Final Paper

Closure

As someone who thought she had better control over new media than most, the media diet proved me wrong and showed me how several aspects of my life revolve around it. New media is constantly incorporated with the tasks I need to complete, which is ironic since it tends to lead me straight to distractions and take me away from the concentration my tasks at hand call for. New media is intertwined in my life more than ever before and I was completely oblivious to my interactions with it and how it affected my personal sense of self and presence.

With the start of a day I am already interacting with a form of new media – my iPhone’s alarm clock. The day is easily experienced through several additional encounters from checking the time on my phone, to updating my school inbox, to finding my way to a new farmer’s market (thanks, Google Maps), to getting my morning news, and ending my day with a few relaxing moments on Pinterest. Even without these activities I choose to engage in voluntarily, new media is constantly incorporated with the tasks I have no choice but to complete. Homework assignments, school organization responsibilities (i.e. I control my sorority’s email account), internship duties, full time job searches…the list could go on.

As my chosen channels of communication technology and new media unravel like the layers of an onion, I’m beginning to realize the planned necessity that’s become incorporated into my daily life. The idea that new media, by nature, must be combined with tasks I have as a full time student reminisces our course discussion on planned aspects of communication technology. As a student whose courses fully encourage and engage in use of online resources like Sakai, I automatically default toward the need to use utilize new media. It is no longer a choice, but rather a must-do. Without even trying, I am subjected to a planned requirement just based on the nature of course structure or my sorority’s necessity to communicate with its members via email. From here on out, I immediately recognized that it goes back to our class discussion on planning and how it’s a virtue of new media. Sites like Google mail and Twitter make it easy for us to maintain immediacy through notifications and iPhone banner alerts, all of which are built in factors designed to capture our attention and keep us coming back.

In my personal use of new media, my phone is what keeps me hooked in particular. It seems cliché to say, but it’s an extension of my physical body as it’s constantly in my hand. Like I mentioned in my findings, I recognized my perpetual crave to click my home screen on even before the media diet was assigned. But it doesn’t end there. I found myself constantly looking at some type of screen. My phone is essential during the commutes to my internship, and let’s not forget to mention my laptop’s necessity for emails and school work or computer monitors at work.

After some reflection, I came to the revealing conclusion that a majority of my small triumphs and daily joy stemmed from a type of communication technology and new media somehow. From receiving praise at my internship for the hard work I’ve accomplished, to hilarious group text messages with my best friends, to a quick episode of Friends to unwind after a day of exams and meetings. Things like group Facebook messages and Snap Chats are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to staying connected with my friends and family. Hopefully this goes without saying, but nothing can replace meeting up with friends and getting dinner with them or being able to spend quality time with my parents at home. These face-to-face actions give me permanent joy and are always something I have to look forward to, but new media provides me with temporary joy until I am able to coordinate a time to spend time with people I love. Considering our busy schedules, I am left with new media to appease me until then.

All of my little ticks, realizations, and class discussions contributed to my personal sense of self as I lived my self established media diet guidelines for 72-hours. Receiving temporary joy, using new media to complete my tasks as a student and intern, and using it for my own benefit just solidified the connection between me and communication technology. My sense of self is engulfed with just that. It revolves around the consequences, my reactions, and the irony that is born from it.

For my fifth and final media diet guideline, I chose to implement the use of Self Control while I worked on school related assignments in efforts to avoid my ever present temptation to check Facebook, Twitter, and my email accounts. It doesn’t escape me that I am using new media, the Self Control app, as a means to prevent using new media. I find this particular moment from my field notes as the ultimate example of how my life revolves around it. My attempts at distancing myself from new media were only strengthened by my need to use another form.

The irony of it all relates so much back to a concept that Valerie Strauss and Clay Shirky bring to our attention. Shirky’s analogy of an elephant and its rider stuck with me and created a parallel that I recognized within my personal new media use. Shirky describes how the elephant, much like emotion, are stronger and often overtake our intellect, the rider. Even though the rider is capable of planning ahead and acknowledging the possible consequences, the elephant consistently comes out on top. For me, the analogy aligned with my wish-washy self-control. It would be sad to say that I have zero ounces of self-control against the temptations of social media not only a college student, but also a young adult in her senior year (which isn’t the case…I have self control). Although more often than not, I find myself succumbing to my desire to put off course readings and switch gears to an unscientific BuzzFeed quiz or the “urgent” red notification that sucks me back online.

My media diet revelation also helped me make a connection to Paul Miller’s A Year Offline. Balance is necessary in order to maintain healthy levels of experiencing what is around you and what is shared with you digitally. Completely unplugging myself is a bold move and counterproductive. I like to think of when the telephone was first introduced. People did not question its purpose or their personal existence, but rather adopted the telephone and took advantage of its purposes to communicate efficiently and more directly. I think new media should be treated the same. I will only set myself up for failure if I choose to remove myself from the digital sphere as I would leave myself with no effective ways for potential employers to reach me, especially since I’m a senior and on the hunt for a full time job. I would be completely disconnected from the Loyola community and the crime alert emails and professor notifications posted via Sakai.

Overall, Shirky’s response to Nicolas Carr was the defining course reading that tied my entire media diet experience together. He states that Carr seems to misplace his essay’s focus by exploring whether or not sacrifice exists with new media. However, Shirky believes that sacrifice is inevitable with the “transformation of the media landscape.” Therefore, the question is no longer, “Is there sacrifice?” but rather, “Is the sacrifice worth it? If not, what can we do to make it worth it?” Shirky’s response resonates with me because I feel as though it is the answer to my media diet experience. It ties my field notes, my 72-hour diet, and course readings together in one simple question, is my new media worth the sacrifice?

I can confidently say I believe it is.

The countless times I’ve been able to reach my dad via text message is truly a feat considering his hectic work schedule as a Chicago chef. Not to mention the payoff from the several efforts to network and establish relationships with employers during my time abroad through email. I can’t place a price on the value I have in order to stay connected with my dad or to prepare for my future. Both concepts have only evolved and improved thanks to the use of new media in a smart way that makes it all worth my time. In order to take advantage of the ever-evolving technology it’s time I reevaluate my self-control, and based off of my media diet results, begin functioning in such a way that new media no longer uses me. Between wearing my watch and utilizing the Self Control app, I believe new media’s omnipresence can slowly diminish to create balance. Maybe the only thing my tick needs are small, brief actions to produce big, enduring improvements.

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Field Notes, Reflection

Diet Diaries

Field notes during my 72-hour media diet, which began on 9/28/14 at 7:54 p.m.

  1. Wear a watch Monday night through Thursday night
  2. Facebook, Twitter, and email links removed from my browser’s bookmarks bar
  3. Monday, Wednesday
    1. Social media and emails: shuttle, before 11:30 class, before 1:40 class, 3:00, 2x after dinner
  4. Tuesday, Thursday
    1. Social media and emails: train, during lunch break, 3:00, 2x after dinner
  5. Use Self Control while completing work

Guideline 1

  • Lessened my phone tick
  • Didn’t unnecessarily click my iPhone home button
  • Cell phone completely put away (i.e. pocket, backpack vs. holding in hand) more frequently
  • Since I didn’t click my home button as often I wasn’t as immediate when it came to emails, Facebook messages, etc.

Guideline 2

  • Physically typing in the URL to the banned sites made me think twice about my usage and if me visiting the site was appropriate
    • “Should I really be going on Facebook right now?”
    • Delayed my usage
  • Usage typically in correlation with my Self Control app
    • Would cheat sometimes with my phone (see #3 below)

Guideline 3 & 4

  • Had to use FB for school purposes
    • Realized I used Self Control and couldn’t log on
    • Resorted to my phone FB app
    • Eventually led to me using it for more than just school aka my personal purposes
    • Ironic
    • Got me off track
    • Anti-productive?
  • New media is not the only distraction
    • Other distractions
      • Myself, my motivation
      • Surroundings (study area)
      • Sitting with friends
    • When I couldn’t log on due to time restrictions I set for myself, I was forced to be productive and complete things I would have otherwise put off until after social media usage
      • More free time
      • Not rushing to get on time somewhere – very interesting
    • Half way mark: had to turn off push notifications
      • Facebook, 4 Pics and 1 Word, Gmail
      • Ones I don’t use frequently: Angry Birds
      • Kept: Twitter (because I don’t check it otherwise), Snap Chat, because I’m not as anxious to check those as Gmail alerts or FB alerts
      • Kept Redbox, Group Me, and a few other alerts on because I wouldn’t check them otherwise

Guideline 5

  • Helped me stay on track
  • I knew exactly how much time had passed from my last break
    • Example: set Self Control for an hour, then take a 10 minute break, then set Self Control for another hour, etc.
  • Felt guilty when I cheated with my phone and social media because the clock from Self Control was still ticking and the hour hadn’t passed yet
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Reflection

The Loophole

Before I even began testing my media diet proposal I thought to myself, “This won’t be hard at all.” I remember catering my diet guidelines meticulously so that I could communicate with others while challenging myself and not over indulging during the 72-hour period. As I began my diet with 100% confidence, I slowly realized just how strong my attachment to new media is and my dependence upon it.

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My third media guideline is what I’ll focus on and what ultimately helped me make certain observations about my personal media use. I set up several times throughout the day (typically during a free period or commute) that were dedicated to checking social media sites and my email. Based on my class and internship schedule, I ended up allotting around 5-6 time slots throughout the day. I even solidified my prearranged time periods with the use of an app called Self Control, which allows users to block websites of their choosing from their device for a certain amount of time. Naturally, I added Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to my black list.

Within minutes of my diet’s beginnings, I already had the need to check Facebook – but for good reason. I realized that my main form of communication with a fellow history classmate was, you guessed it, Facebook. At this point Self Control was in full gear and completely blocked from my computer, so I cheated and resorted to my iPhone.

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 10.28.10 PM

Being able to access social media on multiple devices was so essential in this precise moment. Without it, my classmate and I would have never been able to find each other in the library.

I guess it’s no surprise that it quickly turned sour. My Self Control app loophole, which was initially used for good, eventually turned to evil when I ended up on my newsfeed in order to avoid homework. This 72-hour diet has really made me start evaluating my use and dependence on new media. In my brief and simple example alone I experienced both the pros and cons that come with technology and digital media. I never thought of myself this way, but perhaps my media diet opened my eyes to the several ways I don’t use new media; new media uses me.

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Proposal

Kick the Tick

As stated in my findings summary, “Grand Observation,” and my field notes, evidence shows that I am 100% susceptible to clicking my iPhone’s home screen button multiple times throughout the day. Facebook and emails are other forms of distraction that I employ in order to escape my present responsibilities and duties. Not only do these unfavorable activities take away from my productivity, but they also decrease my sense of thought and concentration.

Based off of my findings and visual walk throughs, I want to test my ability to improve my cell phone tick and lower my usage of Facebook and emails, more specifically during times of studying or activities that call for disconnection. I’d like to execute this goal with the following steps.

  1. Wear a watch daily – half the reason I think I need to check my phone is because I don’t know what time it is
  2. Remove Facebook, Twitter, and email links from my browser’s bookmarks bar (per shown in my walk through, “Media Tour,” at 0:38)
  3. Allocate specific times during my day to check social media websites and emails
  4. Explore applications such as Self Control – are they helpful?
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Findings Summary

Grand Observation

After going through my field notes (separate from my field note summary on this blog) I realized I use social media as a distraction in comparison to real time. This occurs more often than not. I already mentioned that my cell phone tick is a way for me to avoid my homework and procrastinate, however, it’s also an outlet for me to escape boredom, walking alone, and leaving myself to my thoughts. It’s a bit shocking that I’m anxious and curious enough that I must (almost) immediately read the most recent text, open the latest Snap Chat, or respond to my last email. It’s also a bit depressing to know that I can’t detach myself from the networked world. I’m just like a majority of this population who can’t disconnect.

Intrigued from my video capture, I also noticed that my facial expressions are not only limited to reactions from laptop use, but from cell phone use as well. I slowly began to realize I display facial emotions as if was reenacting my video capture below. I’m not sure if this particular pattern is changeable mostly because, for example, if I receive a funny text then I’m not willing to restrict myself from smiling or giggling all for the sake of a 72 hour project. If anything, I’d rather laugh more than not at all. However, finding a correlation between my final proposal and facial expressions may be something to consider. Or at the very least something to be mindful of during this experiment.

On top of my obvious facial expressions, I gathered that I use new media most frequently during three different times throughout a normal school day. The first chunk of time takes place in the morning. It’s most likely due to the fact that I’m commuting from Lake Shore Campus to Water Tower Campus and catching up on late night emails and daily news reports. The second time period occurs during the late afternoon, which is for a similar reason as my classes are over and I find myself back on the shuttle to return home. The last time frame is around the early evening – think dinner and prime time TV slots.

Regardless of the time of day, it’s hard for me to come to an agreement on the forms of gratification I receive from new media use, particularly my cell phone tick. On one hand, it cuts into my thinking process in essentially every negative way possible. By taking the quick 1-2 second glance at my phone, I lose my train of thought, waste productivity, increase my already scatter brained thoughts, and fail to use time wisely. All of these components I find vital in order to complete and produce quality work efficiently.

However, on the bright side I am able to stay connected with my extremely disconnected parents through the use of texts and phone calls. Both of my parents have an exceptionally vigorous work schedule, so finding time within all of our schedules to communicate is difficult to say the least. With the help of understanding their schedules throughout the years and my cell phone tick, I usually receive their messages within five minutes or right when they send it. Being attached to my phone also allows me to respond instantaneously to time sensitive information. Occasionally, my duty as secretary of my sorority calls for me to send out last minute, but important, emails out to our chapter. In general, I am able to respond and act within a timely manner to my phone notifications. This is something I’m probably more proud of than I’d like to admit. It’s nice to know that others can count on me to respond to whatever needs my family and friends may have.

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Walk Through

Media Tour

To be honest, I experience a few road bumps in my unrehearsed walk through. You’ll notice that I’m a bit thrown off after I notice an email in my LUC inbox regarding something I haven’t turned in yet. A few moments before I verbally acknowledge the email, I have longer pauses in my speech and don’t seem as focused. Definitely something to note and include in my field notes as well.

Although the most eye opening part from my walk through is my blurb at 3:20 regarding birthday posts on Facebook with friends that I don’t interact with often. I’ve always known that I click “See Friendship,” but I was taken aback when I explain my reasonings out loud and realized how trivial I sound. During my explanation, I struggle to come up with an actual reason and evidence to support myself. Very weird to see the outcome of social media habits when forced to talk through it and analyze myself.

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Video Capture

Digital Reflection

I have to say, watching myself while I navigated the Internet happened to be both boring and entertaining at the same time. It’s great to have a way to find out what I actually look like while I’m using different forms of new media. In part, it was boring to endure my 25-minute video because some reactions were ones I expected or what I knew I looked like to others. On the other hand, it was entertaining to watch as new revelations about my physical reactions occurred throughout the video capture.

The most expected reactions took place while I completed class related assignments, which included online reading, email correspondence, and use of supplemental class websites like WordPress, Sakai, and search engines. During the use of these websites, I would get easily distracted by people walking by, friends that I sat with, and even myself. I noticed that when I was trying my best to focus on the task at hand I would somehow touch my face – a new observation that I never knew about before (example below). I also noticed that I tend to focus best when I read aloud to myself. Whether it is for a class reading or for a vocabulary word definition, I comprehended them best when I could hear myself.

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 2.43.32 AM

The most surprising reactions occurred while I used new media for my enjoyment. These websites include Facebook and my personal email inbox. I seemed to be able to focus without even trying (unlike my distraction level when I was in the midst of completing homework assignments). In general, my facial expressions were much more animated and vivid. It became physically clear when I was confused, frustrated, focused, amused, and distracted. My face contorted accordingly to each emotion. Negative emotions seemed equally split between homework assignments and Facebook, but almost always, I experienced positive emotions while using new media to fulfill my personal desire. I’d smile to funny Facebook posts, laugh at clever cover photos, and reveal a sense of relief after a well-written email was sent.

I definitely had no idea my facial expressions happened so frequently and were much more expressive than I would have imagined. I always believed I separated my thoughts from my physical appearance, but Camtasia proved me wrong.

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