Technology is no longer an entity that exists on the fringes of daily life. Now, rather, it has become an organic aspect of the way that we live it. The beauty about the ubiquity with which technology and social media have nestled themselves into our world is that what was once considered a threat to the conventions of communication has become the connective tissue that allows us each to function as a meaningful synapse in a digitally connected world. It is a role that is both vital and surprisingly intuitive to play.
Social media takes the paradigm of human society and shifts it into a space where geographical, socio-economic and even linguistic barriers are irrelevant. Every morning, when I roll over to shut off my alarm, check missed emails and sleepily scroll through Twitter, I am making a decision to engage in that society, to exist and communicate in that space. Technology and digital media allow me to be a world citizen from my small and specific geographic corner. I fill idle spaces in my day by keeping up with current events in real-time. I never miss a beat with my best friend’s faraway life as a law student in northern Idaho. I am living a vastly different life from the billions of other people with access to social media technology, but I am living it on the same platforms.
As someone who grew up during the “internet generation”, I have always existed in a connected world. From painstakingly crafting our AIM Messenger “Away” messages (now a hilarious relic immortalized as a popular meme) to watching the 2008 election unfold on our Facebook feeds, my generation has always lived a significant portion of our lives online.
When I was in middle school in the mid-2000s, I changed my afore-mentioned “Away” message constantly. I felt that the correct, blindingly illegible font-and-highlight color combination and angsty pop-punk song lyric would present me to the world as the kind of thoughtful, mysterious 12 year-old that I so desperately wanted to be (and certainly, certainly never was). I spent far too much time on this meaningless creative endeavor, wasting the hours that I otherwise could have spent breathing fresh air or learning a skill or, perhaps, just not completely embarrassing myself day after day on the internet. But I grew up in a climate that taught me to care deeply about my place in the digital world, and if I was presenting as a confused pre-teen misfit, well, at least it was accurate.
Our emotional investment in online presence does not mark the demise of human society. Rather, it is a sign that we are living our lives in this exciting, limitless space that combines the digital world with the “real” one. It is not an illusion, but an opportunity. We are mobile, social and franchised – we are part of a connected class.
Hayden Freedman is a recent graduate of Georgetown University and a digital media professional based in NYC.