In part one, I wrote from the perspective of the animal on display in media “ecologies” (Ito et al., 2009, p. 31) I am calling the zooscape. This time, I will focus on my journey as a visitor to the park.
A visit to the zoo is always an odd experience. I readily enjoy the opportunity to see animals I might otherwise never see. On the other hand, I am always left with a sense that, no matter how wonderfully built and maintained the zoo might be, there is something lonely about animals in cages. This effect is multiplied in the socially networked media zooscape.
I wonder through various social settings and capture glimpses of people. It is grand to reconnect with people or “stay in touch” with extended family. Yet, in these spaces, we are so abstracted from our full selves that I still feel lonely, and sometimes inadequate.
I am an introverted personality. My pattern in life has been to have just a few (count them on one hand) friends and my immediate family. Social interaction takes energy and has a marked toll on my overall state of being unless it is with my immediate circle. As a consequence, these forays into social networks and new media leave me as tired as a five-mile walk around a good zoo.
I can walk through the profiles with a few clicks and follow the links to gaze in on windows of someone else’s life. Everyone is oddly static in one sense. The sense of place and time is lost, even with the date and time stamps and streaming information. In another sense everyone is hyper-animated. Every move is marked while they are on the stage. Small details are enlarged. The whole time, at the back of my mind there is a sense that it isn’t real. I can’t maintain the suspension of disbelief and embrace the virtual life. It isn’t life. It is an angle of life, but it isn’t the whole. I begin to overanalyze. I wonder if I am meeting the needs of my “friends” and wonder what my real responsibilities are in the network. Is it enough to be an icon on a list? It becomes too abstracted for me.
In the end, abstracted humanity makes me feel a lack, as if I am missing something important. I end up turning away from the “promise” of the new medium. I end up yearning for the warmth of face-to-face conversation.
Ito, M., Sonja B., Matteo B., Boyd, D. Cody, R., Herr, B., Horst, H.A., Lange, P.G., Mahendran, D., Martinez, K., Pascoe, C.J., Perkel, D., Robinson, L., Sims, C., & Tripp, L.(2009). Hanging Out, Messing Around, Geeking Out: Living and Learning with New Media. Cambridge: MIT Press