Online vs. Offline

When it comes to the dichotomy of online vs. offline there is no debate that Sherry Turkle and Nathan Jurgenson have opposing views. While Turkle feels that there is no escape to the Internet and that it is corrupting our youth, Jurgenson takes a less dramatic stance, and feels that we are over fetishizing the Internet. While both make valid points I find that Turkle makes a stronger argument.

In the short articles that we read this week, we find Jurgenson clearly making fun of Turkle and the way that she believes our lives have been stripped of an offline presence. Rather Jurgenson says that we have never appreciated boredom and being disconnected more than we do now. “The ease of digital distraction has made us appreciate solitude with a new intensity…in short we’ve never cherished being alone, valued introspection, and treasured information disconnection more than we do now”(Jurgenson). Jurgenson never denies our dependence on needing to be connected; rather he makes the point to say that we are obsessing over the idea of disconnection. “To obsess over the offline and deny all the ways we routinely remain disconnected is to fetishize this disconnection” (Jurgenson). Another point made by Jurgenson is that fact that we are mistaken to draw a line between online and offline, he argues that while there may have once been a distinction between the two, that line is quickly fading.

In the chapter we read by, Vincent Miller he explains the very beginning of digital identities and how we use them to create ‘better’ versions of ourselves. We are able to be anyone who we want to be online; we have the ability to create any online persona that we wish to have. This is such a large aspect of online identities and is relevant in every online relationship. When reading this chapter I couldn’t help but think how this idea of “Digital Identity” plays perfectly into Turkle’s ideas. Now more than ever people are choosing to escape their “real lives” to partake and maintain their virtual identity(s). “You can be whoever you want to be. You can completely redefine yourself if you want. You can be the opposite sex. You can be more talkative. You can be less talkative. Whatever. You can just be whoever you want, really, whoever you have the capacity to be. You don’t have to worry about the slots other people put you in as much. It’s easier to change the way people perceive you, because all they’ve got is what you show them. They don’t look at your body and make assumptions. They don’t hear your accent and make assumptions. All they see is your words” (Turkle). The draw, like Miller, and Turkle address is the ability to be whoever we want to be, and the consequence of this, is that we are losing the ability to have conversation in real life.

I have been a fan of Turkle’s work since I first read pieces from her book Alone Together last year, and though she may be dramatic in the way she presents her ideas and opinions I find her thoughts to have solid evidence. I like Turkle worry about the future of technology and the way we communicate with each other. While Jurgenson makes light of these issues, I think it’s something that we need to be concerned about. However, our culture has always seem to adapt and adjust with the new technologies of the time, and I don’t doubt that we will continue to do the same. And eventually the idea of there being no difference between our online and offline selves will become the norm.

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