‘Selfie’. The term has become commonplace among social network aficionados and casual facebookers alike. It is a jargon that has come to represent an entire generation due in part to it’s ubiquitous nature. Recently the word found it’s way into the Oxford Dictionary as the publishers declared it the ‘culturally defining word of the year’. While largely looked upon as a throw away pop culture story that typically falls under the radar with most of the ‘yahoo’ and Huffington post-type articles, it is a story that has more depth and serves to shed light on the inherent flaw of such innovations.
The story is the answer to the often posited question: What have we accomplished technologically to better aid our daily lives and stay more connected as a species? When the smart phone came about in the early 2000’s they were hailed as the dawning of a new age of communication, allowing us a society to close the gap between the disconnected and the connected. Apple cashed in the biggest on the first of such phones and marketed accordingly with the selling point that their products were essentially the ‘bentley’ of the cell phone universe. With such convenience and new innovations came the rise in social networking domains most famously, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr. Phone companies caught on fairly quickly the cash cow that could be created with little more effort than an app that would revolutionize how we stay in contact with loved ones and friends with a tap of a finger. Phones had become the gateway to a world of dreams with limitless possibilities. Little More than a decade later Apple and Microsoft unveiled their tablet companions which substituted as ‘mini laptops’ and their latest in high tech phones accompanied by HD resolution and larger capacity much to the glee of tech wizards and app lovers alike.
It is now 2014 and it is almost impossible to find someone who doesn’t own some sort of tablet, smart phone, or high powered computer. We are infinitely connected to one another at a click of a mouse or keypad with the world at our fingertips, whether we like it or not. However, in doing so we have become more aloof and alone, losing what makes us human in the effort to create simplicity. Infinite information is an app away and has dulled our minds into accepting the idea that we need not stretch ourselves further than technology allows. As such society has become stagnate in our ability to form electronic relationships that simulate human connection very well without the physical bond that has driven us for centuries. Today’s youth have never known a world without the internet, cell phones or Facebook and thus have little to no appreciation for imagining the absence of such. What we have created are a generation of socially inept individuals who live vicariously through the inter webs and online personas. Distraction levels are at an all time high with the rate of cell phone related accidents on the road climbing and showing no signs of dipping. Schools are forced to combat such issues with little to no avail requiring one more obstacle (and a large one at that) to be tackled on a case to case basis. And with an economy already in the toilet and a limited employment market awaiting our children on the other side of a 4-year undergraduate degree, we have only crafted our own doom. It is not difficult to imagine a world where physical connections are viewed as an inconvenience entirely with large wall screens providing sustenance for any desired human contact.
In the end it is up to us as a culture to mediate and curb such behavior in our children and more importantly ourselves. It is often posited whether environment or heredity has a greater effect on our upbringing and I feel it could be said at this juncture that the choice is ours as a species and should be taken more seriously than it presently is.