A Frightening Future: Tech and Self-Image

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A recent observation combined with current ICT4D discussion in our classroom has sparked my interest in the relationship between self-image and access to technology. It’s hard to escape the boundless pictures of babies on social media sites like Facebook or Instagram. This generation now has every moment of their lives documented. From the moment they are able to figure out a camera, they know what they look like instantly. Every bad day and every life phase are instantly sealed in time. The impact marketing and media have on girls’ self-esteem is a messy and popular debate in American society. What have we done? Added even more to that loaded conversation. I started thinking to myself, what will happen to a generation that grew up with such easy access to photos of themselves?

When I was little I don’t remember ever looking at pictures of myself, most likely because it took so long to get them developed and they were only reserved for special occasions like Christmas pictures. Now, any child within reach of a smart phone (or usually what’s worse, any parent within reach of a smart phone) has access to countless snapshots of trivial day-to-day activities. They get to stare at pictures of themselves daily. Will this create a bigger issue than we realize? I am totally willing (and hopeful) to accept the fact that this will just be another thing kids don’t really “get” and they will not internalize it. But on the other hand, knowing how you look and judging yourself on how your pictures turn out from the day you’re able to comprehend what you look like is a little frightening. We see so many blogs dedicated to baby fashion or every mommy blogger taking photos of their children and uploading them daily. Are we going to have a bunch of baby narcissists? Who grow up to be worse, big people narcissists? It’s not only that we should be concerned with. It creates a micro-world that takes focus off bigger issues than a girl’s day-to-day “selfie” appearance.

We have a long running debate now about how much media confuses girls’ identity and relationship to themselves. We worry about whether Facebook makes us have FOMO or feel insecure. We worry that in seeing pictures of ourselves it sticks with us and shapes our perspective on our appearance. What if little girls (and to expand the narrative, little boys)  are constantly looking through the pictures they have of themselves wondering if they like what they see?

It all depends on which school of thought you belong to or which dataset you decide to fall back on. But, none of us can ignore the fact that there is always going to be something a little off with being too attached to appearance and technology has made this even more challenging.

I see this affecting more than just the developed world. We like to focus on the perks of technology for developing countries, but there’s a chance they could learn in advance from a few of the faults. While we use social media and technology to feel “up to speed” or “in the moment” it has actually done the opposite. The natural motion of life has been disturbed and our image along with it distorted. Before fully adapting technology into daily life, this should be considered in retrospect.

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4 responses to “A Frightening Future: Tech and Self-Image

  • vceaser

    The ability of technology to flaunt, document, and show off every moment of our life certainly has its downfalls. For one, it can foster a sort of self-obesession with personal appearance that causes one to be hyper-aware of how others perceive them. But it also causes an outer obsession with ones multitude of virtual friends, leading one to constantly size one another up and compare their life to others. But I don’t know if its safe to conclude that just because the same technology that drives many Americans into self-obession spread to the developing world, the developing world in its entirety will adopt the same responses as us Americans have. There is not one “developing world,” there are hundreds of nations, cultures, and peoples. America’s individualist, sometimes materialistic tendencies are a complex result of hundreds of years of many factors. Many developing nations have more collectivist tendencies, in which the self is less emphasized. Of course, we have proven to “Americanize” many nations with our McDonalds and MTV, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

  • sydlicht

    I really like Valerie’s assertion that the collectivist culture could save this topic from really becoming an issue in developing nations. It would be an interesting case study to see the psychological affects of media, as it relates to social media, on children growing up in developed and developing countries. While different cultures prioritize different things, I feel as though the mental effects could be similar.

  • chesneyhardin

    This is a fascinating discussion, because there is so much changing so quickly that the implications of more technology and social media have barely been considered.
    I think it will be especially interesting to compare our generation with the next. We have grown up with technology, but it hasn’t absorbed our lives until recently. Growing up we weren’t used to having a lot of photos so when we did have photos of ourselves we wanted them to look good. For the next generation, there are an ever abundance of photos of each individual circulating so will each picture hold much weight anymore? All of the social media is challenging the egos of our generation, but maybe it will be less so for the next generation who are exposed to it from day one.

  • caroline

    I wholeheartedly acknowledge the fact that the ‘developing world’ is not just one unit to refer to. but a vast and diverse set of nations and cultures. What I am referring to is a somewhat equal playing field as far as access. I agree that the individualism in American culture drives this obsession, but we couldn’t have predicted this before the onset of technology. This is my attempt to bring the question to the table, not assert an outcome.

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