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A Living in a Virtual Reality

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Social Media or Social Strain?

A family sits around their dining room table on your average Thursday evening, sharing a meal together. But as you look more closely, the family is not sharing with each other, but instead sharing on their devices. The hard-working, bread-winning father has his laptop out, conferencing with some co-workers in an effort to finish his work that is due the next morning. His son is typing away on his smart phone, texting his friends about how boring his life is, while his sister chats on the phone with her boyfriend. This leaves their mother plenty of time to update her Facebook with the latest photos of their family vacation.

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In Meghan Daum’s, I Don’t Give a Tweet What You’re Doing, she addresses the issue the world has with over-sharing, especially on the ever so popular website, Twitter. Daum describes, that although Twitter has millions of users and is loved by many, she makes an interesting point stating that, “If Twitter were a person, it would be an emotionally unstable person… the person we all feel sorry for… the tragic oversharer,” (233). As the “Age of Oversharing,” (232) is truly upon us, she examines the necessity the world feels with logging our every waking moment of our lives. Not only has Twitter become a phenomenon with the average Joe, but also now celebrities, news stations and even companies such as Whole Foods have signed up to be on ‘Team Twitter’. Daum, being a member of the minority anti-Twitter epidemic, does not solely disapprove of Twitter for being seemingly useless, but touches on a very valid point as to what sites like Twitter do to our culture, “it’s worth wondering how much of this “connecting” is simply hastening the erosion of our already compromised interpersonal skills,” (233-234). In modern America, people rarely ever connect with each other anymore. I do not mean that we do not like each other’s Facebook photos or reblogging one another’s Tumblr posts, but truly speaking face-to-face and communicating. We in the United States especially love to brush off our communally ineffectual conversational skills as a non-issue, but in reality our society needs a lot of work when it comes to truly verbal communication.

Being so connected with other worlds can be time consuming, especially with how easy technology today makes communicating with the outside world, without ever having to leave the comfort of our homes. Many people do not even realize that much of the day they are looking at some sort of screen: be it their phone, laptop, tablet, television, gaming system, or music player. We together are constantly absorbed in something else. Many companies like Google and Apple have made always being tuned in, very simple. Most devices are multi-purposeful wearing the many hats of telephone, calculator, compass, radio, camera, maps, and so much more. With the touch of a button, the everyday consumer harnesses a vast amount of control, virtually possessing omnipotence in the palm of their hand. Downloadable apps for all of our favorite social media outlets are just a click away and from there, we are transplanted somewhere far, far away. With few limitations Twitter allows the power for anyone, anywhere to “post updates of 140 characters or less that answer the question “what are you doing now?””(232). The idea in the beginning for many sites like Twitter was to bring people together, but in actuality gives too many people ways to pretend to befriend the masses instead of connecting in a real way with a few people, as Daum points out in her essay, “Are we tweeting because we truly want to communicate with a select group of true friends, or because typing has replaced talking and indiscretion has been stripped of all negative connotations” (234)? Mostly useless information, tweets allow over 14 million people to tell the rest of us what they are doing, how they are feeling, or who they are with, regardless of whether or not we care to know.

Considering how many people put passwords on their phones, put shades on their windows and lock their stall in a public bathroom, it seems as though real privacy is not something many humans desire as much as they pretend to. Millions of people resent the government for being somewhat of a Big Brother, making accusations of spyware programs and hacking, supposedly regulating our every move, yet freely share exceedingly personal information publicly. It has become common practice to post about your family members, location, phone number, email address, workplace, political affiliations and so much more, reaching far beyond the simple question “what are you doing now?”. Although many sites like Twitter and Instagram have a delete button, your postings are in actuality never erased permanently, but instead are gone from your so-called timeline. Daum notes in her essay that, “in a world without boundaries… privacy as a cultural or even personal value has been going out of style for quite some time now” (233). It is almost hypocritical in a way how our society pretends to value secrecy and discretion, yet people of all walks of life exhibit very little self restraint when it comes to filtering the kinds of information they post about online.

Our online accounts have taken over. Most of the world is constantly connected with someone or something they cannot physically see, inhibiting much of the real communication we as a modern society need to have a better grasp on. Although I do not personally use Twitter, like Daum I too, have “some of my best friends tweeting” (233). I have been hanging out with friends who were too involved with their feed to even form coherent sentences when I asked the question “what are you doing now?”. Instead this always on mode of life, can be far too distracting at times as this supposed “world-wide obsession” (233), pulls the user out from their daily lives and submerges them into the inexplicably popular craze known by many names, including Twitter.

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