Editorial: The Age of the Twilight Zone

Kate Koenig, Editor-in-Chief
Published under No-Face, Spirit-in-Chief

This “age of technology” is a bizarre thing. Technology has revolutionized not just our methods of managing productivity and efficiency but also interpersonal communication. Remember the episode of “Seinfeld” where the characters get stuck in a parking garage and spend the whole episode trying to find each other? There’s no risk of that happening these days, unless for some reason none of them owned cell phones, smartphones, tablets, laptops, netbooks or they had all participated in an anti-technology rally the night before in which they threw their devices into a fire pit.

What some people refer to as “Facebook etiquette” is not necessarily a sort of propriety that exists solely for Facebook, but rather general etiquette applied to a new medium. For example, do you find yourself feeling obliged to “like” every friendly response posted to your status? Or, do you “like” your friend’s last comment to end a conversation when you’re not sure what else you could say?

When someone makes a post on your wall, do you wait to post a status before responding to them so they don’t feel as though you’ve checked your Facebook and seen their post but could be ignoring them? Maybe you couldn’t care less about any of this so-called “etiquette,” and maybe it matters more to some than it should. Maybe it’s only there for those who overthink or perhaps even Facebook encourages this, but either way, you can’t deny that it’s there.

Or, think about some of the phenomena that have developed in texting: Sometimes, adding a “P.S.” text (sending a second reply as an afterthought) sparks a sort of double conversation; you and the responder are then replying to two sets of texts at once.

And why do some people think they should write their name to sign off on an email? We’re not mailing letters to our pen pals; your name is contained in the message label! I’ll admit, I do this because it feels more professional, but in email interaction, I see both behaviors; shouldn’t signing off have become moot from the time of email’s inception?

Many view Facebook as overwhelmingly trivial, or see the “social media” age as an era that allows individuals to find excess importance in each detail of their lives. It’s not hard to imagine the more unwelcome aspects when your news feed can at times be full of personal drama that holds no relevance to you. I do see this side, but I see what I feel to be obvious positive effects as well: being able to remain connected with old friends you may not see regularly, staying in touch with family that may live across the country and an encouragement to share with your social community your thoughts, ideas and experiences, ultimately bringing everyone closer through technological connection.

Do we turn to Facebook when we feel a dearth of face-to-face communication in our everyday lives? Does it fill that void? Or do “likes” mean nothing to us? We can’t pretend like it’s completely trivial. Have you ever looked at a friend like they’re an alien if they’ve told you that they don’t have a Facebook?

Have we succeeded at reducing socialization to a series of 0s and 1s? And even yet, what does the future of technology have in store? Imagine the old days, sitting at the radio and hearing the host say “for those of you listening at home…” and now, we’re here. It all feels a bit like “The Twilight Zone” to me.

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