A World Behind the Screen

“Think about what people are doing on Facebook today. They’re keeping up with their friends and family, but they’re also building an image and identity for themselves, which in a sense is their brand…” Mark Zuckerberg who verbalized this quote, doesn’t know it, but has directly influenced me, Taylor Paige Jacobs, into the person I am today. Growing up in this socially construct and digital society has completely altered my life for better and for worse. Ever since I can remember the Internet has been a prevalent tool in my life. In elementary school I learned how to search things on Google, and slowly began grasping the digital context of the Internet. As a young girl, I always recognized situations in my environment- I still do. I noticed that kids who learned slower and kids who didn’t speak English as their first language were removed from this learning environment because of the language barrier that accompanied the technology. As my digital literacy expanded, without these individuals, I became involved in the digital divide. When became more familiar with the Internet I realized the limitless capabilities of this medium as an outlet for communication. When I reached middle school, I got my first screen name- taytaypj95. Without even realizing it then, I was participating in the beginning of a digital world that would shape me forever. Instant message conversations sparked a whole new chapter of my life. Once I got off the bus from school I would run home and log on to AOL, listen to the dial up, and wait for the, “You’ve got mail” voice. The conversation always started the same.

Taytaypj95: Hey.

Abercrombie12342: Hi.

Taytaypj95: what’s ^.

Abercrombie12342: nmu?

It was almost as your free time became everyone else time. You felt constantly disengaged when you weren’t apart of this new sensation. To finish off Mark Zuckerbergs quote from above he continues to say, “…They’re connecting with an audience that they want to connect to. It’s almost a disadvantage if you’re not on it now.” Even though he is talking about Facebook, this quote still applied to my life as an avid instant messenger. As the blackberry façade diminished, everyone and myself moved on to social media networks that could sit in the palm of our hands on our new Iphones. Facebook more recently has definitely changed my perspective on how I live my life. I would consider myself a technological guru, I know when a good time to post an Instagram is, and I know what kinds of profile pictures would get a lot of likes on Facebook. Some people might think it’s crazy, but I believe that the society I live in has cultivated me to think and act in this manner. At times I do feel like my life is constantly being taken over by social media, but other times I just have to rationalize things and say, “This is how life is now, and if I’m not on it I’m at disadvantage to myself.” It keeps me connected to others in the cluttered universe we live in. Without the Internet, being here at UT would’ve almost been as impossible as a digital immigrant trying to code HTML sites. Since I had access to the Internet I was able to find a college counselor, and learn about what the UT application entailed. The unseen path of the Internet has indirectly guided me to UT. As an advertising major, I believe that my future will forever endure every basis of technology. Recently the invention of Snapchat, Tinder, Facetime, and Yik Yak, are all fairly new ways that have connected people across the globe to their communities and friends. Today there lays a fine line between what space will be ours in the future if it isn’t shared with others. As things continue to evolve in our technological society, I believe that my identity, along with others, will have to morph into what the digital sphere constructs of us.

Back home where I grew up, our library is still a very accessible tool. Starting from a young age we were always brought there on field trips, given incentives to go to reading talks, and offered a quiet place to study. When I was in high school, I would go to the library during finals week and even during regular weeks to study with friends. Once again my observant characteristics of my surroundings came into play; the library was always divided in a specific manner. People of color, minority, and the elderly were constantly on the library computers never white teens. People like me came to the library to get our work done, but others who didn’t have regular access to technology came to the library to do work.  This distinction of separation makes it evident even within one community many are disconnected and dissimilar from each other. I have contributed to this online partition because of my existence on social media. On Facebook I currently have liked 44 different pages ranging from The University of Texas Austin Class of 2017 to the music group Timeflies. Given my likes on pages, and people I’m following, the audience I’m apart of is specified towards me. With this knowledge, different Facebook ads are shown to me than the ads shown to my friend who lives in Sweden. We acquire two different audiences, which is what separates us from others.

Technology is so prevalent in my daily life that I’m probably not ever disengaged for more than 3 seconds. I wake up to the alarm on my phone; immediately check my texts, scroll through my Instagram feed, login to Facebook check my notifications and feed, then open up Snapchat check my snaps and review stories from when I was asleep. I do this all before I even start to think about what day it is. From the moment I wake up I’m engaged with everyone’s lives who I feel the need to be connected to. Sometimes I do feel like it’s an invasion of privacy and I do wonder if things will always be like this; or if technology will be so advanced that we fail to have our own identities because of its evolution to the human race?

2 thoughts on “A World Behind the Screen

  1. This is really insightful to see the digital divide has played out in your life. I’ve never thought of the ESL peers in my classes struggling to cope with the English demanded classroom tech and how that was a divide that hits right at home. Now it makes me wonder if pulling them away from the rest of the class to aid them only created a wider divide amongst us kids.

    P.S. Took me a little too long to decipher that IM chat.

  2. So true that Mark Zuckerberg has had an effect on the type of people we are today. It’s a lot easier to make yourself appear a certain way online and THEN become that type of person. A lot of times people are trying to live up to their own self-constructed online persona in real life. I like that you said you became involved in the digital divide from a young age — we all have involuntarily become a part of this divide in some way or another because of the society we live in, and this started from the moment we were born into this era. Also LOL at the AIM chat because that is 100% accurate. Extremely insightful to note that this was really the beginning of a new era, even though we didn’t realize that back then.

    I like that you ended your post talking about the future of our technological society. I, too, wonder what life will be like in ten years after seeing how drastically things have changed in this last decade.

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