You’d be hard pressed to find somebody who doesn’t like Tom Hanks. As I sit here in my room typing away on my computer the movie You’ve Got Mail is playing in the background. I can’t help but be amazed by the leaps and bounds the Internet has made since the movie was released in 1998. I have to applaud Nora Ephron for keeping the interest of the audience as Tom and his female counter part Meg Ryan log onto AOL using a dial-up connection before hearing the classic line, “you’ve got mail.”
Fortunately, for our sanity, the speed at which we can access the Internet has increased ten-fold and with this change we have also witnessed a rise in the number of people who go online.
Five years ago when I first entered University a good friend of mine sat down with me and we had what I have forever dubbed the “Identity” talk. He told me in University everyone has the opportunity to re-create themselves and be who they want to be. You have to understand, he wasn’t telling me to be someone I wasn’t, but rather be the person you know your capable of being.
I will always remember our talk and since that day I have given the same talk to many other people. It has become a rite of passage talk to anyone moving on to post-secondary education – something I would consider to be a step toward adult-hood.
During my years in University the technological changes continued to plough forward at an even greater pace. Somewhere in third year I came across a website called Facebook and since that fateful day I have found myself consciously thinking about my social footprint and the image others portray online.
It’s time to clarify. I wouldn’t go as far to say that I judge people on Facebook - because who sits in front of their computer and judges their friends? But, rather I started to wonder about the opportunity for establishing an “identity” outside that of the one these friends were living in their daily life. A term many researchers have coined our, “Online Identity.”
Even Tom and Meg were doing it. She was Shopgirl and he was some other clever online name, which hinted at his true identity, but was quippy enough to pass as a screen name. If you really think about it – this love story was the first movie to glorify online affairs and hiding the real you. Both characters were in a relationship, but both of them spent time emailing each other back and forth without their respective partners knowing. Even though the movie was released over 12 years ago there are still some interesting parallels between the past and present.
Today, we spend a lot of time balancing different identities online. Through a large variety of online sites and resources e are able to work online, go to school, stay social, play games, etc.. Online I am SeanRaposo, Sean.Raposo, S.Raposo, Sean Anthony, srapos01, sraposo664, r05296448, srap212 and with each new identity I am forever trying to remember the people I am talking with and in what capacity we know each other – both online and off.
In his book The Ingenuity Gap Thomas Homer Dixon argues the expansion of communication technology has put human beings in a state of being, what I will call, “forever connected.” The pressures of always being “on” are beginning to overload our frontal lobe (responsible for our higher mental functions – such as responses to social situations and choosing between good or bad actions). When we encounter stress it can also prevent our frontal lobe from functioning properly causing greater stress in our daily lives.
While going on the Internet used to be a way to “get away from it all.” I would argue for some when they get home the real work begins. People are constantly “working” – literally and figuratively – when they get home. They are finishing a proposal, trying to keep up with friends, finishing an assignment and never take time for themselves.
When I was talking with my friend about being who I wanted to be I never envisioned myself as being the guy who sat locked up in his room on his computer. I saw myself making friends, playing sports and doing well in class. Fortunately for us, the opportunity to be who you want to be in life is always there – you just have to do it!