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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Facebook, blogs are the real digital divide”

    Talk about rapid response. No sooner had Facebook.com posted a new feature on its Web site than thousands of students were pounding the keyboards, filling Facebook blogs and forming groups to oppose the invasive new “”Mini-Feeds.””

    It’s amusing enough that students were using the very Web site they were denouncing to protest the Web site they were denouncing. But more striking still was the fact that the outpouring of outrage seemed to take place almost entirely within the cyber universe.

    There was no debate on Alumni Plaza, no march on the Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto. For all the fury the Facebook faux pas seemed to engender, it seemed as though students were willing to simply confirm group invites and profess their grief electronically.

    And, really, it’s not that strange.

    According to a Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll, 80 percent of teens said they own or regularly use a computer, 83 percent said the same about DVD players, 65 percent said they had cell phones and 52 percent said they had video games.

    With this much technology at our fingertips, we’re getting used to the kind of instantaneous (but frequently anonymous) communication modern technology encourages.

    But what’s most frightening about this development is that, for all the Facebook networking, all the e-mails and instant messages, we’re becoming increasingly isolated from one another.

    In many ways, the problem is already apparent. E-mails have started to overtake conversations and phone calls. Public debates are carried out in blogs and message boards. Entire conversations are conducted through Facebook walls or postings on “”social networks”” like MySpace.com.

    Here at the UA, the Dean of Students Office found that 6 percent of students “”strongly agree”” that online interest groups like Facebook or MySpace are as meaningful as face-to-face interaction.

    And the techies seem to revel in the artificiality of it. “”In this new world of conversation, the hyperlink is becoming a new form of social gesture between people,”” one search engine entrepreneur gushed in an article about the blogosphere. “”It’s something akin to a tap on the shoulder.””

    So with all of us glued to our computers and BlackBerries, locked in “”conversations”” that are really just a succession of hyperlinks, is it really an overstatement to say that human contact will fall by the wayside? Maybe, but not if you consider the “”blog phenomenon.””

    According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, an estimated 12 million Americans actively maintain a blog, while up to 25 million read them. But what’s interesting isn’t that so many people are blogging – it’s what they’re blogging about.

    As reported by the survey, and contrary to the common perception of blogs, most blogs (almost 40 percent) seem to focus on the personal rather than the political. As sort of a case in point, The Washington Post recently ran a story about blogs under the headline, “”Portrait of a Blogger: Under 30 and Sociable; Survey Finds Need to Connect With Family and Friends and to Meet New People.””

    If you think about it, there’s a strange contradiction at work here: Bloggers are forsaking human connections to blog about their lack of human connections.

    Not surprisingly, there are those who have denounced the sense of self-importance in blogs and other forms of “”listen to me”” online journals, first among them the British novelist Martin Amis.

    “”We live in an age of mass loquacity,”” Amis wrote. “”We are all writing it or at any rate talking it: the memoir, the apologia, the c.v., the cri de coeur. We are surrounded by special cases, by special pleadings, in an atmosphere of universal celebrity.””

    But what Amis and others like him fail to realize is that the “”special pleadings”” in the cyber universe might be more of a symptom (rather than a byproduct) of modern technology.

    Sure, BlackBerries, e-mail and even Facebook have given us an unprecedented ability to communicate and network, but it’s all at the expense of the meaningful, face-to-face connections that make communication and networking worthwhile in the first place.

    So the next time you want to rave about that night out at the bars with your friends, ditch the blog and the Facebook posts. You’ll probably find it more rewarding. And even if you don’t, at least all of those embarrassing stories (and the inevitable pictures) won’t be on the Mini-Feed.

    Damion LeeNatali is a senior majoring in political science and history. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu

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