Yesterday just before class a few of us had a brief conversation over Twitter. Personally, I have yet to jump on the latest fad and still continue to wonder over the logistics of how it works. What exactly is tweeting? Why do people tweet? What are times or situations are considered tweet worthy? The fact that thoughts are now contained to however many characters Twitter allows or suggests is mind-blowing and could have interesting implications on memory.
All in all, People have explained to me that Twitter is a fantastic way to stay updated on current events by following live streaming news and taking full advantage of the technology our society has to offer. In all our conversations about the self, especially in reference to episodic and semantic memories, I wonder if social networks, like Twitter, are changing the way people are shaping the self?
The fact that information is so readily available at our fingertips could swing in one of two directions. We could either be gaining a wealth of knowledge because things are so easy to discover or we could be not be fully engaged when we are learning things because they so easily accessible again. Connecting this to the concept of the self, we could be becoming more enriched and defined by the excess knowledge, or the opposite could be true due to our lack of memories. No longer do I find myself having as many conversations with my parents about current events because I can readily access them online along with millions of bloggers opinions. This is therefore depleting episodic memories I typically created and perhaps changing my self. For the better or for the worse is the question.
Bill Keller wrote an interesting piece entitled The Twitter Trap where he mentions how the capacity to remember “stays parked in the garage”. Essentially, while Keller commends the knowledge we have at our fingertips, he also points out how it is eating away at our attention spans and making memory a thing of the past. At one point he mentions, “My inner worrywart wonders whether the new technologies overtaking us may be eroding characteristics that are essentially human: our ability to reflect, our pursuit of meaning, genuine empathy, a sense of community connected by something deeper than snark or political affinity.”
After attempting to define consciousness in class yesterday, we often refer to the idea of reflection. Is Twitter making us less conscious? Or by suggesting that we are less community connected, does that make us less self-aware? So many questions could be asked and few answers are available… And no, don’t try to “Google it”. I’ve already tried.
One last interesting bit from Keller’s article was the mentioning that iPhones could be headed in a direction where “commands would come straight from your cerebral cortex”. What would this mean in relation to the self if human action is no longer needed?