Monthly Archives: May 2014

Censorship in the time of Post-Penmanship

Bill of Rights: Amendment I

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

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internet-censorshipHere in the United States, we have the right to the freedom of speech.  We live in a nation where our government cannot censor what we want to say or prohibit the free exercise of what we want to do with our lives.  We have protected this right vehemently, even as it has been challenged by the accessibility and immediacy of the Internet and social media.  This core liberty, that many of us in the US take senselessly for granted, is not guaranteed to others around the globe.

Unfortunately, countries such as China, Iran, and North Korea, among others, do not afford this basic right of freedom to their citizens– especially when it comes to social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.  The immediate and far reaching potential of these mediums provoke fear within the authoritative administrators of these nations as they believe these viral avenues encourage rebellious unrest against their government and political philosophies.

Mother Jones Magazine’s online blog recently published an article on countries around the world that block and censor social media sites.  This past March, the Turkish government– a self-proclaimed democracy– jumped on the censorship bandwagon and blocked its residents’ access to Twitter and YouTube, anxious and fearing the spread of confidential government wiretap recordings.  According to Mother Jones reporter Dana Liebelson, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan banned Twitter in response to the site refusing to take down an account that charged a former Turkish minister of corruption.  A YouTube block was also initiated after a viral video surfaced of government officials discussing the possibility of declaring war against Syria.

The right of free speech is the heart of democratic values, and ultimately a true democracy cannot exist, or rather “beat,” without the fundamental building block of free expression.  Freedom of Speech permitted Socretes to lecture from a rock in front of the Parthenon in ancient Greece; Thomas Paine to rebel and fight for freedom against the British; as well as Martin Luther King Jr. to gather millions on the Mall in Washington, encouraging us to seek racial equality.  The Internet also allows for this free speech to be critiqued: like Miley Cyrus’ “twerking” performance or Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks.

The right of free speech does not necessarily mean the right of “comfortable speech”– the right to say things most will agree with.  Yet rather it involves the right to say things that are uncomfortable for many to hear.  It is only when a democratic society fights to preserve the right of “uncomfortable speech” that we can indeed claim to live in a free democratic society.

Social media will eternally challenge this right due to its immediacy and ability to reach millions instantaneously, yet restricting its use and content is no different than limiting what could have been said on radio or television a mere generation ago.  Regulating access to social media may make us, or particularly foreign governments, “more comfortable,” but let’s never confuse it with a true democracy, which can only thrive by yielding disagreeable rhetoric to ‘bloom’… even when it is difficult to hear, much like, for all you Joyce fans out there, the legendary Leopold Bloom himself.

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Bloom explains to those near him his schemes for social regeneration (15.1702-3)


The Power of Social Media: Part II (Cont.)

Continuing the conversation on the negative repercussions of utilizing social media…

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Social Media and Face-to-Face Interaction: 

A few years back I had the opportunity to meet Portland, Maine artist Tanja Alexia Hollander and the creator of the Portland Museum of Art exhibit, Spring 2012, “Are You Really My Friend?”

One day, Hollander was writing a traditional, handwritten letter to a friend while simultaneously Facebook “chatting” with another.  The disparity in communication encouraged her to ponder the significance of physical communication versus digital communication.  Thus the idea for the project was conceived.

UntitledHollander’s idea was to travel around the country and parts of the world with her Hasselblad “old-school” camera, and photograph her 626 Facebook “friends” in their homes— to physically meet with them face-to-face and learn their life story.

No “friend” was to be excluded, which means she would visit and photograph business partners she’s never met, ex-lovers, old friends, best friends, and more.  By the end of the year, she had enough photographs to begin her exhibition.

Hollander’s display was creatively interactive: a continuous wall print with images mounted on magnets and could be moved around by the visitors, as well as a wall where visitors could post sticky notes responding to the exhibit and questions that Hollander asks such as “How has social media made you more social?” and “How important is face time?”

Interestingly enough, through Hollander’s photographic journey, she actually became closer to several people she barely knew, but were her “friend” on Facebook before the project, simply due to the act of face-to-face interaction.

In an article written by Daniel Kany in the Maine Sunday Telegram, Kany notes how “for younger Americans, Facebook is a fully integrated aspect of normal social life.  Yet for many others, the viral logic that makes social media so persuasive is precisely the thing that makes it seem so alien” (Kany).  For those who grew up in a world with face-to-face connections and letters written in longhand, the Facebook concept may seem outrageous.

The Social Networking Paradox Strikes Again:

Screen Shot 2014-05-05 at 11.13.29 AMThere is a viral video infecting the walls of Facebook, Twitter, and email inboxes all over the world throughout this past week.  The video is a campaign for the Look Up project, created and directed by Gary Turk.  His message is primarily targeted to the global youth, claiming that “this media we call social is anything but.”  Turk argues in similar fashion to Baroness Susan Greenfield of Oxford University that children today are growing up in a world where they would rather be “socially networking” than playing outside or physically communicating with friends.  While Greenfield tackles the issue through a neurological approach, Turk does so through lyrical poetry.  What is paradoxical here is the very fact that both Greenfield’s research and Turk’s poetic prose are both solely displayed and shared online on, most prominently, social networking websites.

Perhaps blogging, viral videos, online campaigns, and excreta are indeed the only forms of propaganda that will reach out and sink into our tainted society’s acumen.  As Turk states in his video: “When you’re too busy looking down, you don’t see the chances you miss.”  Life passes by before your eyes, and if your eyes are constantly shifted towards an LED screen, you will miss the true happiness of life– not to mention your eyes will become immensely and constantly strained.

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When did life become a virtual obsession?  How is it that we spend more hours a day on our “smart” devices (laptops, cell phones, tablets) than we do interacting with others?  And what are we to do now?  Sure, we can “Look up,” but that will only bring us so far.  We need to learn how to experience the realities of life again, just as our ancestors did, without the powerful dominating glow of a computer, tablet, or smart phone screen.

The Power of Social Media: Part II

Well now, here we are, caught within the ferocious throws of the tango.  We ventured forward in the Social Media Vortex, and followed with The Power of Social Media Part I.  Now we frame our partner and show them the other side view of the social media tango.

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In Part I, I researched and exemplified how social media is a powerful resource for the better of our society- where in some cases, the powerful tool can actually save a person’s life.  Here, in this post, I will research and illustrate how social media is a powerful detrimental asset to the future of how our society flows and communicates with one another at home and abroad.

Let’s begin with this new Essurance Commercial Ad:  click here to watch

Social Media and Relationships:

"Five Tips to Survive Breakup Depression." N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2014.

“Five Tips to Survive Breakup Depression.” N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2014.

In a world consumed by the demand for instant gratification, society has turned simple communication into instantaneous conversation through social media.  Letters have become emails, invitations have become E-vites, traditional photography and film have morphed into digital photography, phone calls have become texts, and even the hardcover book has become “kindled,” all under the pretext of better, faster, superior.

With the act of communication dwindling more and more towards the virtual sphere, personal relationships have been put on the rocks.  There are reports of several instances where social networking sites have lead to isolation, stress, and relationship problems for many individuals.  In a Feb. 2014 study by PewResearch, they found that 45% of internet users ages 18-29 in committed relationships say that social media realms have had an impact on their relationship.   However, when polled by adults ages 65 and older, only 10% claim the internet has an impact on their relationship.  While 74% of adult internet users claim that social networking sites have had a positive impact with their relationships, 20% said that it has made a primarily negative impact.  This notion is especially intriguing in that when the same question was asked in 2005, only 16% of internet users in couples said that the internet had some sort of impact (positive or negative) in their relationship.

Among adults (Ages 18+) who are in committed relationships, 88% use the internet and 71% use social networking sites.  93% of this same adult demographic own a cell phone.  These numbers do not surprise me, yet what does is the 25% of adults who said they text their partner when they are at home together, as well as the 25% who felt that their partner was distracted by their cell phone when they were together.

Admit it: At the beginning of a potential new romance, don’t you do a “google search” of their name before you go on the date?  Or if not prior to the date, immediately following?  All of us are guilty of snooping through our current fling’s photos.  It is a matter of reaction.  Can you handle browsing through photos of him/her and his/her old flame without experiencing a sense of jealousy?  You are their present, yet social media has made you travel back to the past leaving you feeling empty and alone.

In regards to the future of relationships and communication, a study conducted by the Broadcaster Audience Research Board found that today, teenagers spend an average of 7 1/2 hours a day in front of a screen.  Oxford University neuroscientist Baroness Susan Greenfield, believes that the repeated exposure of social media and networking technologies could effectively “rewire” the brain.

“I often wonder whether real conversation in real time may eventually give way to these sanitised and easier screen dialogues, in much the same way as killing, skinning and butchering an animal to eat has been replaced by the convenience of packages of meat on the supermarket shelf,”  says Greenfield.  “It is hard to see how living this way on a daily basis will not result in brains, or rather minds, different from those of previous generations.”

Truth be told, while social networking may not have significant effects on the way we form relationships and communicate today, the future doesn’t look too promising– especially for the  generation Z youth.  It is utterly impossible for one to reach a level of depth with another individual via social networking alone.

Social Media and Loneliness:Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 1.52.08 PM

With its primary purpose to facilitate constant communication with others, social media in reality, is inevitably making us lonely.  Social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are full of posed emotion.  They create a clear juxtaposition between the physical and digital world.  Any person can be whoever they want to be online.  Just check out Brad Paisley’s music video: “Online.”  One can be outrageously outgoing, like the main character in Paisley’s video.  Online, an individual can instantly post of frivolous snapshots on Instagram, “like” every status on Facebook, or tweet status updates every other hour on Twitter.  However, that same person in the “real” world could be the exact opposite of the way he or she portrays his or herself on the Internet.  The exposé and pages of photos and comments can lead to a sense of isolation.

This evokes the perplexing question: is Facebook making us prefer a virtual reality rather than experiencing our own lives in the moment?

Perhaps a group of your friends go out for an adventurous night.  The next day one of the friends posts an album to Facebook and the others comment on how fun the night had been.  Looking at these posed snapshots may make you feel alienated, wondering, “Why wasn’t I included?  Who organized this event?” forgetting that the reason perhaps that you weren’t invited was that you now live 200 miles away.  In another example, you may have a best friend from your childhood that you believed you could simply stay in touch with online.  Do you find yourself more or less connected with this person?  Personally, I have done this, thinking it was the more efficient and logical way to stay in touch, yet I find that we are farther apart than we’ve ever been and are on the verge of losing the great friendship we once had.

There is just no replacement for the day-to-day human experiences one has as next-door neighbors or schoolmates.