A Bit More Virtual: A Bit Less Authentic

Digital Communication in a Technological World

Nobody’s going to deny it. We communicate differently these days. For one thing, it’s so much faster and easier to communicate than ever before. We can call or text or chat online. We can message or tweet or Instagram. Thanks to digital communication we can stay connected in a way none of might have before imagined. We can reach out to those we care about and let them know they are important to us, and they can reach back. Honestly, how many of us, before our feet even hit the floor, pick up our phones in the morning, just in case someone has reached out in the night? That little blinking light validates us. We’re needed. We’re loved.

Yet it seems that this remarkable means of digital communication has isolated us. Rather than talk, we text or tweet. Rather than enjoy a dinner conversation with friends, we have our phones, and our eyes, on the table, hoping, once again, to see that little blinking light. When we don’t, we feel somehow that we’ve failed. We’re not needed. We’re not loved.

A Digital Vortex

It seems we’ve all been sucked into this digital vortex of communication. No matter where we find ourselves, we look around and see people not engaged in conversation with others sharing the same space, but with their phones to their ears, or at the very least, their eyes on their keypads. It seems that as our world continues to progress at a break-neck speed, we’ve lost our focus. We’ve all become a little ADHD. Maybe it’s about the gadgetry. Our phones and the accompanying technology are fun. They’ve become our latest toy. Or perhaps, again, it’s simply that we feel we’re missing out if we, too, don’t have our phones in play.

Interesting Stats

Seventy-two percent of us today are using social networking sites, a 64% growth since 2005 (Samulson, New York Times). Everyone else, we think to ourselves, has a lot going on. Everyone else, we think to ourselves, is highly engaged in something that must be pretty important. Maybe, with our own phones in hand, we can be too. I was able to see Dennis Miller live recently and had to nod as he described this generation of social networkers having lives “least lived and most chronicled.” How concisely that describes this new world in which we live our lives a little more virtually and a little less authentically.

I feel fairly safe in saying the concern isn’t only mine. In 2013, according to Pew Research Center studies, 85% of Americans communicate online; 73% of those who do so are logging onto social media sites (Samuelson, IBD). In today’s world, this seems to be the way we connect. It’s our new neighborhood, our new community. Samuelson argues that we are “consciously” and even “eagerly” giving up our privacy as we embrace this new form of communication. We are not, he continues, trying to “shroud [our] lives in secrecy.” Instead, we’re posting our inner most thoughts online. We’re uploading videos in the hopes they’ll go viral. We’re on the internet looking for love. We’re ensconced in what Samuelson calls “a vehicle for self-promotion, personal advertising and the pursuit of celebrity.” There’s something paradoxical about where we find ourselves in this new age of technological communication.

The Privacy Curtain is Gone

We’re worried about our privacy. We’re shocked and appalled, and perhaps rightly so, when we hear that what we’re putting out there for the world to see – a world including the government and the free market – is being seen. We sense that our privacy is a thing of the past. Yet we’re the ones opening the figurative blinds and dancing in the window.

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