How the internet changes the way we connect with ourselves and others.
This article is letter (O) of our “Human Connect” series where we write an article for each letter of the phrase. “Human Connect” explores how relationships will change in the digital age. Find links to more articles in the series below.
We are at an interesting turning point in history where human interaction is being supplemented, and possibly even replaced, by online communication. As such, there have been huge questions, identity crises, research, and studies drilling into how simultaneously inhabiting a digital space and a physical world affects social and emotional well-being. So where do we stand?
Split Between Virtual And Reality
A famous New Yorker cartoon sums up digital identity’s early phases in internet history. A dog sitting behind a computer says to another pooch, “On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”
Before the internet, material possessions displayed identity, style, and values. Now, experiences trump all material possessions. Our experiences are materialized into online content like images, videos, and texts. Online activities are inseparable from our real lives. Research conducted from Cambridge’s Psychometrics Centre reveal the deeply interlocked link between online actions and identity:
“Facebook “likes” reflect how extroverted, intellectual and prudent we are. Mining tweets reveals how extroverted and emotionally stable people are. This can be done by analysing the content of tweets (personality predicts what words you are more likely to use) as well as the number of tweets and followers people have. Twitter can also be used to infer dark side personality characteristics, such as how machiavellian, psychopathic or narcissistic people are.”
When put into context, a person’s raw data can accurately form a personality profile.
Human Connection Online/ Offline
Majority of us can agree based on personal experience alone – communicating with someone face-to-face is much more satisfying than through an online platform.
Is online connection shallow because our society encourages shallow face-to-face communication? Or is connecting meaningfully online difficult because current technology encourages us to not be vulnerable?
A study by Facebook concludes how we feel online is dependent on how we use the technology. Those who spent more time talking to friends and family feel better than those who passively scroll through their feed. Talking to people online increases our feeling of gaining social capital. They warn to be careful though as metrics don’t always provide the context to tell the whole picture. Do lonely people scroll through feeds? Or does the act of scrolling make them lonely?
Provided with more data, online corporations can use your data to know you better, thus being able to sell advertisements to you more effectively:
"William James, the father of American psychology, once suggested that we have as many personalities as the number of situations we are in. Although our digital identity may be fragmented, it seems clear that our various online personas are all digital breadcrumbs of the same persona; different symptoms of our same core self… the more we can integrate and synthesise our segregated online data, the more complete our picture of ourselves will be.”
Interestingly, the digital breadcrumb trail of data you leave behind may know who you are better than you know yourself. Additionally, your digital identity has a real, marketable value yet the average person never sees a drop of value.
“Offline” Is Slowly Becoming Extinct
Brain Trainer Coach Jim Kwik shared this insight on his Instagram: “Remember when we used to say ‘brb’ all the time when we were online? We don’t say it anymore. We no longer leave. We live here now.”
Because we are constantly online, we are constantly being broadcast. It may be easy to put your best foot forward at a dinner party or an interview, but constantly maintaining a mask is exhausting and near impossible. It may even be possible we see a future world where there is no longer a distinction between offline and online and being connected digitally is simply just “being.”
Everything about our world today points to online communication is on a forward trajectory. Is the quality of interaction deep or meaningful? It depends on how we use it.
Word Up: Content Lifestyle
Our goal is to provide the technology that enables deep, meaningful connections for our digital world. And when people are constantly connected online, that means they are constantly creating content and data. Swomi exists because we believe everyone deserves to live the Content Lifestyle – a life where you receive the value of your online content, not corporations.
To learn more about our “Why” visit our About Us page. And be sure to check out our other articles in this the “Human Connect” series below. Thanks for reading!
This article is part of our “Human Connect” series where we write an article for each letter of the phrase. “Human Connect” explores how relationships will change in the digital age.
Click below to read more articles in the “Human Connect” series: