Everywhere we are integrated into technology, whether through scientific curiosity or through the desire to enframe ourselves and connect. But we unite with it in the most dangerous way when we fail to question what trajectory the technology we connect with on a daily basis reveals about our culture’s portrait of humanity at its best. Because where technology can spark hope and a great saving potential it also gives rise to the greatest dangers.
One mode of questioning the technology we gravitate to involves following the effects of technology in our daily lives back to the motivation that caused us to create it. All technological development is pioneered to take an unpredictable aspect of reality and organize it in a way that can be enframed and made accessible for you or me to manipulate. The technology of social media is no different in essence; although the reality it looks to enframe is personal, i.e., our social nature.
Following this method of looking into the technology we use, the particular features of social media appear more clearly as the instrumental arm by which individuals take the chaotic of their personality, the ever-fluctuating ups and downs, the beautiful and ugly of the human condition and order it in a profile or homepage in way to enframe the ideal image of themselves. And once logged on the user of social media technology is able to live through this ideal image of them that is always beautiful, always witty, and always surrounded by friends.
The profile picture is one motif of social media technology that illustrates this point. A great deal of critical thinking goes into the process of choosing a profile picture. This picture must encompass the entirety of the character the user wants to project to the social network. In one frame, one pose, one moment in time a user must define his or herself as athletic or artistic or rebel or leader. And regardless of the ideal the user seeks to capture in a profile picture, whether subtly or in an extravagant fashion, users intend to portray themselves in their most triumphant state of being. But ego aside this profile picture is probably not a true image of the user when the user logs off because what is in is out and is changing.
Other powerful features enframing users in social media technology are the status update and comment tools. Status updates and comments chronicle the changing moods and movements of a user. Users also manipulate status updates and comments in order to isolate and portray their most witty or comedic or intelligent or bold voice to the social network. And from a smart phone, unaffected by the tension of having to produce charisma on the spot or say the right thing to the right person at the right time, and to risk botching both, all users can easily organize their emotions in a formulaic one-to-two-sentence attractive ethos. But an accurate word-centered expression of a person in the social domain is not just the wisdom and humor they can generate from brooding 30 minutes over a thought then posting it; people are equal parts their word vomit.
So, the portrait technology seems to depict through social media technology is then a reality that rewards and reinforces users for enframing those aspects of them they see as ideal onto the social network, a marketplace for gathering ‘likes’. And once fully integrated into the social network users appear, finally, as individuals worthy of being friends with, and people at large as potential contacts.
Are we in danger of reducing the measurement of a person to their value as a potential contact? Maybe, maybe not; but while we wait to find out technology has other agendas aside from social media. For instance, on Sunday, August fifth, NASA’s most advanced Mars rover Curiosity landed on the Red Planet, near the foot of a mountain three miles tall and 96 miles in diameter inside the planet’s Gale Crater. The rover Curiosity is set to investigate whether the region ever offered conditions favorable for life, as well as the geological history of planet, using state of the art technology.
So where innovations in technology can risk monumentally miscalculating systems for people to find themselves in and measure the worth of others from, the same technical genius has the capacity to destroy the frameworks and models that come to dictate the confines of human potential and replant the seeds of hope, curiosity and discovery.
By Matthew Ramirez