers of said person? Well doesn’t that just eliminate the whole point of following someone?) We are reaching a point where people are being compared to TVs.
The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project did a study to see whether or not these networks isolated people and shortened their relationships. While this was a study done on Americans, I feel that the study would show similar results in South Africa should it be conducted. It was found that on Facebook on an average day:
This study was conducted in 2010 so these amounts could have increased. While it seems great for connecting with others, I worry that those who have never lived in an analogue world will rely too much on the digital and leave behind all of the good parts of analogue.
Digital doesn’t always have to be an improvement. Just because it can be done digitally, doesn’t mean it should be. I fear that pen and paper will become outdated, and learners will be told to use Times New Roman as a permanent life navigator.
Will the digital generations after us have to uphold friendships on SNS, will there come a time when we don’t accept a request to unlock the next episode of Candy Crush and that ends our friendship with someone? Will we need to tweet the funniest or most interesting news that they can hope to muster up to prevent being muted from society
The other side
While I fear the purely digital age, the last thing that I want to do is what previous generations have. A new culture has been created on SNS, it has become a place to go for younger generations to escape without even leaving the house. The author of It’s complicated: the social lives of networked teens, Danah Boyd, takes this stance when explaining whether teens are any worse than previous generations due to SNS.
Boyd looks at Facebook as just another place that people can hang out and socialize, no different from the era before ours, only with easier ways to communicate without geographical constraints. Her book is about helping the previous generation understand what the teenage generation are doing online.
I'm not hating on digital, I just feel that we need a bit of analogue to balance it all out. Nobody wants the future generations to end up the way they did on WALL-E. If you don't know how they landed up, Google it. Better yet, watch the movie. Pixar predicts how the World will end up if the human race carries on the way it is going.