ADRIAN HERRERA / The Bull
Measuring 4 by 2 inches and less than ½ an inch deep, this device has become one of the most important things in 22-year-old Gerzahin Gaspar’s life. Holding it in his left hand, he stares at it, waiting for something to happen.
Just about a minute later, it begins to vibrate profusely. Gaspar immediately glances at the screen as it lights up a rainbow of colors. “The girlfriend is calling and the thing is, if I was to run into her, I could not avoid the conversation,” Gaspar says. He decides to ignore the call as the phone keeps on buzzing.
Gaspar keeps a tight grip on his phone after its vibrations come to a halt. Just seconds later, two loud vibrations from the phone put Gaspar’s eyes right back onto that shiny screen. “A text message,” he says. “It’s the girlfriend. Let me text her back real quick.”
Whether you text, use Twitter or Facebook, communicating through social media has become an integral part of many people’s daily lives. While these new mediums of communication have been hailed for their ability to keep people interconnected with each other, they have also changed and reshaped human socialization skills. People are no longer socializing with others physically but rather through social mediums, including cell phones, computers and other wireless devices. Technological advancements such as these have helped users escape from a world where physical objects matter into a digital world of personal digital assistants (PDA’s), Smart Phones and portable media.
“Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, even text messaging are greatly used as an escape, even if the user might not even realize,” says Dr. Anna Bruzzese, chairperson for the philosophy and sociology department at Pierce College. “It’s so easy to escape into these forms of technology and waste time.”
People become oblivious to how much time they spend on these social networks because many of them are engaging in these activities for the majority of the day. More than ever, it has become easier to text at work and at school. Many cell phones now have wireless internet capabilities and keyboards or touchscreens that allow easier communication through these mediums. Gaspar has had a cell phone since he was 17 years old and joined Facebook in 2007.
“I don’t know where I would be without my cell phone, I have everything on here,” he admits. “I don’t have Internet on my phone, but I know that if I did I would be on Facebook. Everybody that I know who has Facebook and a cell phone with Internet is always on Facebook or Twitter. Nowadays it’s inevitable.”
The extra services aren’t cheap. “Last month my cell phone carrier forgot to include my text (messaging) plan on my bill and I received a bill that included a $546 charge for my texts,” says 24-year-old Alma Hernandez, a paralegal. “That shows you how much I text.”
Hernandez has owned a cell phone since she was 16 years old. “When I first got a cell phone, I didn’t have a text plan,” she recalls, “but as time went by I started texting more and more, not even talking on it as much and I needed the text plan.” She registered on Twitter in 2008 and signed up on Facebook her freshman year of college in 2004, back when a valid college e-mail was required to make a profile.
Hernandez admits she is an avid Facebook user and sends text messages frequently. “I check Facebook regularly, more than once a day,” she says. “I update my Facebook from my BlackBerry. Why wouldn’t I? I have the phone and it has the capability, might as well use it.” However, Hernandez claims that she does not let her cell phone control her, as she feels she can put it down and get away from it whenever she wants.
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Cell phones have, in a way become an extension of the human hand. “Whenever I go somewhere, whenever I’m on the move, I’m also on my cell phone,” says Hernandez. “I get out of work, look through my phone, see who called, who texted, check Facebook, and I hit them back up.”
Although many may assume that every person in their teens and 20s is walking around on their cell phone all day, that is not always the case.
“I’ll go days, maybe even sometimes weeks, without sending or receiving a text,” says 25-year-old Robert Lam. “I don’t keep my cell phone in my hand.” After taking a quick glance at the television to catch the score of the Lakers game, he looks around his room. “I don’t even know where my phone is right now, it doesn’t even matter,” Lam says. “I have a cell phone because I need it for work. I still want to talk to people, (but) you got to give in at some point. There’s a compromise. It would be kind of pointless nowadays to not use any form of digital communication.”
Lam does not have Facebook or Twitter and he claims he has never looked at the Facebook website.
“Just being some regular dude, I don’t think I need one. If I was an artist or had a business, I would use it to get myself out there. That would be perfect. Using it for connections. But for some regular person, like friends, co-workers or acquaintances, I’ll see them when I see them. I don’t want to be online following their lives. I’d rather see them in the real world.”
One consequence of communicating through these social networks is that we no longer see people in the physical world. “Two people can be sitting at a train stop and could have the most fabulous conversation, but they’re not going to because they’re on their cell phones communicating with some one that is not physically present,” says Hernandez. Hernandez admits she likes using her phone to stay in contact with people but feels society is losing communication in the physical form. “These new tools of communication have made it possible for people to have intimate relationships with others without face-to-face interaction,” says Bruzzese. Even though Bruzzese stresses the importance of physical communication she feels the future of communication is best portrayed through these mediums. “I hope that doesn’t mean that we will never speak to each other physically again,” she says.
Regardless of the consequences, Gaspar couldn’t be happier to have these forms of communication at his disposal. “You get used to not having to respond back right away because when you Facebook or text, it takes as long as you want, seconds or minutes,” says Gaspar. “There are no facial or immediate responses.”
These new forms of communication have given us the power to quickly but cautiously respond to one another, as what we send can be well thought out or even, in a way, manipulated. “You have more control over how you say things on Facebook or Twitter, you can erase it and write it again if you don’t like how you did it the first time,” Bruzzese says. “People have a sense of control about managing the impression they put out there.”
People and businesses create profiles on these websites daily. Facebook, the largest social network website in the world, has more than 400 million users and is one of the most visited websites in the United States.
But still, even with its huge growth and popularity, Lam isn’t buying into it. “I don’t feel left out by not having one,” Lam says. “I don’t think I’ll give in any time soon.”