Online/ Offline Dichotomy

In his article “The IRL Fetish”, Nathan Jurgenson discusses the idea about the offline/online dichotomy that we may or may not see in today’s society. Jurgenson critiques the work of Sherry Turkle to argue that that the two terms can be used separately. Jurgenson argues that humans have such a great fascination with technology that we now perceive the world in a window of social media platforms in that we are never actually “offline”. What that means in today’s society is that we are always thinking of the next thing to post, tweet, share, and document on all the social media sites that we are on daily. He uses Turkle’s description of the growing relationship that we have with technology. Turkle is quoted in Jurgenson’s saying “in our rush to connect, we flee from solitude…we seem almost willing to dispense with people altogether”. She argues that people today are favoring virtual interaction over regular face-to-face interaction. According to Turkle, people can either be completely offline and focus on the things going on around them or they are online and completely immersed in the technology around them. Jurgenson, however, argues that people have begun to “fetishize the real.” The debate centers around the idea on whether or not humans have become obsessed with the technology that they use.

Turkle’s point seems pretty concrete because in most cases we can distinctly see when we are online and when we are offline. Turkle makes her point by talking about people she sees in Cape Cod saying that people are walking with their heads down, staring at their phones, disconnected from the world. She looks to the past saying that people used to walk with “their heads up, looking at the water, the sky, the sand and at one another, talking.” Her main point in Jurgenson’s article is that people need to look up from their phones and look at one another. Turkle declares that that the online/ offline dichotomy is a real thing and people should be able to differentiate between the two. Offline is when your head is up and online is when your head is down. This is where Jurgenson decides to step in. As I said earlier, Jurgenson argues that people have begun to “fetishize the real.” Jurgenson explains this as people who are elevating once normal experiences to more profound levels simply because they are not using technology to do so. It has become a sort of a game to be the best at getting away from the digital world. Not being on your phone is something to brag about and has developed into such games as those where the first person to pick up there phone at dinner has to pay the bill at the end of the night. This is what Jurgenson refers as to the “ridiculous state of affairs.” This is where Jurgenson makes his big point in saying that no matter how hard we try and brag to remain disconnected, it is in turn utterly useless. To obsess over being disconnected in today’s digital society is irrational and pointless. Jurgenson makes the point that there is no such thing as being truly offline. He says that “the notion of offline as real and authentic is a recent invention, corresponding with the rise of the online.” He makes the point that just using the piece of technology is not the only way to be online. Jurgenson believes that when we are using technology, we are not in either a “real” or “authentic” state. One thing we talked about in class was a phrase by Jurgenson that read as “Twitter lips and Instagram eyes.” This is Jurgenson’s way of saying that our consciousness is saturated with the logic of social media. Just because we are not looking at our phone does not mean that we are not thinking about the next thing to tweet Twitter, or the next picture to post on Instagram. Jurgenson, for this very point, believes that there should not be an online/offline dichotomy because it is just impossible in the society that we live in today.

In my personal opinion, I have to agree with Nathan Jurgenson. I don’t know if I totally relate to his idea that we are always thinking of the next thing to post, but I believe that some people are. Before reading Jurgenson’s article I have never actually though of the idea of separating online and offline other than when I actually go on the internet. Now, I understand what Jurgenson means and I actually have to agree with him. There are some people who are always thinking of the next thing that they can do online, whether of not they are actually using their phone or whatever. On one level I do actually agree with Jurgenson. This happens a lot in class and it is when I just feel the urge to check my phone because I feel like I’m missing out on something. Turkle would want me to ignore this urge and remain offline and participate in class. Whether I do ignore this urge or not is not really the point, the point is that as soon as I get out of class I will check my phone. In class, all I am thinking about is the next time that I can check my phone, therefore proving Jurgenson correct.

My daily experience is the evidence needed to prove Jurgenson’s argument correct. I have grown up with technology so I am naturally connected with the digital technology and social media that is available. Social media has attached itself to a lot of different aspects of today’s society. We find ourselves no longer presenting ourselves to those around us, but rather we are presenting ourselves to our social media networks. In Vincent Miller’s chapter on digital identities, he says that our identities are longer stable and thus always changing to the world around us. He believes that the digital age has changed the traditional way we see identity. We are all constantly performing our identity and we perform on different “stages.” With a variety of different social media platforms, there are more stages than ever before to display our identities. Users are free to decide which information that they want to share. This creates a presentation that is desirable to the different viewers that might see the self. The way we classify lifestyle has changed and therefore we have transformed the way we see ourselves. Whether we are online or offline, our identity is a manifestation controlled by ourselves.


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