I recently did a research assignment for a Media Studies unit whereby I had to investigate whether or not the mobile phone is a big part of the life of a student… And, let’s be honest, we don’t really need a research assignment to figure that one out. YES!!! Of course it is a huge aspect of life, not only for a student, but also for most of the world. I don’t think I have encountered someone within the last 5 years at least who does not own a mobile device. The digital world is an enormous aspect of life and it seems we all have to get on board the revolution or risk getting left behind.
As a ‘digital native’ myself, I have pretty much grown up with technology. Actually technology and I have really grown up together. The mobile phone has adapted from being a simple yet efficient means of communication, through texting and calling, into this ultra hybrid portable computer which is literally growing by the day with new innovative content. And I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that the days of technology and I growing and learning together are certainly behind me. I can hardly keep up. And to be honest I’m not sure if I want to.
The participant observation that I conducted as part of this assignment led me to discover that 62 out of the 100 individuals that walked past me were using their mobile devices in some way, shape or form. And I don’t know why that surprised me but it really did! We are so absorbed with what is going on inside our devices that we cant even leave them in our bags as we walk between classes. I don’t even think people realise that they are doing it anymore, it seems like a subconscious action or matter or habit that could be akin to breathing.
I’m not trying to slam people who use their phones often. I’m one of them. But when I was looking at everyone walk by me on their phones, completely clueless as to the goings-on around them, it kind of made me see the phone as a sort of barrier to the real world. It happens so often when I’m out for coffee with a friend who I haven’t seen in months and they’ll just be scrolling through Instagram while I attempted to make conversation with them. Or when you see someone you know across the street and you really can’t be bothered talking to them so you just pretend your on your phone to prevent having to actually interact with the real world. As much as the online world consists of real people, it isn’t quite the same as looking someone in the eye and connecting, which definitley isn’t something you can achieve with 140 characters or less.
That being said, it’s not all doom and gloom in the world of digital devices. As much as they can separate us, they also have the ability to bring us together and discover facets of one another we didn’t know existed. Take this blog for example… Tomorrow I’ll probably be scrolling through Instagram as I walk between classes at Uni, and all the while I’m writing blog posts about the worlds obsession with their mobile phones (total hypocrite)! I wouldn’t be able to express and share this without the freedom of the web and you probably wouldn’t think it would cross my mind otherwise. Not only that, but people are often using their phones to aid their conversations rather than prevent them, sharing photos and conversations that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to.
So to sum up this long and tedious post, as much as I am trying my very hardest to embrace every form or social media and all the positives that come along with them, I believe it is equally important and necessary to reflect on whether or not we value our social media profiles over our real human experiences. Just something to think about.