Sunday, September 9, 2012

Technology Can Amplify and Control Us

I’ve made a concerted effort this past year to use Facebook more often.  I know, that sounds a bit odd when we hear and read a lot about how much time people waste using social media tools like Facebook.  For me, Facebook has become the best and main way to stay in touch with many of my remote family members and to interact with “real” friends.  It feels good to get “likes” and iStock_000017128753XSmallcomments on what I post.  I like to share photos from trips, biking, hiking, kayaking, walks, etc.  I also really enjoy seeing, liking, and commenting on friends and family’s photos, videos, and posts.  It’s fun to engage this way.  Facebook doesn’t consume an excessive amount of my time, perhaps 15 minutes a day.  For me, I can efficiently share a little bit of what’s going on in my life while learning about and staying in touch with the people I care about and know in the real world.  How do you use Facebook?

Twitter is a tool I use almost exclusively for professional and learning purposes.  I rarely post any personal photos.  I do enjoy interacting with a select number of people there on photos and personal twitter birdtweets they post but it’s not generally how I use it.  I like the separation of the professional me from the personal me.  This is typical of me in the real world too where for the most part friends and family don’t mix with my work.  However, I do consider a few work colleagues to be friends who I enjoy deep conversations with in-person and on Twitter or Facebook, or getting out for a hike, mountain bike ride, or a snow boarding trip, so there is some overlap there for sure.  For me though, Twitter is mainly a professional tool.  How do you use Twitter?

I think social media tools are great tools for amplifying who we are as real people.  It is very important then, that how we use them amplifies who really are.  But, what if who we really are isn’t how we want to be know online?  We probably all know of people who hide behind their Facebook profile, their well crafted tweets, and pictures and videos they share.  People can easily use these tools to amplify versions of themselves that aren’t real.  Do you think it is an appropriate use of these tools to present a version of one’s self that is better or different than who they are?  Should our real and online selves be fully congruent?

Let’s take a different path with this.  I’m reading an interesting book (just started it actually): iDisorder: Understanding Our iDisorder - Larry D. RosenObsession with Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us by Larry D. , Ph.D. Rosen.  Dr. Rosen covers 10 personality disorders in the book, the first being Narcissistic.  He delves into the research on how the use of tools like Facebook and Twitter amplify Narcissistic behaviors. 

“those (of all generations) who were more anxious when not checking in with their text messages, cell phone calls, and Facebook were more narcissistic than those who were less anxious about continually looking at their phones or jumping on Facebook to read posts and status updates”, Kindle 598

“The bottom line is that a lot of people pounding away on their laptops, constantly checking their smartphones, and living the high-tech, media-rich life are showing strong signs of being narcissistic”, Kindle 602.

Do you ever feel the irresistible pull of your smartphone or iPad, “begging” you to check your email, to see if your friends have liked or commented on your posts, whether they have replied to or Play Blocks With Lettersretweeted your tweets?  Full disclosure, my technology is often beckoning me to “check in”.  I can get caught up in wanting to check blog stats, twitter following stats, and what’s happening on Facebook.  It is amazing how difficult it is sometimes to just let it go and not to check-in.  I suspect we’re all susceptible to the hold our technology can have over us and the amount people engage with us online.  We just need to be sure to self-regulate our use of technology and work hard to not let it control us.  This is an important topic for young learners in our schools, something to be learned early to prepare young people to be balanced people.

For fun, you can take an online test to measure your narcissistic tendencies here.  It is a research study using a personal inventory and your (anonymous) results will be sent in to the researchers.  According to Dr. Rosen, 20 or higher gives some indication of potentially having a narcissistic disorder.  I took the “test” and am relieved to report that I scored 12 out of 40, an indication I’m not too absorbed with self or controlled by my technology!  How did you score?  Is your technology amplifying the real you and is the real you who you want to be online?  Is your technology controlling you or are you in control of it?