I grew up at the end of a quiet street on five acres of land. My most vivid memories of my childhood home all relate to the menagerie of animals that proliferated our yard: cats with various levels of domesticity, a dog that we inherited over the summer, about twenty chickens from my grandma, two ducks from Easter gift baskets, a talking parrot who liked to say his own name, the occasional cottonmouth that would slither from the backyard pond. We did have a family computer but quite frankly, online entertainment was far less interesting than my own personal zoo.
With legions of other children in my elementary school, I learned how to navigate computers with relative ease under the watchful eye of the librarian. Games disguised typing lessons, guided online searches laid the foundation for future independent research, and we were encouraged to explore the potential of computers in a safe, constructive environment. I would play the occasional computer game at home with my brother and type homework assignments when required but outside of school, navigating technology did not hold the same appeal as seeing how many cats I could put on the trampoline.
This general apathy towards computers continued to influence my use of technology as I grew older. Even as our family desktop improved in quality and out Internet connection became faster, it was never my first choice of entertainment. Access did not affect my habits surrounding computers; general interest is what was lacking.
Only in my final year of middle school that I finally succumbed to the pressures of social media and open a Facebook account. I was surprised how enjoyable it could be to connect with others online. Even so, old habits die hard. My presence on social media never escalated to more than one post per week and as I became older, it trickled down to no more than a handful of posts per year. It began to feel less and less natural to post tidbits of my life in an effort of earn likes and the attention of my peers. I shied away from what I viewed as the exhibitionist tendencies that can take hold when one posts daily details of their life online for the world to see. The ability to privately message other individuals, however, was an invaluable resource when planning outings, working on homework, and coordinating group projects.
My online identity is largely defined by my lack of online presence instead of by what I actually contribute. As a habitual consumer of online material rather than a producer, much of my online activity is driven by my desire to customize how I access information. My preferred news sites are steady favorites on my bookmark bar. I opened a reddit account so that I could personalize which subreddits would appear on the main page. (Does anyone actually find /r/funny entertaining?)
Taking all of the above into account, it is unsurprising that targeted online marketing usually falls short. Suggested products and companies are largely indicative of items I have purchased off of Amazon. Even so, this does not provide enough information about my shopping habits to fill all of the ad spaces I encounter online. As a result, I see many suggestions with little relevance to my wants and needs as an American consumer. It makes sense that those who consume and contribute less online would produce less data to be used by companies in their marketing efforts.
Even though I am not a prolific poster or producer on my personal social media pages, I recognize the significance of online interactions in the modern world. Businesses rely on data generated through online platform to remain relevant and profitable. Education is increasingly dependent on technological resources to prepare students for the world beyond the classroom. Individuals engage online means to stay connected with distant family member and friends. I do not believe that technology is detrimental to society, nor do I think that the cons of living in a digital society with regards to privacy and equality outweigh the pros. I am glad I live in a world where new technology has the potential to grow, change, and positively impact the lives of people around the globe. However, that does not mean I feel the need to integrate technology into every corner of my life. I genuinely favor the simplicity of hiking in a state park or playing with my cat over the pressure to post and preen for the online community. For me, online engagement is all about personal preference.