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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How New Media is Changing The Way We Disconnect

What makes a “bad” breakup is changing. A bad breakup is no longer determined by how many dishes were thrown, whether an infidelity was walked in on, or how long a shouting match lasted. What makes the difference now is the medium used to deliver the news.

In Ilana Gershon’s book, The Breakup 2.0 , she uses stories and interviews from her students to further explore how exactly new media is being used in the ways people end relationships. 

As the number of ways we communicate and form relationships increases, so do our options for disconnecting from them. Throughout the book, Gershon repeatedly states: the medium is part of the message. The beliefs people have about how medium conveys and structures certain messages, their media ideologies, gives different mediums different values. 

Whether a message is sent from an email, blog, text message, or over Facebook matters and just why it matters various due to a person’s ideology regarding that particular medium. A person’s ideologies make Facebook different than Skype, texting different from phone calls or emails different than letters. Gershon talks to her research subjects about how mishaps with mediums and messages can occur and gathers tragic tales of communication calamities. 

Though the breakup stories can be painful to read about, and the lack of an answer to the question “WHY?!”  It is interesting and a little difficult to think critically about my media ideologies, as well as the ideologies of the people I communicate with, not to mention the role media has played in my own disconnecting from relationships. 

Within the span of writing this post my phone has chirped twice for incoming text messages, I have checked Facebook notifications and sent and read an email. The messages I encounter each have a different purpose and significance based on my relationship with the person and what is being said. Despite the fact that I may be communicating with one person in numerous ways, the content, tones used and medium in which the message is delivered all varies. 

The unspoken about agreement (or in some cases, disagreement) about what types of messages are talked about where can make for smooth connections or outraged disconnections. The easier and more convenient to communicating has become, it is that much harder to understand. New media has turned connecting or disconnecting with others into an unfamiliar, ever evolving experience and a nearly impossible one to understand.  

Although Ilana Gershon was unable to provide standards for the use of different media, or tips on the best way to disconnect with new media, presenting a method to the madness is a welcomed first step. Understanding the “how” and “why” people consider the meaning of messages presented in different mediums to be so different isn’t a quick and easy process. The universal struggle people face when communicating makes reading about mishaps in disconnecting a little less painful and a little more relieving. 

Ayla Benjamin
University of Minnesota
Jour 3279
Blog Assignment