Digital Immersion

By Tuanh Le ’19

Even though we have smart phones that the size of our hands, it cannot be denied that we grew up (or the world) in a place where all we know is the internet and social media platforms. There is a reason that every day we touch our phones and why most seem to be addicting. So addicting in fact that I myself cannot even function without a phone in between my fingertips. I am on Snapchat almost hours on end and the more I don’t use it, I tend to notice I get a bit cranky. In this theoretical work I have read so far, I wanted to see why kids in this generation doesn’t use Facebook and where did this addiction start. I picked Facebook mainly because this is the only social interaction that has been made, Facebook is the website that all generations of any era would know. Since this is the generation of millennials, there’s a big stereotype that only the younger ones only use social media websites. This is surprisingly untrue considering the face that the elders are using Facebook the most. The simple fact that the older generation – the generation in which technology was no near to what they expected – are using Facebook, it kind of indicated that something addicting is going on with social media as a whole. I wanted to see what causes us to be so captivated by it – who controls who? Do we own the power because we choose to use it or them because of social norms (Janeris and Taylor) and a little bit of math (Ivana)?  

I got my first phone in 5th grade and I got my first laptop in 8th grade. Ever since then, I grew up with Myspace and AIM online and I moved to Facebook and Instagram on my phone. Every year, it seems like something new is here and I just get sucked in. For this project, I spent 5 hours on my laptop, as per usual, and I kept track and what websites I went to, what I did during that time, etc. I noticed that I spent most of my time on YouTube watching makeup videos, Facebook and scrolling to see what’s happening with my friends and family and to see the latest memes/cool videos. I did this project on the day where Apple launched their new products so I spent a lot of time learning about it. I was interested in getting an iPhone since I basically had Android all my life. Not only that, I noticed that when I get bored I end up just refreshing the same website as if it was going to suddenly change. For example, I go to YouTube and when I realized nothing new caught me eye, I somehow manage to refresh the page as if something new would pop up.  

Because of the new IPhone launch, after watching a couple of apple product videos, I started to get a massive videos of apple products on my news feed. For instance, I was planning on getting the new IPad Pro coming out in November and when I watched only ONE video in its entirely, my recommended page on YouTube went from mostly makeup to a pool of Apple videos. I was not surprised that this happened because in class we talked about how a lot, if not all, of social media used algorithm so we can keep coming back to the website, bored or not! And it wasn’t even on YouTube that I see these changes – Snapchat discover, Instagram discovery, and even my Twitter newsfeed had all changed to this weird Apple overtake because I simply wanted to know more about the new products that was launched. Not only that, I noticed that almost all social media websites are interconnected, meaning that if I were to watch some Apple product videos on YouTube, I could get some type of Apple news on Facebook and even on Twitter. Another example would be that if I was thinking about buying a toaster on Amazon, I would get ads on Facebook about toasters via Amazon. That’s crazy to me! I always assume every website is different but it is way more than that. Everything is connected to some degree which is exactly why we keep coming back to it. 

By Janeris Kelly ’18

I like to think that I am not drawn to social media and digital culture, but I rather enjoy playing and watching people play video games. While that is not ‘social media’ like facebook or instagram, PC games are sometimes played with online friends, and serve as a great ‘distractor’ from the offline world. In this sense, social media and Wow for me serve the same purpose. The fact that I try to resist the temptation of the online world until absolutely necessary, I find that our generation’s relationship with technology is so intertwined that it becomes pervasive. Even when I try to stay away from the internet I still find myself lost in phone games (like candy crush, word cookies etc), which have the same effect- they provide a distraction from the real world.

The pervasive nature of technology and digital media makes me think that we are moving more towards a dystopia; the lines between the offline and online world are become blurred. WoW serves as a great example of this: it allows its users to entire a distinct magical realm where they can decide their characters class and race as well customize their avatars features and clothing. Users can quite literally recreate themselves without other users knowing their offline self. While this is a liberating feeling for some players, it can have some questionable repercussions. If I can easily recreate myself and play for hours on end without realizing I’ve been playing for hours, what will happen when technologies like virtual reality become commonplace? Pretty soon the offline and online world not be the ‘real’ and online world. Rather, the two realities will be considered distinct, but both legitimate realities so that people live their lives seamlessly between the online and offline world. I think this can be extremely

dangerous when coupled with my generations (and younger generations) disposition towards technology and social media. We like technology and its cool gadgets and forms of communication, but we are not able to see how this can hinder our real life relationships. I have seen many relationships fall apart because of some online drama that would have occurred if people were not too inclined to post every intimate detail online for others to read. You cannot reasonably expect online behavior to not affect your offline reality when we hardly differentiate between the two ourselves. This unconscious behavior becomes commonplace to a point that we almost lose our agency; it becomes very difficult to disassociate ourselves from the online world. The realm created in World of Warcraft is an interesting combination of features from the offline world combined with features that are satisfying for the consumer. Being able to change your appearance, your abilities, and even your ‘home’ at the click of a button is a liberating power that we cannot simply experience in the real world. However, there are still very familiar features as well- they’re hierarchies, money systems, and war- which the human race is much too familiar with. This combination of features can be really powerful in that they provide users exactly what they desire: some familiarity to our offline world but enough differences to allow us to live a distinct reality.

I’m not sure what this has to say about digital culture and power, but WoW of pretty expensive (to keep your monthly subscription is $14.99) and yet I find myself willing to pay the price just to be able to play for a few hours and enjoy myself without the stress of the offline world. This can also have negative repercussions in that I can very easily start playing WoW when I am stressed instead of doing the work that is making me stressed in the first place.

I also think that my emotional state impacted my physical state as well the way I interacted with the game. When I was frustrated to begin with, any little waiting time for me to play or anytime the game froze, I would find myself to be really agitated. In reality, those things

wouldn’t have bothered me if I wasn’t feeling irritated to begin with. When I wasn’t feeling any strong emotion, I was more susceptible to enjoying the game in addition to using it as a distraction. I think it is also noteworthy that playing with other people made the game more enjoyable than when I played by myself the first day. This could have also been impacted by my mood to begin with.

By Taylor Caesar ’19

Unlike Facebook, I am extremely invested when it comes to Instagram. Instagram is a photo and video sharing app where something as simple as double tapping a screen to like a post has become a phenomenon. It is easy and manageable. I love Instagram for many reasons. I can make new friends, reconnect with old ones, keep up with family and follow up with things that are going on in the world including trending topics. Instagram has easily made its way on becoming one of the top 5 apps worldwide.

Instagram has found its way into my daily routine. I say this because I overly use this app as if I am addicted to going on it. It draws a lot of attention especially with the new updates of now being able to voice call and video call. This past week I realized that I log into Instagram every time I unlock my phone to either check my schedule or reply to a text message. It has become habitual when getting out of another app. I automatically enter the Instagram app to see what is happening with the people I follow or if the blogs or pages I follow for entertainment have posted anything new. 

Personally, Instagram is more engaging towards the end of day. Usually the time I decide to look at stories or recent posts because that is the time where people wind down from school or work. Though, it is fairly active throughout the day.

According to Digital Media & Society, social media is a tool where,“…people relate to each other through individually centered networks that are looser, more open, and more diverse than those of previous historical periods,”(28) it has evolved into a valuable source where people can make connections easily.

I realized that when I post on Instagram I keep checking to see who watches my story. I do not usually post pictures on my page because I try to keep a momentum going and like my page to look a certain way. Although my page does not define me it highlights a lot of my features and my personality.  Lindgrn says, “An important aspect is that users of social platforms are identifiable and present through some sort of profile, which allows for certain amount of experimental work with who we want to be and how we want to present ourselves to others,” (31) I admire the fact that I can control what people see. Many may think they know me based off of what they see on my Instagram page but still would not know who I really am. It’s like I have creative control over how I want people to view me. Furthermore this gives enough room for people to ask questions to get to know me.

By Ivana Lopez Espinosa ’19

Over the course of five days, I analyzed my online behavior as I interacted with my Instagram account. I chose to spread my analysis over a week because I wanted to note behavioral changes due to the stress level, time of day, and spatial impact. Prior to my analysis, I noticed that I would revert to my Instagram when I was “not busy”. I began my analysis on Thursday, October 11 and ended on Monday, October 15. From Monday to Thursday, I log-off from my Instagram account to prevent distractions from classes since my course schedule is Monday to Thursday and not Monday to Friday. The reason I picked Instagram is that it is one of the few applications on my phone. While I do have several social network accounts -such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and Snap Chat – I seldom partake these platforms because 1) I do not understand how to use them and 2) I find it difficult to waste time on these sites.

I use Instagram less to post images of myself and more for content others produce. Content I try to avoid on Instagram includes Gettysburg College student accounts, high school peers, derogatory and violent pages, self-help pages, extreme right pages, horror, YouTubers, Instagram “celebrities”, and fitness gurus. Generally, I tend to follow: social activists, meme pages, physicist, inspirational quotes, fashion brands, musicians, colleges and universities, language pages (i.e. the Oxford Dictionary, Practice German). Instagram statistics as of October 17, 2018, are 268 posts, 652 followers, 778 following. On average I gain four followers a day – two are often spam accounts, which I report as such. Non-spam pages that follow me are often individual that are rising to Instagram fame or small name house DJs.

I retreat to my Instagram account when I am in situations that I do not feel comfortable in or do not feel included because itis a way for me to remove myself from the situation without an actually leaving the room. When I am alone and do not have commitments, I am less likely to use my phone because I have slight FOMO. My identity definitely shifts when I am online because my social media caters to my interests and that is something that does not occur in all conversations. Social impacts to my immersion are seen through by retreating to my phone when others are on or when my friends are sending me messages through Instagram. My emotions this weekend relatedness to the content on my Instagram rather than the situation I was looking forward to and the people that were around me. Had I conducted my analysis when it was not a weekend where we were celebrating, my usage of Instagram wouldhave been different. I would have paid more attention to the content I waslooking at rather than waiting for notifications.