Auto-Ethnography:

Revised 21 November 2016

“Media and technology are grasping a greater involvement and influence within our lives, but not without implications or consequences. Sherry Turkle (2016) made claims about our media use, “…those little devices in our pockets, are so psychologically powerful that they don’t only change what we do, they change who we are.” (2:17). Recently, observing a dramatic increase in the consumption of technology over the last decade. My first personal mobile was a Siemens A55, for me this was an initial step into ‘Adulthood’; this device was entertaining but emblematic if my newfound independence and maturity.

Currently, I own an iPhone 6 which is virtually attached to me; serving nearly every functionality required. To my frustration, I have developed a compulsive dependency on checking my phone. Gathering a constant flow of new information. I feel a ritualistic urge to obtain short bursts of information quickly; checking my device around 150 times a day. Despite this, I am rarely able to clear my inbox due to distraction or ironically boredom. N. Carr (2010), argues that decreasing attention spans were an indirect consequence of our consumption of media, “…Net seems to be chipping away at my capacity for concentration and contemplation” (Carr, 2010). I believe this is linked to my inability to complete tasks and urgency for instant data.

This activity is not exclusive to any time, location or posture but is triggered by situations of anxiety, conformity or boredom. Turkle (2016) states that “Technology appeals to us most when we are most vulnerable” (12:07) and “…the moment that people are alone even for a few seconds, they become anxious, they panic, they fidget, they reach for a device.” (12:41) substantiating my observations. Declaring that “…Being alone feels like a problem that needs to be solved and so people try to solve it by connecting” (12:41). This behaviour is an embodied experience of tension or unease. Paying with my attention and time, the device has become a prosthesis, offering refuge from the discomfort attached to boredom, anxiety or stress.

Edward Bernays believed that the satisfaction of inner desires creates a docile consumer (The Century Self, 2002). My consumption of media acts to elevate discomfort and promote contentment. However, this incessant email checking does little to aid this, offering minuscule levels of satisfaction. This ritualistic behaviour makes me feel passive and docile. Instead, consuming media has become a cultural event. I would argue that smartphones are signifiers of wealth, our consumption of technology has become a cultural performance within contemporary western societies. It is normative for people to delve into the secluded safety barriers of our smartphones when feeling uncomfortable or awkward.

Modernity and automation have intensified the speed of our daily living, this anxiety connected to boredom and discomfort may be symptomatic of the destabilisation of routines and rhythms. Progressively, we merge work and leisure activities. Modern life requires constant motion and task efficiency, J. Crary (2013) explored this, stating “…the ability to experience the darkness of night and observe the stars is a basic human right or privilege, it is already being violated for over half of the world’s population in cities that are enveloped continuously in a penumbra of smog and high-intensity illumination.” (2013:5). I feel that my ritualistic and compulsive device checking is connected to the intensifying rhythms of human life.”

Word Count – 551


References:

Crary, J. (2013) 24/7: Terminal Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep. London:Verso, P1-18

Carr, N. (2010) ‘Hall and me’ from The Shallows, London: Altantic Books, P5-16

D, Lessiq. (2015) The Century of the Self (Full Documentary). YouTube . 9 July. Available from:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJ3RzGoQC4s [Accessed 24 October 2016]

I, Karpin; R, Mykitiuk (2008) Going out on a limb: prosthetics, normalcy and disputing the therapy/ enhancement distinction. Medical Law Review [Online]. Volume:16 (3), p413-450 [Accessed 21 November 2016]

Massachusetts Institutes of Technology (2016)http://www.mit.edu. Available from:http://www.mit.edu/~sturkle/[26 September 2016]

TED Conferences (2016) http://www.ted.com. Available from:https://www.ted.com/talks/sherry_turkle_alone_together/transcript?language=en#t-827191 [Accessed 26 September 2016]

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