A Millennial’s Perspective on USING YOUR RESOURCES
by: riley lane
My relationship with the world wide web goes back as far as I can remember. I am an early nineties baby, the daughter of a sociologist, a computer scientist, and a well-traveled student of anthropology. I currently work for an IT consulting company and am unashamedly enamored with the internet’s endless potential to be an observable record of information. As problems arise in my everyday life, I face them with a perspective deeply rooted at the intersection of my love for technology and culture. Thus the perfect matrimony between the practicality of my elder’s generations and the sense of urgency of my own. Having the ability to go about life with this perspective is a fascinating privilege.
I have learned that if you are open to the world, there will never be a shortage of ways to learn how humans are alike. I’ve learned that if you can deeply understand yourself and your intrinsic desires you can assimilate organically anywhere. My interactions with peers both online and throughout my travels have inspired me to constantly explore the undeniable role that the infamous internet plays in our conceptions of culture. (In case you haven’t caught on, this is another mediocre meta article on the internet talking about the internet). How can we deny this wide of an open door to studying…well, anything?
Behind the guise of an onscreen alias, we can be whoever we want to be and find support for it. There is a burning, natural desire to impress ourselves upon others, to make our outward appearances live up to our culturally assigned ideals of perfection. That obsession with acceptance existed long before the internet and will long after- it is who we are as people. The field of anthropology comes with a difficult responsibility to remain conscious and current as an observer of the ‘other’. Historically, this study has been highly based on field work, cultural immersion, and participant observation. Given the very recent culture shift to accommodate online norms, reading about propaganda in the 1950’s seems like an archaic method to study political media trends. We now have a fly-on-the-wall, virtual perspective with access to information unlike anything ever before.
There was a gaping hole in my undergraduate education where online culture was concerned. In every subfield of study, I sat on the edge of my seat, bursting with comparisons of anthropological theory to something I knew my peers would understand. Here is an example: cultural norms can be observed in the quick trends of selfie styles. Angles, poses, edits, makeup, and lighting are a few subtleties my sixty-eight-year-old ANTH 005 professor may have difficulty grasping. As a fully internet-immersed millennial, I know that online observers may draw fleeting conclusions about culturally-tied demographics the selfie-taker possesses. These unfounded judgments allow the selfie-viewer to decide how the selfie-taker reflects their own cultural conceptions of beauty, morals, status, gender, etc.
Cross-culturally, selfies are an enactment of social norms. The way we choose to portray ourselves must comply with the high demand of strategic images we scroll past daily to reaffirm our place in society. These permanently documented gratuitous pictures of ourselves are highly judged at face value and often become an immediate afterthought. ‘Selfies’, ‘usies’, and ‘groupies’ can be bought and sold as a form of currency and ‘likes’ an affirmation of character.
This is an extremely superficial explanation of how much information exists on the internet to convey to older generations how profitable it is to understand the immense power that exists in millennial algorithms. I remind my peers to be smarter. These are commonsensical observations to us, but a foreign universe of unknown to the founders of “the way things are.” Harness the power for good, channel it into the wealth of information that exists at your fingertips. Share it and build together. Recognize that no one really knows what to do with the virtual part of our lives. Ask your peers more questions, hold them more accountable, promote unity and understanding.
In the same way the new social media reality stops to watch political candidates beef on Twitter, generations of people still read newspapers and even more exist without access to the internet at all. Imagine if we could all realize that the infinite differences between us become infinitesimal via the internet? How can we find ways utilize the value in the ability to be virtually anywhere, and speak to virtually anyone? Get #googleit trending instead of promoting “influencers” as idols.
The ‘future’ is here. The era of self-driving cars and virtual reality is now. The skeptics and anti-tech minimalists will remain. From an anthropological standpoint, only the fittest survive. What will you do with this information? How will you revise your current values to accommodate it? If you look closer, social media is not ‘ruining’ people or even making them less human. It is merely providing a new way for humans to act upon our innate desire to be loved.
Thanks for reading.