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Technology and Social Connections

Written By: seankelly on December 11, 2009 No Comment

Hi, I am also a student from the Language & Technology freshman seminar at UC Berkeley. My project was about historical and cultural differences in texting between the United States and Japan. I feel that this snippet from my last blog post relates to an issue that my project dealt with:

“I thought that Baron’s [Naomi Baron, the author of the book Always On that we read] concept of being a “stranger in a crowd” was a pertinent one in regards to the effect of technology on social ties. Social networking sites, blogs, and Twitter can serve as a means for people to interact with others and engage in conversation, but often times this conversation cannot fill the void  that personal, intimate relationships can. Despite being connected to others on a historically unprecedented level, it seems as if the problem of social alienation in modern society has more to do with a lack of connections with people and groups, rather than just to them.”

In my research, I repeatedly encountered the difference between the social interconnectivity of Japanese keitai (the Japanese term for mobile phones),  and the escapism of U.S. Internet subcultures. The Japanese were quite insistent on the notion that, although mobile phones have drastically changed the Japanese way of life, the usage of mobile phones actually functions to strengthen existing social relationships, rather than weaken them. In Japan, more concern is levied upon young people becoming overly connected socially, rather than traditional social connections being weakened or broken (as is the case with blogs, twitter, and the notion of the “intimate stranger” in the U.S.).

I feel like my blog post above is uniquely American in some respects. My concern with the social alienation brought about by communication technologies has to do with Internet sites such as facebook and twitter that provide cyber-unique contexts for social interaction. After reading about the keitai texting culture in Japan, I now cannot help but notice how communication technologies can also reinforce traditional social relationships. Our use of texting is finally beginning to reach European and Asian levels–especially amongst the youth–and I feel that while our texting culture will retain certain American qualities, it will in many ways mirror the Japanese culture in its cultivation of social interconnectivity.

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