Digital Community

When I am working on an assignment, or I am at work, the constant need to want to check my social media is always clawing in the back of my mind. No matter how focused I am in whatever I am doing, just having a computer in front of me with access to all my friends and family, to the world, and to what is happening every day, is such a huge temptation that has been echoed in Spilka’s book, Digital Literacy. We live in a culture that is now shaped by technology. We control it, and in some ways, it controls us. It is very appropriate that Spilka spoke about culture and community and how it relates to technology as culture and community is the very core of what defines us as a species. No matter what part of the world we may be from, we all have our own sets of values, traditions, and unique way of doing things. We have our own community to call our own. But with the digital age, community has slowly began crossing geographical barriers and into new territory.

There was a time when it seemed like computers and the internet were just on the rise, it hasn’t yet become this huge dominating force within our lives. I vividly remember American culture being a bit different. At the time, it seemed like discussions at school were about what we saw on T.V. or what fun stuff we did outside at the park or the Boys and Girls Club. It felt so different and almost dreamlike in comparison to the lives of my nieces and nephews today who have the whole world at their fingertips.

Culture is the way people relate to each other and how their values, beliefs, and assumptions are created through the people and objects in their lives (Spilka, 2010). In this particular context, the culture at the time hasn’t yet been tied to closely to technology in the same way it is today. As technology got sleeker, smaller, easier to use and easier to access, our culture began to take a shift. The rise of social media and smartphones has created a culture where being connected is not only the norm, but a must. This has led to hundreds of different kinds of communities forming online where people can find their own place. This is evident on social platforms such as Facebook where you can join your own groups or communities. I myself am part of several communities ranging from social justice groups, to comic book communities, to art and creative groups for people of Asian heritage.

It has become so ingrained into us with these kinds of easily accessible communities, that it is second nature. I can be working on a very important assignment into the late hours of the night and not even realize it when I have a new tab on my computer open to Facebook with a cute cat video playing. It does feel almost as if this need to check social media plays into more than just an addiction to technology, but possibly the psychological need for connection with other people who share your same values and beliefs. Just like in Anderson’s The Long Tail, people with niche interests are all separated across the country with geographical barriers, the internet offers people who long and crave for a community to suddenly be connected through a thin screen.

Posted on November 8, 2020, in Social Media. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Hi Jackson,

    I’m right there with you that it feels very dreamlike to reminisce about times when the internet was not as popular. I can only imagine what generations after us will experience. I think it really does illustrate how much technology influences our sense of culture and community. It also extends the ability for niche cultures to exist and thrive, and possible feel much larger than they would have without the internet.

  2. rebeccaanderson8641

    Hi Jackson,
    You have so eloquently stated exactly why I deleted my social media accounts. I found that I had no ability to self-regulate. I would open and scroll absentmindedly when I had something important I should be doing. I didn’t have the time and I didn’t have the mental space; I also didn’t have the ability to tell myself no (apparently). Life has become significantly more simple without social media! However, there was an adjustment period of about a month where I felt bereft and disconnected. I had to remind myself to take photos to remember the moment, because it almost felt like if there was no where to post them, then what was the point? Social media had shaped the way in which I viewed the world, my leisure time, my accomplishments-everything that dictated how I situated myself within society. It wasn’t a great feeling, and the strangest part was it came all as a result of mostly absentminded interactions.
    I definitely think social media is a worthwhile endeavor for many people and organizations; it is just not for me personally. However, I do hope that, as a society, we can grow to use social media more mindfully.
    Great job!

  3. Hi Jackson,

    Your post is so spot on! While we certainly benefit from living in a more connected society, I still often wonder how much is too much. Living behind a screen has become the new normal and in many cases, encouraged. I was in a zoom call the other day for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, and the host of the call said, “It’s nice to actually see your faces. I’ve missed that!” Even on zoom calls, people prefer to turn their camera and hide behind a default display setting. Perhaps it won’t seem as extreme when things settle down with the pandemic, but there’s still a part of me that feels we might be losing something from all the screen time. Great post!

  4. Hi Jackson,

    Your statement, “We control it, and in some ways, it controls us” in reference to technology perfectly encapsulates our relationship with this growing entity. As users of such technology, we constantly feed it information about the world and ourselves. We send messages through it while simultaneously receiving communication. From my perspective, it is not the “sending comunication” through it that drives my personal compulsion towards it. Instead, it is the receiving part. When I am sitting working on a project, the thought of missing out on communication is what drives me to constantly check up on it. This process is the process that inevitably controls us in relation to technology.

    Interesting post!


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