Our Digital Self

Wednesday 6 September 2017
Lisa Portolan's picture
Co Editor
The Shaker

This week we’re talking about how digital and social media have changed the world we live in. It’s been close to twenty years since social media first became a part of our lives, and today few would disagree that it’s integral to how we function in society. From relationships, to lifestyle, to work – social has come to define who we are, and the reality we live in.

While antiquities like myself recall an analogue world, where you had to wait till next week to see the next episode of your favourite program, had to record songs from the radio (and wait about diligently until they sprung up again to press those record buttons!) and had to ride around on your bike to a friend’s place to see if they were actually home – today the world has changed irreversibly. There’s a generation around us—often termed the iGen—who don’t remember any of that. They only know a world saturated by digital and social media.

What exactly does that mean for us from a socio-cultural perspective? Author and psychologist, Jean M Twenge, recently wrote an article for The Atlantic titled, ‘Have smartphones destroyed a generation?’ Her piece examines iGen and the relationships around them - more depressed and socially isolated than ever before, the technology that was supposed to bring us together (into collectives) is apparently tearing us apart. She writes, “The impact of these devices has not been fully appreciated, and goes far beyond the usual concerns about curtailed attention spans. The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers’ behaviour, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health.”

Many argue that out greatest relationship is the one we now have with our phone; and others that our smart gadgets have become the locus of our very identity. The place we’re our deepest secrets are kept, and where we construct our sense of self for the general public.

But besides this deep connection we’re now experiencing with our digital devices – one might also ask, have we stepped back to reflect on this brave new, technology and information rich world?

Food can be delivered to our door at any point in time, as can services, relationships are formed and dissolved online, entertainment consumed, and business conducted. If you hadn’t heard—there’s a new app called Rinko which has virtually replaced the concept of ‘the girlfriend’ in Japan. Has the tipping point moved towards our virtual worlds as opposed to our physical, tangible ones?

In the same instance, while it’s easy to critically consider our digital/social selves – what about the benefits? The smart cities, digital economies, open government and other services that the online community can offer us?

This week we’ll examine some of Canberra’s up and coming digital and social business, as well as the broader societal impacts, and some of the quirkier applications which are revolutionising the way we do business, conduct relationships and live our everyday lives.

Keep in mind, that being ‘offline’ is now an antiquated term – because there’s no such thing. We’re not just ‘online’ we simply ‘are.’