Research Presentation: Brittany Brown

Desire for Technological Access and Intimacy

Author: Brittany Brown

Abstract

This paper explores today’s generations desire for constant connection and intimacy with technology. Round-the-clock access to smart phones and Internet apps provide closeness among people who share, discover, and discuss their lives with each other and the world.

Introduction
Advancements in technology have enhanced our generation’s desire for constant connection. Most people cannot sit through dinner without picking up their phone to check email, texts, and other social media apps. Even when we are alone in our room we have our cell phones and laptops close by. As a generation we have developed the sense that when we are alone, as in by ourselves without some form of technology, we are in danger. Additionally, if we don’t receive a quick enough response something has gone wrong. It has been ingrained in us since childhood to have our phones charged and on us at all times so our parents wouldn’t worry. Thus, we have been programmed as children to always be available. Our generation’s constant access to technology has created a strong desire for closeness and connection, but not in the traditional sense of intimacy.

Advanced Technology
The concept of constant connection was taken to an entirely new level with the invention of smart phones. Smart phones have Internet connection and all the necessary technologies such as text messages, email, Facebook, and Twitter right at your fingertips. Today’s society is run by fast pace connections through these devices and in turn has altered what it means to be intimate and close in our relationships.
Not only are we intimate with our parents, but all the peers in our classes, schools, and towns. We share deep personal information through Facebook posts and Twitter streams. We also share every thought through outrageous numbers of texts and emails everyday.
Intimacy in today’s terms does not refer to sexual closeness, but rather the amount of information obtained about others through connection. The most common forms of connection are texts, emails, and friends on social media sites. In today’s world it is easy and desirable to know everything about everyone such as engagements, divorces, GPAs, the name of a new puppy and so much more through the use of social media. By sharing and discovering intimate details people are able to discuss their experiences and develop online friendships.

Constantly Connected
One question to consider is just because we have access to technology do we have to be constantly connected? Not in the sense that if you don’t you will die, but in order to keep up with society you do have to use technology. However, there are different forms of technology. Technologies such as Facebook and Twitter are desired uses, whereas technologies such as text messages and emails are required. The fact of the matter is technology keeps us connected and the desire to be constantly connected stems from our parents. Cell phones are given to young children to be in constant connection for protection. Which in turn makes friends, romantic partners, and employers expect the same. Therefore, we are expected to be constantly connected and respond to text messages, emails, and other forms of social media in a timely manner.

Facebook Makes Intimacy Convenient
Facebook is the number 1 used social media site on the Internet. This website provides users access to details of other people’s lives at any moment. When Facebook was first created in 2005 it was small and only accessible to students of certain schools, but as it grew so did the number of people following. People began stalking, finding each other’s homes and birth dates. This invaded personal privacy by allowing intimate closeness with complete strangers. Facebook is an addiction that is free and always available. You can connect with old friends, form group chats, and post pictures and statuses of what’s going on in your life. Decades ago this would have seemed invasive, but as technology advances so does our desire for closeness.
Recently, Facebook has added an app called ‘On The Rebound’. This app allows you to see which of your friends are ready for a relationship and how long until others will be ready. Anthony Coombs said, “We built a program that goes through all your friends’ entire Facebook feed history (past 6 years) and finds all of their relationship status changes. We then plot the info and give you all of important need to know information (Carlson). This is creepy yet used by 4,100 users per month. Even without this app someone could figure this information out, but it would take a lot more effort.
We are not required to put all of our information on social media sites, but it would be even creepier if we didn’t put any information at all. When someone friend requests you without a picture or a fake name it is extremely uncanny. Today’s society requires we are active in social media and this means sharing information about ourselves online. Therefore, providing others access to intimate details of our lives and allowing closeness with strangers.

Tweeting for the World to See
With technological trends such as smart phones come social trends such as twitter, which is among the top 10 sites and referred to as “the SMS of the internet” (“Twitter”). With this app people can post thoughts, videos, pictures, and other links to share memorable moments in short burst messages. If you are not using technology to share, discover, and discuss you are not connecting with everyone else who is.
Users are constantly encouraged to take advantage of technology and share their lives with the world. Our desire for closeness causes us to openly share these details. For example the founder of the daily deals Groupon site, Andrew Mason, announced he got fired over twitter. He tweeted, “After four and a half intense and wonderful years as C.E.O. of Groupon, I’ve decided that I’d like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding — I was fired today….” (Streitfeld). At one point in time this information was personal; however, today intimate details of our lives are shared with hundreds of followers through social media sites because it is available, fast, and effective.

One-On-One
The other side to technology is one-on-one communication such as texts and emails. These technologies have created a notion of closeness where people are constantly connected to one another throughout the entire day. Text messages and emails are required in today’s business and social world because of their ability to store information and speedy delivery.

Say Good-Bye to Pen and Paper
Some of the advancements of emails are their powerful ability to be forwarded to multiple people at one time and contain numerous attachments. The amount of typed emails has and still does greatly out number the amount of handwritten letters. CNN reports, “Snail mail has been under attack for the past several decades, with the U.S. Postal Service reporting a drop of 10 billion letters in the past 20 years” (Rodriguez). Billions of texts and emails are sent and received daily. The Postal Service admits they will stop Saturday mail delivery beginning in August. “A majority of Americans (54%) approve of the U.S. Postal Service’s recent decision to halt Saturday delivery of letters, while 32% disapprove of the decision” (“PewResearchCenter”). Most people who disapprove feel so because they are uninformed about budget cuts.
Never the less, handwritten letters are of no use to our society, unless writing to a grandparent who doesn’t have email or texts. Fast action and fast reaction with technology has become a commonplace for today’s society. This easy access and fast pace technology are what provide people with the closeness and intimacy they desire.

Texting: A Full Time Job
People are up all hours of the day texting. The last thing we see before we go to bed is our phone and the first thing we see when we wake up is our phone. We have it next to our bowl of cereal as we eat breakfast in the morning and next to our plate at dinner. There is never a time when we are without our phones and today this type of intimacy is necessary.
Smart phones are meant to keep people from worrying about the safety of others, but when the phone is not answered it causes panic. Constant access only works if there is a response. Some people complain “he just called me and now he can’t respond right away to my text.” There are two reasons for this: either he is taking awhile thinking of what to say or you are getting the unanswered text. An anxiety of everyone who owns a phone, especially parents. In the book Alone Together a mother states, “I’ve sent a text. Nothing back. And I know they have their phones. Intellectually, I know there is little reason to worry. But there is something about this unanswered text” (Turkle, 174). We are expected to bring our phones with us everywhere we go. Including into the bathroom to take a shower. There is never a time where we are allowed or assumed to be alone. Constant access, closeness, connection, and intimacy are required at all times.
Furthermore, it is not just others expecting constant access; we require it from ourselves as well. We hear a beep on our phone and need to immediately pick it up to see who wants to connect. There is always a standard and today that standard is keeping up with technologies and social media. If you don’t react to your smart phone in a timely manner it is offensive and unprofessional. Say for example your employer emails you after work and requests you create a Facebook account for the company before work tomorrow. If you fail to check your email you won’t create the account, but you will still be held accountable because you’re capable and expected to have constant connection.

Conclusion
Our generation’s constant access to technology has created a strong desire for closeness and connection, but not in the traditional sense of intimacy. The Internet and social media seem to the naked eye intrusive and a waste of time, but in reality this technology enhances everyday life. People have constant connection, stimulation, and information at their fingertips. Granted not all technology is good. It is as useful as we make it and as harmful as we allow it to be.
Furthermore, “We need to look beyond our own origins to understand the true nature of technological development. Technology is not just a human invention; it was also born from life” (Kelly, 43). Therefore, the Internet works as one body made up of millions of minds. As our ideas continue to develop so does technology. In today’s society constant connection is the majority rule, but how you choose to use technology and how often is up to you.

Sources

Carlson, Dusten. " ‘On The Rebound’ Brings Facebook Stalking To A Whole New Level Read more at http://socialnewsdaily.com/984On The Rebound Brings Facebook Stalking To A Whole New Level." Social News Daily 27 Febuary 2013, n. pag. Web. 18 Mar. 2013. <http://socialnewsdaily.com/9846/on-the-rebound-brings-facebook-stalking-to-a-whole-new-level/>.

Kelly, Kevin. What Technology Wants. New York: Penguin Group, 2010. Print.

Rachel, Rodriguez. "In e-mail age, still nothing like a handwritten letter." CNN 27 May 2012, n. pag. Web. 18 Mar. 2013. <http://articles.cnn.com/2010-05-27/living/letters.irpt_1_letters-e-mails-snail-mail?_s=PM:LIVING>.

Streitfeld, David. "Hello, I Must Be Going." New York Times [New York] 02 March 2013, n. pag. Web. 18 Mar. 2013. <http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/02/tech-chiefs-offer-honest-goodbyes/?ref=technology>.

Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together. New York: Basic Books, 2011. Print.

"Twitter." Wikipedia. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twitter>.

"Most Approve of Ending Saturday Mail Delivery." PewResearchCenter. (2012): n. page. Web. 19 Mar. 2013. <http://www.people-press.org/2013/02/14/most-approve-of-ending-saturday-mail-delivery/1/>.