Opinion: Lost in translation



Rachel Godin

Rachel Godin

Rachel Godin is a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].

I interviewed 10 students to see how much time they spend on the Internet daily. This number includes watching Netflix and each time they opened any social-networking app on their phones.

Responses varied between one and 10 hours. On average, students spend five and one-half hours on the Internet per day. If this average were to stay consistent for one year, students would spend a little more than 2,000 hours on the Internet each year.

Shelley Blundell, researcher at The Center for Scholastic Journalism, has said almost 60 percent of the millennial generation’s interaction occurs virtually, leaving less than 40 percent left to human interaction. Copious time and effort is used to construct personal online identities, which confronts the possibility that our internet identities are causing us to neglect our identities outside the cyber realm.

“There’s a strange connection between our self and our body,” said media artist Kyle McDonald, who mimicked Twitter’s public opening by allowing strangers to tweet as him in order to explore the idea of online identity creation. “The connection is assumed because they’re difficult to separate. But the only thing connecting our identity to our online persona is the knowledge of the password.”

Because millennials create images of themselves online that aren’t completely true, and others create images of them online that are not consistent with who they are, much like cyber bullying, virtual life is bound to bleed into physical life. The abundance of non-personal relationships allows us to portray ourselves how we want to be perceived—inflated presentations of ourselves.

Blundell linked this lack of identity transparency to a decline in face-to-face relationships and feelings of self-dissatisfaction.

A strong sense of identity is necessary to present yourself as you are could limit the temptation to create, recreate and add on to an identity that exists online.

Blundell said that in working with young students entering college, it appears that this lacking sense of identity stems from a misunderstanding that you can be unique without doing anything to establish yourself as unique. Furthermore, she agreed that critical-thinking skills have been compromised since our online experiences are customized to our preferences and beliefs, rendering us less challenged and less prone to growth. If we are not growing as people, we act as passive collectors of images and ideas that help us to identify ourselves.

There is a definite connection between the kind of relationship we have with online usage and who we become as people as we age. The understanding of our identities has the potential to pixelate even further as we progress in a society obsessed with documenting, projecting and experimenting with juggling various identities.

I encourage you to look up from your screen more. Do not lose yourself in attempts to translate into the virtual world. Foster physical relationships and cultivate hobbies and skills that instill a sense of self-worth that no image-based, virtual world could ever substitute.