New Media is defined as a means of mass communication that uses digital technologies. It has evolved from a means to communicate into its own realm of social interaction. We are in an era were our interactions through new media are a social norm. I would push to say that new media has become more than just a social norm, it is a part of how we identify ourselves. New media influences our identity through our interactions with others and our environment, becoming a habitual part of our daily lives that derives from convenience and excessive connectedness. We see this happen through our personal work realms, our daily routines, and in the way we interact with others.
Media has found a way to intertwine itself into the professional and school dimensions of life. It is impossible to sit in a classroom and not see somebody on their phone or using their laptop for Facebook. While in class, I find myself constantly checking my texts and browsing through my social media outlets. In a log of my media usage, done for the first part of my media diet log, I noted that these classroom times were some of the most active. Now, some feel that the use of media in classes and professional places are hindering our work environment, while others feel that it has positive implications. To understand some of the negative feelings towards media in this space, we must take into consideration Nicholas Carr’s perspective on the new era of information access. He describes the way we receive information in the this generation as a “swiftly moving stream of particles.” With social media mediums like twitter and Facebook, constantly updating us with short bursts of information, we see people move away from receiving steady streams of information, which leads us to a shorter attention span. If we are part of a generation that is more focused on short bursts instead of a longer and constant stream of information, than where does that leave us when we have a two hour lecture? It leaves us in need of a distraction. I find that when I start drifting in class, my instinct is to use social media. I believe this instinct to use media derives from the combination of factors. The first thing I consider is the ease by which we can use social media in class. With classes allowing us to keep laptops open and smartphones offering a screen that holds all my social media mediums on one screen, I find that my mindless distraction is just a click or swipe away. While a little break from intense lecturing may seem nice, the fact that it is such a mindless task means that I easily loose track of time, and what may start as a five minute status update leads me twenty minutes into class and a lecture behind.
This does not mean that there is no positive use for media in the school and professional space.. With all social settings, communication is key to success. In school and work, both social settings, communication technology comes to play. If we look at the work dimension, we see that there will always be situations in which we must be part of a team that needs to complete a common task. To be successful, we all need to do our parts while staying connected. It is important to use each other to bounce off ideas and track progress being made. New media offers a multitude of mediums to facilitate such interconnection. Programs such as Googledocs allow multiple parties to access a common document and edit it. Most smart phones have apps that allow users to create group chats, in which any size group can communicate with each other at the same time. Social media also offers similar opportunities, a prominent example being Facebook groups. While working at the Sunglass Hut this summer, my co-workers and I started our own Facebook group. In this group, we were able to document sales, bounce ideas for ways to improve sales, and just ask questions whenever we needed help. It not only proved to be very helpful, but also it was very easy. The truth is, there may be ways in which this use of media can hold negative and positive consequences, but what cannot be denied is the fact that media shapes our personal working dimensions of life, even if we do not realize it as it is happening. It is actually true that in most cases, we really do not realize how much media affects out everyday lives.
With media playing a bigger role in our daily lives than we realize, it comes to my attention that media has taken a place in daily routines. For me, my daily routine is a very sacred ritual. Like most daily routines, mine involves just the basic things like brushing before meals, combing my hair twice a day, eating all major meals, drinking a glass of milk before bed, etc. They are instinctual things that I do, and are missed when forgotten. It was late one night that I found myself laying in bed on Facebook and I realized that I could not remember a night were I did not do so before bed. For my Media diet log proposal, I decided to explore this practice, and my findings came to shock me. From the first night that I tried to cut off this nightly media use, I was met with struggle. Each night that I tried to cut off this practice, I just felt like something was wrong and I could night fall asleep as easy that night. It gave me that same feeling that I would get if I had missed a major meal or forgot to brush my teeth. Using this media had made its way into my daily routine and there are a few reasons why this was the case.
The process by which media entered my life as part of my routine took a little bit of self-assessment to uncover. In the nights that followed my three day night time media fast, I tried to find alternatives to get me over this night time ritual. All attempts, from music to reading, had failed. Both activities seemed to be very relaxing, so I assumed they would work as alternatives. As it turned out, I did not need a relaxer, I needed a space filler. The reason media, especially social media, can make its way into our lives so easily is because it is such a convenient way to pass time. In the time I would lay in bed before falling asleep, I was far too exhausted to physically do anything, but my mind still needed to be occupied until it was time to sleep. I could easily spend a half hour browsing my phone until my brain was exhausted, then I would just close my screen and fall asleep with the push of a button. This same principle applies for times during the day. It could be the five minutes we have between bus stops, or maybe it is the ten minutes we have before class starts, but throughout the day we are presented with short little break periods. This time is long enough to provoke boredom, but not long enough for us to be productive. As a result, we see people using these little breaks to go through their media. By filling each of these little breaks with media use, we are exposing ourselves to media to the point were it just becomes part of our routine, and using these breaks for social media just becomes instinctual. I have experienced conversations before class where people will try to veer away from conversation and respond by say, “sorry I can’t talk, this is my Twitter time!!” It is responses like this that leads me to consider how these communication outlets are affecting physical communication.
It seems that social media has become a crutch for social interaction. Social media allows us to portray ourselves in any way that we desire. Our identity is what we choose it to be. In reality, we live by the principle of what you see is what you get. While we can choose how we present ourselves, there are certain aspects of our physical presence that we cannot control. Some people are comfortable in their skin and with interactions with others. Other people, whether it is self-consciousness or just a dislike for physical interaction, use social media as a way to interact without actually having to physically interact. Social media allows us to show ourselves off, through things like our profiles, in the way we choose while being able to communicate without having the pressure of being directly judged by others. Not to say that we do not judge people on social media, we have all gotten those creepy Facebook messages from total strangers, but rather it makes it less stressful because if we do not see people’s reaction to what we say, there is less of a chance that we will feel uncomfortable with what we say. With more people hiding behind social media, we start to see a trend. Conversations that once ended with, “ we should totally hang out sometime,” are now finished with “we should totally add each other on Facebook!” This reliance on media to communicate our feelings, whether it be through text or tweet, drives us away from our peers while making s feel closer than ever. Yes, we can say whatever we want and feel confident about it, but by the end of the day if the relationship is just pokes and likes and not laughs and memories, do we really have a real connection with these people?
In the end, we see how New media influences our identity. We see new media can be a positive and negative influence in our personal work spaces. There is also a presence of media in our daily routines. In my eyes, just like brushing my teeth and combing my hair, using media is a habit of the day that I have grown accustomed to. Finally, we see the way media effects our personal portrayal of our own image and our interactions with others. Media has taken a big role in our lives and has come to the point were we must identify with it, as we are all part of this new age of media. With New media still growing, will it grow to take a bigger part of our identity? Or maybe, we will finally realize how much our technology is influencing us and we will stray away from use? Only time will tell.