how i use the internet and how it shapes me

Hailey Peterson

New Media and Communication

Professor Dougherty

October 9th, 2014

Media Diet Paper

Louis C.K. once said, in an interview with Conan, “ you need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something, that’s what the phones are taking away—the ability to just sit there and be a person.” Before I started this Media Diet Project I questioned if my brain, that’s so engrained with checking updates and posting on social media, would be able to find an identity outside of that forum. Because the media shapes so much of who we are today it’s difficult to see yourself and who you are without it. But in the words of Louis C.K. the ability to just sit there IS what makes us humane. After days of changing my media usage by limiting myself to 3 updates a day for a 72 hour period I forced myself to use regressing forms of entertainment such as books and journals and reflected on the feelings of my limitation as well as the responses I felt while using these different forums. I came to find that with limited media usage I felt more centered, less connected to communities but contrarily more interactive and felt minimal purpose in experiencing life’s gifts.

Through reading books and sitting down with my thoughts I felt intrinsically more centered and at peace with myself. Without a personal profile telling me who I was via Internet, I was able to appreciate my identity and ability to live simply. Journaling has this capacity to help you identify yourself through your own thoughts and words without relying on a self-built profile consisting of interests, posts, activities and experiences that you believe will receive praise. In Motoko Rich’s article “Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading?” he discusses the controversial evolution of reading. Millenials have relied on the Internet and its sources for their daily dose of reading and writing but Rich questions if this has in turn effected our comprehension, attentions spans and overall literacy.

While some argue that the Internet is the intellectual’s enemy, I concluded a differing opinion with my testing. I didn’t see a difference in attentional inhibition—the ability to concentrate on the task at hand, because for me everything is a distraction. Distraction is not a new word that has accumulated through the use of media; we as a society are continuously sidetracked whether it is through the Internet or our physical surroundings. But there’s definitely something to be said about picking up a physical book and flipping through physical pages. Dana Gioia, the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, wrote in a report that the benefits of new media “provide no measurable substitute for the intellectual and personal development initiated and sustained by frequent reading.” Through my findings I concluded that the difference between using the Internet as a forum and reading as a forum is that the Internet builds my identity as a journalist and physical books and journaling build my identity as a writer. Both necessary and purposeful in their own right.

During the moments when I was first unable to retort to media updates I felt a lot less connected to the world around me. The media has an ability to make its user feel like a part of the bigger whole through its sense of “Internet community.” This social media community is always there through the convenience of the web. But without it I felt more individual and less significant—a mere speck in the existence, because I wasn’t a part of this ever-growing society made possible by social media. But after the first day of my media diet I had a revelation. Without social media and the constant push of your unlock button, you have an opportunity for new social interactions. I was now forced to observe my surroundings, noticing things on my daily walk to class that was once a blur in my peripheral. The feeling of disconnect subsided as I realized this limitation gave me the opportunity to be connected with my physical surroundings. I was forced to start awkward before-class conversations because I could no longer rely on my phone or laptop to save me from the silence.

This was an instance when I felt in complete control of my social interaction instead of reluctantly trusting my control in the hands of the Internet. In Douglas Rushkoff’s “Program or be Programmed,” the discussion of effective use through personal choice arises. Rushkoff explores this idea of efficient use by explaining the beneficial use of media as a resource of choice in contrast with the detrimental use of letting the Internet control you. There have been so many moments during my online interactions that I felt helpless, letting the Internet control my emotions, interactions, word choice, and so much more. But in my moments of silence and loneliness I felt more in control of my choices.

During this time of media limitation, I felt the purpose in experiencing life was diminished by my inability to share it with the web. Social media sites were originally programmed to provide the people with the means to document their experiences while shooting them to hundreds of followers or friends at once. But because of the prominence that social media now holds in our everyday lives, we experience life in order to document it, instead of documenting it because we experienced it. Because of this our cyber identity seems to define us more than our own personal identity. Instagram introduced the destructive thinking of “if I don’t post it, did it ever really happen?” We are so programmed to document our every move that we don’t take the time to just absorb the moment in which we are so anxiously recording. During a Chet Faker concert, Faker insisted or should I say demanded his audience to put down their phones and just enjoy the moment. It was a refreshing juncture that I’ll never forget. With my testing, I found a long lost ability to take advantage of the beauty in a moment.

“The media life perspective starts from the realization that the whole of the world and our lived experience in it are framed by, mitigated through, and made immediate by media,” said Deuze, Blank, and Speers in the Digital Humanities Quarterly: A Life Lived in Media—reiterating my finding that our life experiences are shaped by media.

With my thought-provoking findings I pondered if the benefits of media use outweighed the downfalls. But I think the issue is so varied that there will be no time in which we could ever have a true answer. But I’ve found that the Internet has capabilities to shape its users identity, sense of community and idea of new literacy. It’s refreshing to step away from the screen and look up at your surroundings. It’s refreshing to take the time to use “ancient” mediums as a way to free yourself from boredom. But it is also inevitably necessary with the progressing state of technology to use media as a prominent resource. You are capable to integrate your identity shaped by the digital world and your identity shaped by the physical world to intermix and create your whole identity.