I tell this story to anyone who is willing to listen. My parents packed my sister and I up, at the tender ages of 9 and 7 and travelled around Australia for six months. Most people ooo and ahh at the stories and idea of just walking away from reality for six months; but what baffles many, is the fact that the only technology we had was a mobile phone and my sister and I both had Sony Walkman CD. Yes, that was it. No iPads, no TV screens, not even a GPS system. And you know what, it was the best thing that my parents could have done.
Internet Cafes were our main source of communication to family and friends back at home as the Internet was a well and truly developed at this stage – 2002 – it was not yet a widely accessible service.
At home, I cannot remember a time without a computer or the Internet. Whilst we were still limited to what we could do on the Internet – mainly homework or later, MSN messenger – it has always been a part of my life.
A year or two ago, we had the National Broadband Network (NBN) installed in our house as one of the trial towns. Oh my, it was wonderful. I am not going to pretend I know what the actual benefits and try to explain the terminology as I have no idea. But I do know that it is kind of great because things load faster than ever before.
<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/qjBbFvy722w” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>
Despite having a networked home, my parents always placed a huge emphasis on actually talking to one another of an evening as well as not allowing television, gaming consoles or Internet into our bedrooms. My father finally relented and allowed for WiFi access in our rooms and even now, we still have to emerge from there of an evening to eat, at the table, with technology not allowed. This is strict, yes, but I am grateful because I am able to survive in social situations without having to turn to my phone to escape. And this is why I admire Sherry Turkle’s Ted Talk on how we are increasingly becoming Alone Together. She describes it as craving to be with each other but also being elsewhere via our technologies.
Turkle (2012) says that we are forgetting what it is like to have a real conversation, in real-time, without editing and perfection. We are now talking in “snips” which satisfies us briefly but this feeling is not sustained over a long time. So what does this mean for our households where we want technology to reciprocate the same values as our homes do? I think it means our homes are breaking down. Not the abrupt zombie apocalypse style but slowly we are losing what used to hold our homes together such as the family dinner where families sit down, interact with one another. The Internet and technology are hindering our relationships.
Danah Boyd explores this notion of how the Internet is impacting our relationships and lives via various studies of teenagers and their use of the Internet. My parents – especially my mother – scoff at the idea of how much time teenagers spend with their technologies playing, searching, watching, generally consuming the Internet.
Some of the areas Boyd examines are identity in a digital age and addiction but I feel most importantly and timely, she touches on cyberbullying. An issue that many of us have witnessed or experienced.
Boyd (2014) discusses that “networked technologies complicate how people understand bullying. Some people believe that cyberbullying is a whole new phenomenon. Others argue that technology simply offers a new site for bullying, just as the phone did before the Internet” (Boyd 2014, p.132). I believe the latter and sincerely see a networked home as somewhat of a concern for families that have young children and teenagers as there is a lot of time spent without . Home is supposed to be safe but with bullying not ending at the school gates and literally following you home everyday, this issue needs to be addressed when discussing or debating the future of the networked home.
However, I do begin to pull myself back up on to the middle of the fence when further reading Boyd’s (2014 p.133) paper where she states, “heightened visibility…prompts people to assume that technology must inherently make bullying more hurtful and damaging”. So are we really in the middle of an ‘epidemic’ or is because we are more aware that we are panicking?
Overall, a networked home is the future home. One where we will not be able to disconnect as such programs as the NBN roll through and our lives are overcome with technologies as we slowly but surely move towards forever being alone together.
Boyd, D 2014, It’s Complicated, Yale University Press, Yale
Turkle, S 2012, “Connected, but alone?” Online video, TED Talk, February, accessed online 23 August 2014 http://www.ted.com/talks/sherry_turkle_alone_together