Sunday, September 20, 2009

Facebook's "cotton candy friends"

Photos by Tim Hussin. He is an intern at National Geographic magazine.

As a Baby Boomer, I'm fascinated by the Millennials and what makes them tick. It's more than a passing interest since I teach journalism, photography and communication classes to students who are younger even than my daughter, Gaby.
I just finished reading papers written by a great bunch of students in a class called Introduction to Mass Communication.
The students had to keep track of their media use and then write about it. Many students found that are connected to some kind of media - the Internet, TV, radio, etc. - for much of their day.
I can't blame them. I'm an Internet junkie myself and have trouble staying away from the computer.
In their papers, many students wrote about the difficulties of finding a healthy balance between the real and virtual worlds. A sampling of their insightful comments are below:

Jarrid:
It shocked me to see that one of the first things I do every morning is to turn on my computer and check to see if I have any mail. ...my computer is the first thing I go to after I open my eyes. I do not brush my teeth or eat breakfast until I satisfy my curiosity of whether I have an e-mail that demands my immediate attention.
Bill Waggaman:
When I wake up every morning, I grab two things without fail: my wallet and my cell phone. My wallet holds every form of identification I'll need throughout the day teemed with a large open space where money should be, and my cell phone has everything else.
Jenna Parks:
I have had a cell phone since I was 13 years old and by the touch of a button I can talk to my family or any of my friends no matter where they are. I call my mom two or three times a day to ask her a million questions or just ramble on about things. ...I am constantly texting on my phone throughout the whole day.
Evan Murphy:
I watch TV as a filler when I can't find anything else to do, and I've gotten to the point where I can't sleep without music at night. It's become my mass media night light.
Kate Willink:
While I definitely do not always answer my phone, I am constantly available and responding to textual communication. I have become more comfortable with conversing with others via messages (as) opposed to actual verbal conversation.
You can see more of Tim Hussin's photos here

Sara Bliss:
Before I was introduced to the World Wide Web and MTV, I was a bookworm.
Kyle Whalen:
Facebook and my cell phone are the two major things that consume my day most, which is ridiculous. Those things really distract me from more important things such as my schoolwork or things that may actually matter one day.
Luis Gonzalez suggests that perhaps the United States could do without Facebook and MySpace.
Websites like these are stealing hours from lives and slowly killing our urges to go out and socialize. Giving us these false hopes of 'man, I have so many friends on Facebook,' or, 'people really must like me, look how many followers I have on Twitter.' These cotton candy friends (as my dad calls them) are becoming more important than the real friends we have, more important than our families as we devote hours to pleasing those who follow us, rather than those that look up to or need us the most.
People also spend too much time texting, he says.
...we should also cut down on cell phone usage. Last month, I sent a total of 2,476 text messages. We thrive on this form of instant gratification so much that...we have lost our ability to have real conversations over the phone because they take too long and it's 'awkward...'
Peter von Kahle writes that he is "more attached to the media than a mermaid" to her tail.
No matter what we do or where we go the media isn't an option anymore. The media is a lifestyle....I have come to a point in my life where I need the media all the time....it's a daily ritual that I've been around for so long, it's hard to see it as a privilege.

I was having a conversation with my family before I came down to school this semester. I asked them what they did in college to kill time. My Dad responded, "We studied."
Victoria Priester writes that the only time she's alone, without exposure to the media, is when she's in the shower.
I spend less then 20 minutes alone with my thoughts. Which reminds me, I should really purchase one of those waterproof iPod players for my shower. But on a more serious note, I am addicted to media interaction. My Facebook addition become blaringly evident during this exercise. I spend three or more hours of my day literally wasting time on my Facebook account.
Photo credit: Tim Hussin

Vanessa Swain:
Thirteen hours. That's how much time I spent engulfed in media on September 11th...the amount of time spent on engaging in media looks a lot worse on paper than when you're actually doing it. Thirteen hours? That's more than half the time I was even awake for the day. It really made me stop and think, 'Wow, what am I doing with my life?'
Social networking sites have put a major damper on face-to-face interaction...It's so much easier these days to talk to a person via text rather than actually speaking face to face. It's takes the pressure off having to impress someone.
It's soothing knowing I can sit comfortably in my underwear shoving cheese doodles in my face while having a serious conversation on the internet and they'd never know that the only thing that's really on my mind is how they get the doodles so puffy.
Stephanie Grasso writes that she did not have an Internet connection during high school when "MySpace exploded."
...I have noticed it is just a way for people to get their voice out, to be heard and understood, and to somehow put some kind of existence and value to their lives.
I have already found myself, in the breathtaking sunsets, in the sound of the wind, in an amazing book, in my artwork, in my journal, in my music, in my family, in myself.
Grasso says she is not criticizing her peers who spend many hours online. Still, she wonders what all the media use will do to people in the future.
My only hope is that the light from the computer does not replace the light from the sun in our lives.

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