Macki Aycock, a student in Jon Pfeiffer’s Spring 2017 Media Law class at Pepperdine University, wrote the following essay in response to the prompt: Everyone has a smart phone in their hand, constantly checking messages. Is distracted the new drunk?
When considering distraction as the new drunk, my mind automatically goes to social media. It is the sticky web from which we cannot escape. It is the fingers that relentlessly grip our minds and our souls. As we move from place to place, it silently glides with us, collecting our stories, told through people, posts, and photos. It is what defines our acquaintances, friendships and romantic relationships. It is the omnipresent network that keeps us connected every second of the day because we cannot stand to feel disengaged. It is the “loop” that holds us captive, unable to escape the millions of things going on around us all the time. It is the overstimulation from this constant flood of information we wouldn’t hearken otherwise.
It is the superpower that allows us to be in two – or three – places at once. While it may not give us the ability to read minds, it does give us insight into what people wish they were thinking or what people want you to think they are thinking. With a presence so vital that it warrants our unwavering attention, it resides in the palm of our hand. It is the sneaky stranger that steals our time with the who and what that surrounds us. It is the blinders blocking our peripheral vision, so that our sole focus remains on the screen in front of us, rather than the race.
It goes with us to class, to work, and to social gatherings. It even accompanies us to more peculiar places like the bathroom, our beds and our dinner tables. We use it for entertainment, distraction and sometimes just because there is nothing better to do with our time. Shouldn’t there be something better we could be doing with our time? Our social media says there isn’t. but, sometimes it says there is. What a confusing contradiction.
It is the expensive social construction of our selves, our public self-image and the persona we expect others to purchase. It is the time consuming alter-ego we sustain, renew and protect day by day. Who are we without it? we aren’t in a relationship anymore if there aren’t recent photos to display it or a current, public relationship status saying so. Therefore, it is appropriate to use this as an excuse to deem any relationship non-existent. The real determinant of the status of any relationship must be reliant on social media, not the two people actually involved, right? We no longer traveled if we didn’t check-in to our destination. The real question is: did we even see what we traveled to see? Peering through the lens of a camera or at the screen of your phone is truly what seeing the world looks like. That is, as long as we are so uber concerned with letting everyone else see what we saw before we even had the chance to experience it.
If you aren’t on it, who are you, really?
If you didn’t post about it, did it really happen?
Macki is a senior at Pepperdine University majoring in Advertising.
Jon Pfeiffer is an experienced entertainment and copyright trial attorney practicing in Santa Monica. Jon is also an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California where he teaches Media Law. COM 570 covers First Amendment issues as well as copyright, defamation and privacy.