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In an interview with The telegraph uS academic Sherry turkle proclaims our incessant and frantic engagement with social media in general and services such as Facebook and twitter in particular as a new form of social madness.1 Concerned with our ongoing immersion in completely mediated and technologized environments, turkle advocates a step back - a retreat from machines. Her advocacy in this area is neither new nor unique. In an alarmist book and in testimony for the British House of Lords in 2009, Susan Greenfield likewise asserts how our media life resembles "the 'booming, buzzing confusion' of the infant brain", reducing us to a "state of sensory oblivion, stripped of all cognitive content and bereft of self-consciousness."2 Greenfield and turkle want us to opt out and log off. Although such efforts may be noble, there is perhaps something to be said for not opting out, for enthusiastically embracing the instantaneous always-on potential of presentday media. After conducting a series of group interviews and a nationwide survey of uK citizens in 2009 (in a study commissioned by the Talk Talk Telecom Group), anthropologists at the university of Kent predict the emergence of a dominant 'tribe' of digital extroverts, who are willing to share just about everything about themselves on increasingly sophisticated, always-on, mobile and interconnected devices.3 Lead researcher David Zeitlyn even suggests that "the extent to which people use social networking and promote themselves online will become more important in determining their careers than what school or university they went to." reports in other countries - such as the influential information and communication technology user surveys by the Pew Internet & American Life Project in the uS4 - tend to produce similar groupings and conclusions, ranking different types of media users hierarchically based on the extent to which they participate in the (online) archiving and distributing of personal information. Those who create, edit and distribute the most invariably feature at the top of such user pyramids, which elevated status enables claims by or about such media omnivores to determine what is appropriate or expected for the rest of us. Sherry Beck Paprocki, one of the authors of "The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Branding yourself " (2009) states in the New York Times (of March 27, 2009): "[i]f you don't brand yourself, Google will brand you," referring to a perceived need to control the kind of information people find about you when they type your name into a search engine. Times reporter Alina tugend motivates her story on the challenges of presenting yourself online as "[n]ot being online today is akin to not existing."5 Apparently, it is not enough to have a profile on Facebook - you need a Twitter account, a YouTube channel, you should be uploading your own video mashups, design custom levels in your favorite computer game, and on the whole use any kind of media to tell everyone about everything. Beyond such feverish assumptions about the need to selfdisclose in media lies a perhaps much more practical consideration, as social network scholar Danah Boyd suggests (in a blogpost for the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub at the university of California, Irvine): "in many situations, there is more to be gained by accepting the public default [of online social media such as Facebook, MD] than by going out of one's way to keep things private. And here's where we see the shift. It used to take effort to be public. today, it often takes effort to be private."6 Perhaps our current social madness is just an expression of an adaptive instinct allowing us to effectively participate in the global cultural and creative economy our leaders - presidents, politicians, professors, professionals - have thrust us towards over the last few decades? The boundaries between self-branding, self-promotion, the madness and instantaneous insanity of social networking and participation are all but crisp and clearly articulated in media life. we have to be mad in order to be. In the Spring of 2010 two hundred students at the university of Maryland in the uS participated in a study, in which they agreed to forego using any kind of media for a full 24 hours. After the day, participants described themselves as feeling disconnected, anxious, lonely, bored, frustrated, antsy, worried about missing out, isolated, miserable, moody, jittery, and crazy.7 The researchers involved considered the relationship between students and their media as addictive - a tentative conclusion that made compelling headlines around the world. The British newspaper The Independent for example led with "Students' Addiction to Media Akin to Drugs" (April 23, 2010), The China Post reported "u.S. Students Suffering From Digital Media Addiction" (April 25, 2010), while the New York Times two months later headlined "An ugly toll of technology: Impatience and Forgetfulness" ( June 6, 2010). However, perhaps what is showing here is not so much an insane or addictive, but rather an instinctive bond developing between humans and their machines - a bond necessary to manage, understand,
as Virilio concludes: "Everything. it is perhaps time to slow down in the face of technological acceleration. completely mediated living world. responding to reports about ubiquitous and pervasive media use in the united States.guardian. and master complex individualized networks stretched out across time and space. is quoted by the New York Times (on January 20."8 Similarly. and complete social inertia. co. This in turn may explain why we generally do not stop and ask questions of our media in everyday interaction .aspx. 7 Source: http://withoutmedia. Faced with the globalization of telecommunications and a corresponding explosion of unlimited information . 3 Source: See: http://broadband. it shapes everything about them. as part of our DNA ."9 It may seem far-fetched to think of (social) media as being like the air we breathe. the destruction of time (in terms of being able to assess one's future and past).html. 2010) that with media use so ubiquitous it is time to stop arguing over whether this is good or bad and accept it as part of children’s environments. 6 Source: http://dmlcentral.uk/technology/twitter/8276948/Socialnetworking-sites-are-a-modern-form-of-madness." On the other hand.html.co. 2010) that media technology is "simply a part of their DNA. of this hypercentre of temporal compression where everything crashes together. and perhaps should. the water they drink and the food they eat. we better get good at the management and publication of information about ourselves and others.net/blog/danah-boyd/public-default-private-whennecessary. endlessly under the fearful pressure of telecommunications.less as paraphernalia and practices that are either good or bad for us.talktalk.telegraph. child and adolescent psychologist Dave Verhaagen tells national newspaper USA Today (on February 2. If we want to successfully participate in our at once local and global.uk/we-love-the-web/digitalanthropology/tribes.unless they break down.pewinternet. into this 'teleobjective' proximity that has nothing concrete about it except its infectious hysteria. who considers our immersion in an information and communication-governed reality determined by the twin powers of immediacy and instantaneity as leading to an inevitable disaster.com/2010/01/20/education/20wired. a pediatrician and director of the Center on Media and Child Health in Boston. 8 Source: http://www. nor without significance for the way society. 5 Source: http://www. Words by The Janissary Collective (Mark Deuze) Source: http://www.uk/uk/2009/feb/24/social-networking-site-changing-childrens-brains.org/Reports/2007/A-Typology-ofInformation-and-Communication-Technology-Users.what Virilio calls the 'information bomb' . 1 101 . it is perhaps time to stop thinking about whether (social) media are either good or bad for us .com. "like the air they breathe. its institutions and communities function.com/2009/03/28/your-money/28shortcuts.co.but perhaps this way of thinking can make us aware of something the insights of turkle.html. yet this mediation of everything is not ESSAY without meaning for people as individuals. 2 Source: See for example a report in The Guardian online: http://www.whether the mediation of social bonds inevitably leads to madness (in Europe and North America) or democracy (across the Arab world).nytimes. and deliberately eject oneself out of this never-ending feedback loop. more as occupying a place in the living world that extend our engagement with it. we may mediate ourselves in order to be known and in the process selfcommoditize to seek the attention of others. telescoping As a way out of this conundrum. be seen as essential for survival. The main proponent of this point of view would be French philosopher Paul Virilio. as people's contemporary surroundings require essentially mediated and continuously remixed strategies and tactics for social bonding and (thus) survival. Greenfield and so many others desperately miss out on.yCollective "Social adness And Essential To media navigate. 4 Source: See: http://www. Michael rich.people are disempowered to adequately inform themselves and thus unable to question the status quo or take meaningful action against it.nytimes. 9 Source: http://www.com/news/health/2010-02-10-igeneration10_ CV_N.wordpress. Such an evolutionary perspective allows us to look at media differently .usatoday. networked and redactional. In fact.htm. Our ever-accelerating and all-pervading media use thus leads to forms of instant living. right now! Such is the crazy catch-cry of hyper-modern times. living a media life can.