After completing the “consider your electronic extended family” activity, I had mixed emotions. My digital footprint as an individual is fairly small. Making connections with people I feel personally tied to, typically do not happen in a digital community. I may touch base using the virtual world but do not spend time there. My digital footprint in the business world is much larger. This is where I spend the bulk of my time virtually. The order of what “felt the most important” to me was: self-family-friends-extended family-work-church-creative community-school. I also fell into the category of mixing all three communities within concentric circles. The next step of the exercise solidified these findings. If I removed any modern communication technology, the only groups were affected were work, creative community, and school. This led me to ask the following question, “Is it possible to be successfully connected real life and in a virtual world as a digital citizen?”
Real life is value driven. “The direction we take our lives is based on what we deem most important. As a result, life has personal meaning and relevance to us. And with that meaning and relevance comes investment, that is to say, caring about what we do and where we direct our lives”(Taylor, 2011). While technology is moving in that direction, are wired connections as meaningful as we would like to believe? Real life offers a sensory experience that a virtual world (try as it might) cannot. “Yes, technology has made great advances in replicating the experience of real life, for example, improved visual graphics and sound (e.g., video games), the sensation of balance and movement (e.g., Wii), and, emotionally provocative content, though artificially created (e.g., FarmVille) or kept at a distance (e.g., Facebook)“(Taylor, 2011).
I believe strongly in building relationship face-to-face with both family and friends. I have a small group of friends all over the world that I’ve been very close with for more than a decade. These friends don’t require upkeep, but what they do require is face-to-face, quality time. We converse and build our relationships with personal contact. ”Experiences are created by technology with the aim of approximating and simulating actual experience. The problem with this ‘low-resolution’ life is that, though it shares similarities to real life, it lacks the high resolution and the granularity of real life”(Taylor, 2011). Taking part in relationships requires social responsibility, which allows voice tone, context, and body language to prevail. “One of the most distinct attributes of local communities, is that we can experience the effects of our own actions up close in a relatively unmediated fashion”
Living life as a digital citizen in a virtual world has proven beneficial to individuals, education, and global community. In real life a person may be quiet or shy, but in the online world they can be confident. Communication we take part in, also improves. The time it takes to deliver a response through email or texting allows for consideration of the message. In education, digital citizenship challenges students with new ideas and new ways of thinking. Learning takes on a different tone and allows students to explore a global world that was once restricted to outdated textbooks. Finally, our involvement in a global community thrives. Merging the online identities over several platforms allows users to “synthesize many viewpoints, which is crucial to being a global citizen”
(Ohler, 2010). While our
local communities may be isolating, we can “travel to other parts of the globe
electronically and begin to gather. . . perspective” (Ohler, 2010).
In my personal life, I’m the antithesis of what I promote in a business setting. I do not have a personal Facebook page or Twitter account, and I very rarely check my voicemail. My phone is a bit of a burden, but feel it’s a necessity because I have children. Texting is my salvation; it allows brevity and a directness that a phone conversation does not permit. On the other hand, my business life requires a constant presence and community online in order to build to maintain staying power. While I realize the benefits to a virtual world, I have successfully (so far) been able to split time between both worlds similar to the way I split time between work and home.
There are benefits to dabbling in both worlds. The best of both worlds at our can only be beneficial if managed properly. Looking to our future, dual citizenship should be an option. Developing an allegiance to one while exploring another can develop us as individuals.
Jim Taylor, P. (2011, May 31). Technology: Virtual vs. Real Life: You choose. Retrieved from Psychologytoday.com: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-power-prime/201105/technology-virtual-vs-real-life-you-choose
Ohler, J. B. (2010). Digital Community Digital Citizen. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin.
Shirky, C. (2010). How Cognitive Surplus will Change the World. TedTalks. TedTalks.