In the years of my childhood, I was the type of kid who was always outside and playing sports. Getting better at hockey and fishing was what I spent most of my time doing. I think this was instilled to me by my parents, who would always encourage me to go outside instead of watching television or playing video games. I had no problem with that because I loved being outside and being active. Computers and video games never really appealed to me anyway and I was usually the last one in my class to get the new Game boy, game council, or cell phone. I just never wanted them that badly. All I wanted for birthdays and Christmas was the best new hockey equipment or fishing gear. It was always a wonder to me why anyone would rather play sports on a screen when it was so easy to grab some kids from the neighborhood for a street game. These instincts stuck with me through middle school and remains today with a couple exceptions. No matter how hard I try to stay disconnected from the internet I know that the fast paced world of today requires it, so I keep an open mind and do my best to keep up with the technology.
My first experience with social media happened during my freshman year of high school when I started an AOL instant messaging account. It was so basic but I remember thinking how cool it was to be able to chat with friends instantly through the computer screen. At first it was only something I used on rainy days, but before long I was online almost every evening. I used to get so excited when I heard the little “ba-ling” sound of an incoming message. That quickly faded out in a couple of years, especially once MySpace became popular. My second major experience with new media was MySpace. I remember not being terribly interested in the idea of MySpace and I probably would have never made one myself if a girl I liked at the time hadn’t made one for me. I had a slow start with the account, but once I started embracing what MySpace was all about those feelings of excitement came every time I went on my account and saw a post on my page. After a couple years, I started to watch MySpace turn from a place for friends, into a place where people could gossip and inadvertently trash-talk each other. I remember there being a couple physical fights in school that ensued from such behavior. In fact, instances similar to these occur all over the country as discussed in the article “Freedom of Speech Redefined by Blogs”, by Bill Schackner. These issues regarding offensive comments being posted online bring the right to free speech into question. When I ask myself if I have the right to say anything I want online, my answer is, well yes I certainly have that right but I simply have the courtesy and respect of my fellow man to keep it non-offensive and to not trash the views of others. I agreed with Schackner’s claim that it is “impossible to legislate” what people put online. I also see his point that there simply are no rules online. Again, I think it comes down to a matter of common courtesy and respect for fellow online users, but it really is a learn by experience kind of thing.
MySpace only lasted about a year for me. After that, a couple years went by where I remained off the grid. No MySpace, no AIM, no nothing and things were great. The remaining years of high school I lived technology free with the exception of a cell phone and the occasional Google search. In many ways I was on a flight to conversation as opposed to “The Flight from conversation”, an article written by Sherry Turkle about the social effects of digital conversation. I think I was a sophomore in high school when texting was a new big deal, which was when I noticed a shift in other people’s behavior. Everyone constantly had their heads buried in their phones. Instead of the traditional “call ya later”, it became texts. Turkle explains in her article that when we converse through digital means, our communication skills get worse and questions and answers become simpler. She is right to make that claim because without real conversation, things lose personality. It’s like people forget that it is actually a person on the other end of the text. There is no asking how someone’s day is going, which is another thing we have forgotten how to do. Turkle even backs up my point when she says “we get used to being shortchanged on conversation and to getting by with less, we seem almost willing to dispense with people all together”. For this reason I remained a “call” person.
After going through the second half of high school off the grid, my freshman year of college brought my most prominent use of social media came into play. Facebook. Facebook was great and it really served its purpose well for me at the time, which was to meet new people on campus. It allowed me to connect with all sorts of people and I could talk to these people about classes and homework assignments and they could actually collaborate with me and give help. Then when I started commuting the next year, I used Facebook to keep in touch with those people whom I didn’t see as much. For the most part I have not had many issues with Facebook until recently when memes started going around. For me, Facebook has always been about keeping in touch with real friends, not promoting beliefs, or politics, or anything like that. Some of these memes are intended to be funny which is completely fine in my eyes. It is when memes become negative that turns me off of Facebook and its users, such as the instances in an article written by Jack Stuef called “The ugly dark side of Facebook memes” where college students were getting a lot of backlash for what they had been posting online. Once I noticed a meme posting pattern however, delete. Problem solved. Stuef also suggested doing a clean-out of Facebook friends in order to slow down the meme posts. In fact, he also shares the same position as me when he says “Facebook would be a more enjoyable place if it went back to the basics and focused on its original role as a virtual hub for maintaining real-life friendships”. Ever since I cleaned out my friends list, I have not had to deal with pointless memes about political beliefs, sick/dying infants, ECT. Memes are like reading tabloids and anyone with half of a brain can sort through the good and the bad ones.
My use of social media today is not very extensive. I still use my Facebook maybe twice a week, and I actually just started an account with the Lake St. Clair Network which is a social site for boaters and anglers who use the lake. Other than that, I have to admit that I am old-school when compared to other members of my generation. For instance, I have never understood the purpose of blogs. Most of what I have heard about blogs is negative things. It all comes down to a matter of personal responsibility when posting anything on the internet. My thought on how we should base digital communication is if it can’t be said in a public setting, then do not say it. I hope it is something that other internet users will learn how to do over time.
In regard to social media in its entirety, I keep an open mind. Although I have never felt the need or interest for social media before, I am starting to feel left behind in a way these days. Everyone in my generation today is on many social media sties and writes blogs. I on the other hand barely have a clue. The bottom line is that I am willing to learn and understand how it all works. A year ago if anyone asked me if I was on twitter I would say hell no, but I have an account now. I am still learning how to use it but at least I have one. I think the internet could be perfect if users would just demonstrate some respect for others. It really is no surprise to me that I am a little behind on social media and I think that my childhood and lifestyle reflect that.