In “It Takes a Village To Find a Phone,” a woman named Ivanna loses her Sidekick cell phone in the back of a cab in New York City. She assumes it’s lost forever, until she and her friend Evan discovers that the person in possession of the device has been photographing herself and sending emails off of her phone after the information from the lost device had been transferred over to the new one. Using the internet and its ability to engage a mob mentality, the woman in possession of the phone, named Sasha, was eventually arrested for stealing the device when the public demanded justice for the theft.
In the article “Love Online” in the MIT Technology review, the author Henry Jenkins talks about his son (also named Henry) and his experience with having a girlfriend and how dating worked in an online communication format. His son Henry and his girlfriend Sarah met only after they began dating, but that didn’t prevent the feelings from being real, Jenkins writes. Jenkins also notes that the idea of long-distance relationships is not new, using his own lineage as an example. His grandparents wrote letters during war time as a way to stay in contact; Henry was doing the same thing as his grandparents, with the difference being the mode of communication used to facilitate that long-distance relationship. The only differences are the lack of paper and pen used to write the letter, and the immediacy of the message sent.
A concept I had never given much thought to before reading “It Takes a Village to Find a Phone,” group-formation is heavily integral to social media’s existence. I’d say we’ve always wanted to be categorized into groups as human beings – not only do we like being social, but we love stereotypes and common traits between people that shorten our thinking processes when it comes to knowing whether we can trust another person or not. Social media and internet usage amplifies that to where you can belong to any group, regardless of who you are or where you might be located. Group-formation can swing to be both positive and negative – in considering how Sasha felt, the group-formation against her must have been overwhelming. They definitely made her aware that she was not a part of their group. It can be positive as well, as we are better able to talk with others who are dealing with the same life pressures and issues as us, or are able to utilize better forms of communication to stay in tune with other people we already consider our “group.” This allows for not only group-forming, but “architecture if participation” – because of the diversity of the group, you likely have someone who is a professional or has the similar skill set as a professional doing the work for you, like investigating a person you find to be unsettling or discovering information on another person, as two examples.
Society has always had to adapt to changes in communication, because we are heavily social beings. Our culture changed from oral to written with the invention of the Gutenberg; as we continue to process with our technology and the modes of communication that accompany it, we will also change our own schemata around how we as a society communicate. It’s easy to say that our methods of communication changed rapidly after the first smartphone was debuted in June 2007. In reference to these two articles, communication was the leading factor in how they found the woman with the cell phone and what made it possible for Henry and Sarah to have a relationship with one another, despite being physically separated by thousands of miles. Because we have the ability to perform these kinds of communication, our society adapts to integrate them into our everyday lives.
Looking at what makes people take the risk of sharing information with the world that they can’t take back, I think the need to belong through sharing with others outweighs the idea that there is some information we wouldn’t shout to the world without the social media platform. From personal experience, I’ve tweeted a lot of jokes that I believe are funny that I would never say to a random person on the street, yet my Twitter feed is open for anyone with or without an account to view. I’ve shared photos on Instagram that I wouldn’t fame in my home, but yet want people to see so they can shape a mindset of me as a good photographer. As each of our reasons vary, I believe they all trail back to the idea of group-formation and developing relationships with other people. Like the two examples in the readings, we want to be seen as belonging to something or someone, whether it be a social movement to return a Sidekick phone or to a specific person.
I think the biggest takeaway I have from the articles, especially the one with the Sidekick phone, is that we often focus so heavily on the positives of social media interaction that often we don’t slow down and think about what negative impacts the person on the other end of the screen may be having. It especially struck a chord with me when I considered how Sasha felt in this ordeal – she had just found a phone in the back of a cab, which isn’t illegal, but she was demonized for not giving it back. While correspondence on her part could have been handled better, she also had an army of people dig into her life, which isn’t the greatest feeling. In the pursuit for the phone, there was the possibility for greater damage to be done in the name of justice that doesn’t really feel like justice at all.