This ties into what I was writing about the other day. A friend of mine mentioned this article about Facebook on, of all places, Facebook. I swear, I read this AFTER I posted about Twitter the other day. If you have the time, or if you spend any time at all on FB, you should read this. It’s funny, true and a little embarrassing because we are all probably guilty of doing some of these things at one time or another.
This article, and my recent post about Twitter, have really prompted me to think about how innovations cause us to constantly reframe the world. I have been telling my ed. tech. students for years that we (humans) create technology, then technology creates us. My classic example is highways. Highways were created to facilitate faster, smoother commutes from one place to another. Over time people have become dependent on highways, and as the population has grown they are getting more and more crowded. Now, instead of technology working for me, I have to arrange my life around the constraints of the technology (i.e., roads that can’t handle the number of cars). Thankfully, I don’t live in a city with traffic problems anymore, but that really isn’t the point.
The point is, people create technology and technology, in turn, begins to shape us. Some people are dependent on their smart phones. Some people won’t speak in public without presentation software. Some people feel compelled to share every minute detail of their lives. The list could go on forever.
Human personality traits have probably not changed all that much in the last 10,000 years. I knew sympathy-baiters and town-criers well before FB or Twitter existed. What’s interesting is how a simple little tool — the ability to write what’s on your mind from any place at any time — has pushed these personality traits to the forefront. Perhaps folks who fall into these categories had other outlets before FB came around. Maybe they were the chronic mass-emailers of the world. But I tend to think that technologies like this have amplified these traits in people that otherwise wouldn’t have been labeled in this way. I used to get relatively few forwarded mass emails before FB, but I receive dozens of FB invitations every day. Who has time for all these games, causes, lil’ green patches, farms and mafia warfare? I barely have time to be writing this. And now that Griggs has given these personalities labels, I don’t think I will ever see my FB friends in the same way.
This phenomenon is also true of the online teaching I’ve done. The online environment pushes some personality traits to the forefront that I otherwise wouldn’t have noticed. On one hand, it’s nice to see a different side of students. I actually get to know my online students pretty well, and a lot of them thrive in the online environment. But I’m also tempted to label students in different ways. And if I can label someone, it makes it easy to dismiss them. I constantly have to resist the urge to label students as ignorant because they misspell everything in the discussions or lazy because they do everything at the last minute. These particular traits aren’t really that evident in the classroom environment. I find it ironic that an environment that is, inherently, more private removes some of the hiding places students use in the classroom. While I am able to conduct class in my pajamas from the kitchen, certain aspects of my personality that I can hide in public are suddenly exposed.
Just some thoughts. I’m sure this will come up again. Until then, I will go lurk around on Facebook.