New Year's resolution stay online more: twenty-sixteeny tiny nuances


Commentary


In 2016, there is an occurrence so common that it is almost traditional. In one moment you are wrapped in the warm experience of pressing send on a beautifully crafted text message, then reality strikes. Your feet stutter to dodge an oncoming passerby, telephone pole or fire hydrant. The embarrassment builds, simmers, then fades. But it is enough to spark change. In this moment you tell yourself that you will strive to live in the moment and unhinge yourself from the distracting wormhole that is Instagram, Snapchat or the red notification circle crusading like a badge of honor on your emerald texting app. It is time for you to let go of the digital world and embrace ... reality.

But is this not one of the greatest modern deceptions? The lie we tell ourselves that our digital existence is not undoubtedly linked to our physical “real” lives.

A recent Fader article, "How Pop Songs Connect in A Hyper-Connected World," compares the relative successes of Drake’s “Hotline Bling” and Adele’s “Hello.” Both songs discuss post-breakup longings for re-connection, yet Drake artistically describes what heartbreak looks and feels like in 2016. Meanwhile, “Hello” traps listeners in a pre-iPhone world that, while emotionally captivating, is highly nostalgic and somewhat "unrealistic” in its approach. Furthermore, no one would cry over an unanswered phone-call in 2016. They would more likely be anguishing over the incessant display of their ex’s life on their Facebook and Twitter feeds.

This is to say that believing one’s online life and “actual life” are not uniquely 2016-ly intertwined is to ignore the overwhelming changes and subtle nuances in the way that human beings communicate.

While it may seem strange and perhaps trivial to some, 2016-ers fully acknowledge the complexity of the read receipt followed by an unanswered text message. They also grasp the cornucopia of meanings that can be derived from the length of the pause between text and response.

Our parents were well-versed in phone etiquette. While the current generation’s canon for acceptable textual and social media communication is still in the works, the social ramifications and emotional responses elicited from one’s abandonment of their digital table manners is still legitimate.

When people condemn their addiction to social media and the like, what they are most likely addressing is their dislike of feeling distracted, not the platforms themselves. Author Zadie Smith spoke about issues of distraction in the Woman of the Hour podcast saying, “It’s the action of an addict … I’ll go down a Beyoncé Google hole for four hours .. anything but write.”

Smith is not complaining about the Internet, she complaining about the distraction.

Knowing how to navigate and communicate correctly in the modern world is different from letting social media "control" your life.

Being unable to maneuver in-person conversations due to our new communication methods is tragic. For example, in one episode of "The Mindy Project," Tamra is disclosing a secret to Dr. Reed about his wife having an affair. Just when she is about to tell him, she stops and says, “Let me do this the old fashion way” and proceeds to text him what she could not muster the gumption to say out loud.

Not wanting things to get that far is reasonable. But isolating yourself from the world, especially as creatives, in some ways makes your work obsolete.

We live in the future and as a journalist it is hard to connect with “future people” while trying to be a “past person.” Future people must conquer the inexplicable feeling of being 100 percent connected and 100 percent alone. Future people are challenged with balancing their work and private lives like never before. Future people have to deal with the exhausting ennui that comes from knowing the world is at your fingertips and not knowing what to do with it. Future people have a concept of time that the “past people” of 2009, let alone 1995, could barely register. Future people multitask in a manner that makes them bump into telephone poles!

These are the hurdles of the contemporary world that the people we interact with are facing on a daily level. Having never tried leaping over said hurdles oneself, and purposely remaining a “past person” affects the way you think/the way you think people are thinking.

The key is not to neglect our new modes of communication and embrace the old, but to find the balance between saying “Hello” and knowing what it means when that “Hotline Bling.”

Michael Anderson is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies with a minor in Africana studies.

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Michael Anderson

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