“Love Online” and The “StolenSidekick”

“Love Online” assembles a father discovering the era of virtual relationships by witnessing his son form a relationship online. He highlights how the two used communication platforms to assist their relationship even though they are unable to enjoy the physical intimacy of each other’s company due to the distance between Nebraska and Massachusetts. Even more so he details how although the two use every social channel possible to converse, they as well share conversations over the phone and mail one another personal items or gifts. The author distinguishes how romantic relationships online can seem transient or transparent yet the communication effect still has to be crafted carefully. In the same manner as one would court a person of interest by writing hand-written letters. New technology enables a new kind of group formation by means of creating a link to building relationships outside of our own communities and reaching out to people miles or even oceans away from us. It provides a gateway for online relationships to bud and flourish without the convenience of having physical contact. Some may say that online relationships are revolutionary, however the author suggest otherwise explaining that “ focusing on the revolutionary aspects of online courtship blinds us to the continuities in courtship rituals across generations and across media…..moreover, focusing on the online aspects of these relationships blinds us to the agility with which teens move back and forth across media. Their daily lives require constant decisions about what to say on the phone, what to write by hand, what to communicate in chat rooms, what to send by email” (Jenkins, 2002). Thus, new communication technology not only assist maintaining virtual relationships but it is also leading to even more communication availability all at once.

Furthermore, the article “ It Takes A Village To Find a Phone,” revolves around one man named Evan using his personal website to voice the story of his friend’s missing sidekick. The story was known as “StolenSidekick,” which tells the situation of his friend loosing her phone and actually finding the person who took it but refused to deliver it back to her. The refusal followed into a finder’s keeper momentum, but took a turn for the worse when the individual who had the phone insulted Evan and his friend with racial and threatening messages. The “StolenSidekick” website overall had gained millions of followers, along with local and national media attention. This article displays a new kind of group-formation through the enabling of any individual able to use communication platforms free of charged to voice their narrative. Messages online can easily be marketed, promoted, and shared with little to no effort. The only sacrifice is time and attention to representing and updating the messages to keep readers interested. Not only does one have to keep readers interested, but also the story needs to make readers feel that it’s relatable enough. Evan was wise as to note that the missing sidekick story was not for his personal gain but solely for justice, which struck a huge nerve for his readers. Platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and Blogging have created a free pass for users to share their messages and have it be followed, liked, or commented on. It has even allowed users to make it a full time job working from home and getting paid for it. Take for instance famous celebrity blogger Perez Hilton, he started his brand blogging from home and it reached a wide range of audiences at local and national levels. His blog became so popular that his brand developed from working at home into a blooming business, which later led him to becoming a television personality. This example just indicates how strong communication technology platforms have given the free ability to users to do with it as they please, at no cost but their time.

In regards to Clay Shirkys reference to Tim O’Reilly’s concept of “ architecture if participation,” a communication tool is simply not useful if there is no participation. The platform has to be designed to inspire and encourage presence, and if not then it is useless. In this case, online dating sites have expanded across all platforms and architectural designs to form communities and groups where people can meet. Online dating websites range from a broad spectrum of Tinder, Bumble, ChristianMingle.com, eHarmony, BlackPeopleMeet.com, and so forth. There only needs to be one blueprint of a communication technology that has the right form of participation that can amplify in the development and adaptation to other alternatives of specialties. Likewise with Evan’s story about his friend’s sidekick, if there was no participation from his readers liking, sharing, and commenting then it would not have gained as much attention as it did. Evan created a narrative that allowed his readers to engage in and also gave them their own bulletin board to talk to one another than just him. If one is going to display a message online as Evan did, the person needs to consider all the participation levels for the readers on the platform. Failure to do so will result in a dead message.

The quote “when we change the way we communicate, we change society” refers to the level of formation that communication technology has developed to evolve communication in society. In the manner of “Love Online,” to maintain relationships began with mailing hand-written letters, to phone calls, to cell phones, and now to virtual relationship applications. Similarly, to the “StolenSidekick” the changes of websites began as a printing press, typewriter, newspaper, dial-up Internet, and now the worldwide web that offers many media platforms to connect users and readers. The thought with communication is always asking the question how to develop and change it further for society; as well as what does society need to communicate more efficiently and at a higher quality that all individuals can advantage by? When considering what motivates people to share information online, there could be many reasons but one that I personally see occurring is that no one wants to feel alone or disconnected from society. Humans cannot be alone, and the worse form of punishment for anyone is to be locked away in solitary confinement. Hence, the over-ending sharing and messages continue to display on media due to the fact that there is a chance someone will see it and find it relatable. Trust is another factor to consider especially with online dating is “catfishing,” meaning a stolen or fake identity. One has to make sure that if they are using online dating sites to be careful and mindful of these actions and take precautions. Communication gives free access and use, but there is no condition to be honest and truthful. Lastly, the important lessons I have learned from these two articles is how communication technologies are ever changing and its important as a communication scholar to observe and investigate these changes, to not only understand how it effects society but also how it effects myself.

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