We Are Always On
Even when I’ve switched the box off, the Verizon Fios DVR across the room from me displays the Verizon logo wandering around the TV screen in glorious 1080p. But it doesn’t actually go off at the press of a button, it just stays in some sort of standby mode. The Mac I am typing on stays on far longer than it should, plugged in at a rate that will probably burn out the power supply. There have always been the hum of electronics in the room to remind you they are on. But they didn’t move information like they do now. Wifi is everywhere in the city. Cell phone signals are intermittent in the countryside, sometimes we get pissed off when the signal drops. My iPhone is on all night long next to my bed charging, poised to alarm me at the designated hour. The printer is on despite the user’s manual informing me it is the best practice otherwise. The radio is on, the AV receiver is on, the front porch light is on. They are always on.
We take electronics for granted; they surround us in the home unlike yesteryear when the TV was the center of the universe. Now the ego prevails and the only way to get our fix for social media is to stay connected. After reading Tim Burners Lee’s address to Congress in 2007, I have to say that things are shaping up like he said, however with a twist. Lee said that the web will be ubiquitous, on every surface of our homes: walls, refrigerator doors, etc. I don’t see this happening except for the uber rich. Building materials tend to evolve based on necessity and the internet evolves too fast for our destitute construction industry to keep up. I agree that the WWW will live in devices that are always surrounding us. But they will be integrated into the electronics we already use. There won’t necessarily be a screen that comes stock on your refrigerator, but a dock for a tablet device. There won’t be a wall that visualizes the web in your home, but instead an iPhone that projects interactive video onto the wall. Perhaps this just comes down to semantics, but this is the way I see it shaping when the new Chevy volt lets you see statistics about the vehicle from an iPhone or Android device. The devices themselves will interact with one another that just enhances our connectivity to social media. Our egos will inflate to the size of the network that supports them.
I have to admit though, I am pining for an iPhone 4S when my contract runs out with AT&T. What better way is there to add my voice to the public sphere than the hottest new mobile device? I can write reviews on Yelp, post updates to Facebook and Twitter, upload photos to Flickr, or update my job status of LinkedIn all from a device that fits in my pocket that is more powerful than the computer on the Apollo missions. I guess my point is that Web 3.0 will not necessarily be about the brick and mortar home like Burners-Lee said, but the place that we consider to be home base for social media practices: the mobile device.
If the early October nor’easter wasn’t a sign of global warning, it certainly was a test for the American populace to cope without electricity. It can happen so suddenly, like the flip of a switch. A storm erupts and the power goes out. Our dependance on the connectedness of the internet reveals itself in ways that challenge our patience to live without electricity. Reports were even saying that people were charging their cell phones in their cars. We’ve found ways to get our Facebook fix even when the power is out.
Yet when the power goes out I find it to be a relief. Finally, I don’t have to expose myself to the world and I can just sit and listen to the World as it was a century ago. The crackle of the fireplace is soothing to my psyche, that just can’t stop thinking about the next post I am going to make on Facebook. Will it say “nestled by the fire with a cup of hot chocolate, enjoying the simple things in life”? Most certainly not. I would probably remark, “The power is still out, when will National Grid get to my street? It’s been a week for god sakes”, like everyone in my social media sphere should pity me that I have to live like a caveman.
By now you must be thinking “What is your point Steve? I already know that I am connected. And it doesn’t feel so bad. I can send photos of my kid to grandma on Flickr. I am helping out a local business by reviewing it on Yelp.” I suppose what I am getting at is that we are so deeply connected that rarely do we think about it, particularly the 18-34 year olds who are spending more time online than anyone else. Social Media is one big experiment we do not know the ramifications of quite yet. I for one, am somewhat skeptical that the new Find My Friends app on my iPhone will actually help me find my friends, or that Facebook actually keeps me in touch with those I know and love. It seems to me that social media is much like the Nation’s stereotypical view of Southern Californians, it is incredibly surfacey and fake. We don’t actually get to the core of what it is to be a social creature and somehow I think that means we need to see each other face to face sometimes. We can’t just be stuck in our homes, the center of our social media experience has to be on the go. Perhaps I am making more problems that solving any, but that’s what new blog posts are for.
What do you think about social media? Do you get frustrated when your cell phone signal drops out or hate it when the power goes out? Maybe you have a story about a power outage or an opinion about staying connected. Submit a comment below and lets get the conversation rolling.