How “Wired” Are You? Published: Friday, 11th March 2011 http://www.mylaunchpad.com.my In this age of social networks and smartphones, Hajar Yusof investigates her own relationship with technology. “We lived in farms, then we lived in cities, and now we’re gonna live on the internet” said Sean Parker, founder of Napster, in the Oscar nominated film The Social Network. And to be fair, I couldn’t think of a more accurate way of describing today’s technology-obsessed culture, where Blackberry and Apple are not fruits, but an extension of one’s self. I remember reading an article in The New York Times sometime last year, about a bunch of technologycrazed students in a high school in California. The author, Matt Ritchel, wrote that unlike their predecessors, young children and adults these days were a generation whose brains were “wired differently”. By consensus of cultural and demographic groupings, I belonged to the millennial generation, a group of twenty-somethings, who are tech-savvy and socially conscious. We tweet, instead of speak. BBM, instead of SMS. Email, before we call. Read blogs, not newspapers. Like most of my peers, I am a visual communicator and chronic multi-tasker. I browse multiple sites at a time, alternating between ten tabs on my browser, spending no less than five seconds skimming through content, before closing and opening new tabs. This comes quite instinctively, and with little effort too. We prefer digesting content through bite-size forms, usually less than 140 characters, rather than in wordy chunks. We spend hours on Youtube, browsing through videos of self-made musicians empowered by user-generated content, otherwise known as a “do-it-yourself” aesthetic typical of our generation. According to Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, electronic media users who are a year or five years apart may have very different ways of interacting with technology. My 17-year-old sister, for example, is a different breed altogether. Unlike those from the millennial era, electronic media has been at their fingertips since the very infant stages of their lives. I remember a time where I referred to encyclopedias for school work, maybe used a dictionary on occasion. And kids these days? They’ve got Wikipedia and dictionary.com. No dodgy dial-ups – just wireless. In an attempt to probe deeper into the psyche of these individuals, I spoke to my younger sister, who easily spends four hours a day in front of the computer. She regularly uses Skype to talk to her friends abroad, and oddly enough, even with her classmates at school. But why not just call? “It’s the easiest way to talk. Sometimes I’m lazy to type. I’m usually on the computer anyway,” she replied. “And besides, I usually want to talk to more than one person at a time.” It occurred to me then that cyberspace was their playground, while they still interact on a face-to-face basis in afterschool activities and inter-school sporting competitions, a great deal of their interaction takes place on the net. Uncensored and unmonitored, it allows them to foster relationships away from the hovering eyes of their baby boomer mothers and fathers, or otherwise known as “helicopter parents”. With a plethora of instant messaging applications on PC and mobile, most young adults have grown up jobs, but no landlines (at least until they settle down). Even if they did, most of the time they were for broadband purposes. During my undergraduate years, I had a home phone in my apartment, but to redundant use, I didn’t know the number and never got any calls. If we are not in front of the computer, we are on our phones. Even at lunch with friends, everyone seems more interested in typing away on their QWERTY type pads than having an actual conversation. “I can’t explain my relationship with my phone to anybody,” my 23-year old twin sister said. “One time, I almost walked into the shower holding my Blackberry.” Although not an actual diagnosis, a large number of young adults are growing unhealthily obsessed with their phones. One friend in particular, a fashion marketing student and selfprofessed stage-five “Crackberry” addict said she often wakes up to around five BBM messages in the morning, and has engaged in up to twelve BBM conversations at a time. Can she live without her Blackberry, I asked? Probably not, she replied. It is obvious electronic devices are intuitively wiring us whether that may be with our tablets, smartphones or computers. There is a line from the series Gossip Girl where Leighton Meester’s character says, “It was once said that a person's eyes are windows into their soul. That was before people had cell phones.” Those words couldn’t be more prophetic as we usher in a technological age, where almost all interaction is conducted digitally one way or another.