Interesting Findings from Free-to-play Games

During my leisure time, I often play some video games. I have a game console (Nintendo 3DS), but I like games on PCs and smartphones as well. Some games on PCs and smartphones are like games on other consoles such as PS4: if you want to play, you need to pay at a store and get the copy of these games. Although many games still have more contents which are available for purchasing, you can just enjoy most of the contents in these games. A typical example is the PC version of the popular video game, Grand Theft Auto 5. No matter what platform the games is on (game consoles, PCs or smartphones), if you want to play these games, you need to pay for the copy first. They are “pay-to-play” games on PCs and smartphones.

 

I think the many of these games are worth purchasing. However, these games are expensive. Pre-owned copies can be found in stores because they are much cheaper than new ones. Not everyone can afford to buy a lot of games—that will cost hundreds of dollars. So the amount of users is limited. In order to enlarge the group of players, some companies created another category of video games: “free-to-play” games. “Free-to-play” means you have the access to the play these games without paying and you will pay for some items (or contents) in these games. They are available on smartphones and PCs. With the expansion of the group of players, even if many players pay a little (even 1 dollar), these games can still generate much revenue. Now this sort of games have dominated the video games market in some countries like China: one of the main companies which offers many free-to-play games, Tencent, announced “net profit rose to 5.86 billion yuan ($937 million) from 3.91 billion yuan a year earlier” (Osawa par. 4). As for free-to-play games on smartphones, we can also find some successful examples. For instance, Supercell Studio’s very popular free-to-play game, Clash of Clans “raked in $892 million in revenue, and the app can bring in up to $5.15 million per day (in 2013)” (Tweedie par. 3).

I’m not a “hard core” game player (who usually have a large collection of various categories of video games), so free-to-play games seem like a good deal for me. I intended to have some fun without paying (although sometimes I paid for some pay-to-play games). When I was at home in China, I often played free-to-play games from the large company, Tencent (which I mentioned previously). I remembered my experience from playing one free-to-play game from Tencent. This game is called “Crossfire”. It was a game just like the famous FPS (first-person shooter game), Call of Duty. I enjoyed this game at the beginning when I opened an account. Although its definition was like the original version of another FPS called Counter-Strike (it’s not with high definition), the free FPS was not bad for me. But the situation gradually changed as the release of powerful items (of course, in a FPS, these items are guns). These new items were very expensive and powerful. You could win the game easily with more reliable and powerful weapons. And because of the release of these items, I thought that this game became a “pay-to-win” game. In fact, players who didn’t pay at all like me were not many. Many players paid a little, and they could enjoy this game. That was reasonable. But with the release of expensive and powerful items, “arm race” appeared. Players who could pay more to buy expensive items got advantages and won more games. In other words, people who could pay more money than the average could win games easily. Players were divided into different “social classes” based on how much they paid. I felt depressed and didn’t play Crossfire any more since then.

Some people may think free-to-play games are not worth playing at all just like what I felt when I played Crossfire. Nonetheless, not all games are like Crossfire. In some free-to-play games, paying more money is not the only option to have advantages. Last year, I started playing Hearthstone, a free-to-play collectible card game. I should say in some aspects, what I saw in Crossfire also exists in Hearthstone. Players will have some kind of advantage if they buy some rare cards. And they are randomly given when players buy card packs. So if a player can buy more card packs, they will have a higher chance to get more rare cards. But if you don’t want to pay much to buy a lot of card packs, Hearthstone offers other options for these players. They may “get 10 gold for every three games you win, up to a maximum of 100 gold per day” and “get a daily quest which is usually worth either 40 or 60 gold. You can save up to three daily quests at once, so you can complete all your daily quests even if you don’t have time to play every day. Expert packs cost 100 gold each.”(Friedman par. 12). Not bad. Players like me still have a chance to obtain rare cards. While I was playing, that was what I always did. Actually, I got some rare cards by finishing these quests. Although I still cannot be as strong as some players who paid a lot, I had an opportunity to beat more average players who paid little or didn’t pay. After all, not every players will pay a lot of money. But I didn’t think anyone could be masters without paying till I met some players during the spring break: I coincidently found that some players became masters without paying much. They built great card decks and won by their interesting strategies with very limited amount of rare cards. According to the amount of rare cards in their card decks, I was pretty sure that they were not players who paid much money. Obviously, limited number of rare cards meant less purchases, otherwise, they might have more rare cards than I saw in their card decks. A good deal, isn’t it? But… Wait a minute! In this case, in order to have more good cards, players need to spend more time on Hearthstone. If do so, Players don’t have to pay much money to win games. They spend much more time than average players. So I think free-to-play games like Hearthstone are still “pay-to-win” games somehow: the cost is not only money, but also time.

Now even free-to-play games like Hearthstone which offers other options for players who don’t want to pay much money do not seem good. If so, we wouldn’t see them in the market of the video games. Who will play games which are not worth playing? But the reality is opposite. Many companies developed this kind of games and earned a lot of money from them. The reality seems weird in facade: many people pay for free-to-play games. Why do many players pay money or spend more time in these games? What’s their motivation?

When I see the word “motivation”, I come up with another one, desire. People are driven by some kind of desire. So there must be something appealing in these free-to-play games. In order to find these appealing features, I think I should see what’s in the accounts first. In free-to-play games, each account represents a virtual avatar. Some items such as cards and golds in Hearthstone belongs to these avatar. The status of a personal account is determined by the personal skills, the amount of money paid, and time spent on games. Many people think they will enjoy these games if their accounts can have better statuses, in other words, be stronger avatars. So they continue to search for some methods to make these avatars better. That’s a common idea. A good avatar can bring satisfaction. Avatars could be a better representation of these players themselves. Here I want to quote something from another article, “Studying the Digital Self” to make further discussions.

In “Studying the Digital Self”, the key term “digital self” is very important. Actually, I think it’s the key to answer why people want to pay for these free-to-play games. “The self becomes a commodity to be packaged and brokered on media sites such as YouTube and on product-related sites” (Smith and Watson par. 7), and I think similar things happened in free-to-play games. Many people tend to think their accounts are very important and tried to make them better. Their accounts became their personal brands. If people can be masters in a game, no matter how they approach this level, they may be tagged by others with something like “having prowess in games”. I think no one doesn’t like the praise when others see the record in a game and say “wow, cool”. So one reason why many people want to pay for free-to-play games is clear now: people wants to be praised or at least complimented by others for their prowess in games, especially when they play a popular game. Free-to-play games make many people feel comfortable and satisfied when they think they can do better in games than others.

Another reason is also relevant to “Studying the Digital Self” and its key term “digital self”. I think people don’t only feel satisfied when they compare their avatars with others, but they also feel satisfied when they compare the avatars with themselves. In “Studying the Digital Self”, I found a sentence: “however malleable and interchangeable identities are online, they are qualified offline by the complexity of embodied social identities” (Smith and Watson par. 8). Indeed, no matter how a person wants to manipulate “digital self”, the “digital self” can still be a reflection of his or her social identities. People cannot avoid expressing their social identities even when they use their avatars. In free-to-play games, the situation is pretty similar. For instance, in many games, the masters will be professional players. Their skills reflect their identities in the society—professional players. “Identity ‘play’ cannot erase the intersecting, historically specific aspects of offline social identities” (Smith and Watson par. 8). It seems that according to these claims in “Studying the Digital Self”, the “digital selves” match social identities or classes of these players because the inevitable intersection between them. But I don’t want to interpret these claims in that way. Actually, I deem these claims in “Studying the Digital Self” as an explanation of the other reason why people pay for free-to-play games: the mismatch between status of avatars in games and social identities in the real world.

Indeed, “digital self” can be a reflection of social identities. So it seems that there’s a contradiction between what I said and claims in “Studying the Digital Self”. But that’s not what I mean. Just like what I said, these claims in “Studying the Digital Self” is an explanation of my argument. Now I want to make analysis about that.

In many free-to-play games, more money or time is the key to get a stronger avatar. People who pay much money or spend more time can have better statuses in these games, that’s what I described in the previous paragraphs. If evaluate the cost of these free-to-play games, I should say whether they are much or not depends on the criterion of the evaluation. For games, the cost is pretty high. Many people pay more money than “pay-to-play” games like Grand Theft Auto 5 in free-to-play games. And some others spend much time in finishing a lot of tasks with rewards. But when I replace the criterion by something in the real world, the costs become pretty low. Comparing with the cost to be at a higher social class in the real world, the cost to be powerful in free-to-play games is way too low. For example, if a person wants to be a successful CEO, he or she may need opportunities, money, specific social networks, diploma, knowledge, and so on. And in these free-to-play games, by paying money and “paying” time, many people have better avatars in these games with better statuses, and their “digital selves” may be at a higher “social class”. And if they think about their position in the real world, they may feel satisfied because their avatars have high classes in games (a virtual world) relative to their social classes in the real world. So now I can draw a conclusion: the most important reason why people want to pay for free-to-play games is the mismatch between the “digital self” and social identities (classes). And this phenomena reflects the social identities of many players—they are not as successful in the real world as they could be in these free-to-play games.

Work Cited:

  1. Osawa, Juro. “Tencent Earnings Rise on Games Business.” WSJ. The Wall Street Journal, 18 Mar. 2015. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.
  2. Tweedie, Steven. “Why ‘Clash Of Clans’ Is So Incredibly Popular, According To A Guy Who Plays 16 Hours A Day.” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 25 Sept. 2014. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.
  3. Friedman, Daniel. “Is Hearthstone Pay-to-win? We Find out.” Polygon. Vox Media Inc., 09 May 2014. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.
  4. Smith, Sidonie, and Julia Watson. “Studying the Digital Self.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 21 Apr. 2014. Web.27 Apr. 2015.

Integration of Technology in Sports

There are not many things that can unite a global audience the same way sports can. It is not difficult to see these instances during such events such as the Olympics or the World Cup, but it is extremely unlikely to successfully recreate such an atmosphere. Sports create a global village quite similar to, yet possibly more joyous than the global village Marshall McLuhan wrote about. Even with such unparalleled power, changes are still necessary for athletics. There are constant adjustments being made to sports in the forms of technology, rules, equipment, and even the athletes that participate. Some of these changes are made to protect the people involved in the competitions, others are made to create more offensive opportunities, but perhaps the most interesting changes are those being made to keep pace with the ever-changing world of technology. All of the changes made have their own impacts on the sports in which they are involved.

Technology is a major factor when it comes to how sports operate and how they evolve over time. There are also many different ways to look at what is classified as technological advancements. The first thing that comes to mind when somebody thinks of technology in sports is most likely the use of video replay and its integration and growth since its initial use in the 1960’s. Obviously since its inception, the techniques, systems, and efficiency of video replay have all drastically evolved, but the creator witnessed his invention’s impact. He noted “I changed the way things were normally done. That’s very hard to do in life” (1). The creation of instant replay led to the ability to review plays and decisions. With that ability, some basics of sports began to change. In the current age, it seems as if video review is becoming more expansive each year. There are no arguments that attempt to say video review results in fewer correct calls. However, there are still negatives to the heavier integration of technologies such as video review. The use of these new technologies is often seen as taking the human element out of the sports, therefore fundamentally changing the sports that were created centuries ago. The aspect of human error has created some of the most memorable sports moments in history. The spirit of the game comes from the human error not only in the players, but also in the officials. As well as the spirit of athletics being tarnished, a major concern with a technology such as video review is the potential damage it does to the timing and flow of a match. Momentum and rhythm are influential, yet often overlooked. With the entire process of reviewing a play taking a substantial amount of time, the adrenaline and flow can easily be lost. For both the MLB and NFL, not including officials stopping the game, finding out exactly what must be reviewed, walking to the review station, explaining the decision to all parties involved, and restarting the game afterwards, the average review time hovered right around two minutes. To go along with the time wasted, approximately half of all reviews did not constitute a call being overturned. This may not seem like a long amount of time, but when a game changing play can happen in a fraction of a second, those minutes of being completely removed from gameplay can, and does, make a monumental difference (2)(3). The main positive associated with the use of new technology is more accurate and consistent officiating. The main negative is the possibility of damaging the spirit and flow of a game. The positives outweighing the negatives is still up for debate according to many people.

With new technology coming to prevalence, new rules and regulations must accompany them. This may be the easiest area to see how new technology directly affects how a game or match is conducted. For a new rule to be fully implemented, it takes time. Like any other change to a major league, it must be approved by the governing heads of the league and usually by a majority of the teams involved in the league. With many different interests and affects for each proposed rule change, it can take a years to pass the proposal. Some rule changes connected to technology are minor while others present more of a major change. For instance, a more minor change occurred recently in the National Hockey League regarding television timeouts. After an icing occurs, television timeouts are no longer allowed to interrupt the game. This is meant to keep tired defensive players on the ice and create a more offensive, generally exciting game. This relatively new rule does not change the basic fabric of a sport. For more impactful rule changes, it is helpful to look at the National Football League. Recent times have seen concussion lawsuits and much discussion on the topic of head injuries. As a way to combat these discussions, new rules were created that limited the way a player is allowed to make contact and tackle another player. To some fans, this may decrease the excitement by limiting some of the larger hits. The new rules also have an effect on players. For a professional who has played the sport a certain way his entire life, it is not easy to change habits, especially when they have gotten him to the largest stage of the game. A player having to change his technique is much easier said than done, and it can create a disadvantage for the player who excels in the newly outlawed practices. Some changes are made to protect the athletes, and some are made to create a product more desirable for fans. Sometimes the two interfere with each other. Never do the rules have absolutely zero impact on the game that athletes and fans have grown to love.

As science and knowledge progress, the opportunities for advancing the human body arise. Over time, we are able to witness the evolution of the athlete. This is due to better knowledge on what to put into your body, how to get the most out of your body, and how to recover from serious workouts or injuries. There have been many new treatments, supplements, and drugs to help any of the processes listed above. Another key component of the advancement of athletes is the constant drive for success and superiority. Advancements in technology have allowed athletes to become exponentially better over time. A prime example is looking at the world record for a one mile run. Back in 1865, the record was a time over four and a half minutes. Less than one hundred years later, the record had plummeted and reached the first ever sub 4 minute mile in 1954. The current world record was set in 1999 with a time of approximately three minutes and forty-three seconds (4). It is easy to see the correlation between time and athletic performance. However, a common belief is that the human body is quickly approaching its limits. If, and more likely when, this happens, it will be interesting to see if there is any new technology to help push through the physical barriers that hold back the barrier. With the advancement of technology helping to advance the athletes, it is beneficial for those involved. Although, it is beneficial, it also creates scenarios previously unvisited. With such improved athletes, new rules must be created on occasion to keep the boundaries of the game stable.

As previously mentioned, athletes and rules are constantly evolving and changing in the world of sports. Equipment is not an exception. Companies strive to produce the best option so players are willing to pay top dollar for their products. Depending on its purpose, a product must stand up to the competition in the performance areas, safety areas, or most likely, both. New technology allows the safety equipment to be stronger and lighter at the same time. This is where companies cannot sacrifice structural integrity for weight. For high performance equipment where protection is less necessary, structural integrity can be compromised. For instance, hockey sticks are much lighter and much more powerful than traditional wooden sticks thanks to their construction, but anybody who has watched a single professional game in a recent season has more than likely witnessed a few broken sticks. The tradeoff of improved performance for the possibility of the stick failing is one most players are willing to make. The newer, more advanced equipment is meant to help players perform at the levels they desire. As far as safety equipment goes, helmets are the main point of focus. Since head injuries are usually considered to be the most serious, there are companies trying to innovate new ways to better protect the head. From season to season and game to game in the major football and hockey leagues, new helmets with new technologies will make their debuts. Riddell, the largest helmet manufacturer in the nation, recently unveiled their latest model with goals to decrease concussions when the head is impacted. The design is heavily altered compared to previous models, and that innovation helps keep Riddell at the top of the chain when it comes to helmet manufacturers (5). These goals to protect players also tie into the rules that are created for protection of players, especially when it comes to serious head and brain injuries.

Perhaps the largest change sports have seen with the advancements in technology is that pertaining to money. With televisions, internet, radio, and other mediums being involved in the money making world of sports business, the amount of money thrown around has multiplied. Salary caps and contracts have become much larger, stadiums and arenas have become more lavish, and advertisers have become willing to spend astronomically to get their advertisement out there. In the MLB, which does not have an active salary cap, the average salary jumped by nearly $500,000 to a record high 3.8 million dollars. With 910 current MLB players, that is a lot of money, not even including the managers and other staff members. This is astonishing considering the average was as low as one million dollars as recently as 1992 (6). The boom of the internet, expansion and growth of the television and its networks, and new gadgets with internet capabilities have all led to larger monetary gains by the league. The increased monetary inflow led to increased salaries, especially in the big market cities. With such large salaries, the intents of the athletes can reasonably be questioned. Playing a sport for passion and for love is a complete different action than simply playing for a paycheck. Somewhat connected to the idea of self-representation over different mediums discussed by Julia Watson in “Studying the Digital Self”, most fans never personally interact with their favorite players. They don’t get to discover their motives for playing in a certain city, or even playing that sport. A hot topic for the MLB to consider is their neglect of a salary cap. A decently popular opinion with a strong backing is that the lack of a salary cap allows the teams with larger incomes to possess an unfair advantage over smaller clubs. Not only is there an unfair advantage, but the integrity of the game can also be damaged. A player’s loyalty to one team can dissipate when a larger offer from better funded club arrives. The money will never stop growing because the technology involved in sports is only growing faster.

Technology and sports have become intertwined. There are many positives that are the driving force behind this continuing integration of technology into sports, but there are also some negatives to consider. From video review and television to protective and performance equipment, the world of sports is ever-changing. Athletes also change with time, and so does the nature of the sports they play. With something as unique as sports, something that holds the power to unite people from all over with countless differences, it is important to not let these changes destroy the basics that billions have come to love. Change is important, but it is also dangerous.

(1)          Schiavenza, Matt. “Instant Replay’s Quiet Revolutionary.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 19 Jan. 2015. Web. 28 Apr. 2015.

(2)          “Has Expanded Replay Worked Well In Baseball? Here’s Our Call.”FiveThirtyEight. N.p., 12 Sept. 2014. Web. 28 Apr. 2015.

(3)          “Breaking down an Average NFL Game.” SportsonEarth.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2015.

(4)          “The World Record for the Mile Run.” The World Record for the Mile Run. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2015.

(5)          Avila, Jim, and Serena Marshall. “Riddell Unveils Overhauled New Football Helmet SpeedFlex.” ABC News. ABC News Network, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2015.

(6)          ESPN Internet Ventures, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2015.

Class Archive

When looking at the archive that this class has created throughout the semester, what really strikes me is that even though we have all received the same assignments the whole year, the range of topics that were chosen for each assignment could not have been more different from each other. For example, for the final project alone, one person is talking about bees, another is talking about hip hop, and another is writing their paper on concussions. Those topics could not be more different, yet they still explore a common theme: technological progress and its impact on how we live our lives.

This common thread is what amazes me the most about our archive – it’s incredible how many different perspectives can be used to illuminate the issues we face today. One assignment that I appreciated reading different opinions on was the one that focused on the Digital Self. It was a relatively narrow topic, which is why the different perspectives really were useful for me – they forced me to reconsider my views, and expand them. Specifically within that topic, the focus on the readings from “alone together” that some people had was something that I enjoyed reading about, mostly because it’s a common feeling sometimes (the feeling of being so connected yet so disconnected at the same time), and it was nice to see that there are common experiences between all of us, even though we do all have our own opinions and perspectives and ideas. For example, the post about the differing perspectives between cultures in respect to connection really made me think. As an American, I have pretty much come to accept that my parents want me to be continually available. I don’t speak to them every day, or even every week sometimes, but if I can’t get in contact with them for some reason or another, they tend to get very worried. However, the connection between parent and child through different cultures can be very different. In the blog post that I’m referring to, the Chinese norm was addressed. It makes me wonder if I would be different in terms of my independence if my parents were less concerned about connection. As it is, I tend to do what I feel is best, regardless of their input, but I wonder what extremes my current independence (my mother might say strong-willed bullheadedness) could reach if I had even less obligation.

Another thing that I find interesting about our archive is not even the depth or breadth overall, it’s the depth that can be found with just one post. For example, the post on mummification that was read aloud gave us a huge amount of knowledge on a topic that most of us (I assume) are not familiar with – I know that I’m not. This access to new knowledge is something that I feel is prevalent throughout our archive. There are so many different topics and different passions that we have somehow come up with a fairly comprehensive look at technology throughout time and throughout society. Considering this, I kind of wonder what would happen if we had another semester to write even more.

Something I Found from Free-to-play Games

During the spring break, I found that it was a great opportunity for me to relax. And one day I clicked the icon of the free-to-play game called Hearthstone accidentally. At first, I heard of this game from some friends, and began to play it since last spring. However, I didn’t consider too much about this game. As a casual player, it was just a casual card game for me. This time, I clicked the icon and opened this game, just chose to play “rank mode” which was a new thing for me. I thought I was familiar with this game so it would be fine if I started to have a try for this more professional mode. I thought I had several cards and pretty balanced card decks. Then I started the game.

But things weren’t as fine as what I expected. I met many players who had orange cards, the best category among all the cards. I reviewed what cards I had and realized it was hard for me to beat them. I tended to think whether Hearthstone was fair. Then I suddenly came up with a thought: it’s free-to-play ostensibly, but in fact it’s not. It’s just like some games on PCs and smartphones. Another typical example is Clash of Clans, it’s free and you can “get” it from Apple’s App Store, but in order to get more resources in this game as soon as possible, obviously, you need to pay by dollars. Now many games in App Store or Google Play are just have the same strategy. Another option to get more resources in this kind of games is spending more time than other players. So in all, if you need to gain more resources free-to-play games, you need to pay more, or just spend much more time than the average. So in the community of players, differences between players appeared. Players who pay more are just like some very rich people in the real world; players who spend much more time in conceiving strategies and accomplishing some rewarding tasks are just like people who have PhD degrees. As for others, they may pay for a little amount or not pay at all, and they are the average players.

I realized that even in a free-to-play games, for some reasons, there are various “social classes”. So why do many people still want to try so-called free-to-play games which should be called “pay-to-win” games? I tried to retrospect my experience to find an answer, and found that I just had many related experiences when I was in China. In China, there is an online free-to-play PC game called “Crossfire”. It’s a game like Call of Duty without high definition (in order to make it compatible with many old PCs in China). I used to play it several years ago, but as the releases of powerful and expensive items which broke the balance of this game, I quitted. Many players had these items and who didn’t pay for these expensive virtual items (over 40 dollars each) can hardly win a game. For these player who bought these expensive items, they might be satisfied by winning games. Indeed, not everyone can be rich or powerful in the real world, but by paying more, at least many people could get strong “digital selves” in the virtual world. As for other free-to-play games which offer other options like rewarding tasks for players who will pay much time instead of much money, they are also satisfied by winning games because they can believe that they are talented masters in the game. Free-to-play games created some sort of virtual societies, and there are also some “social classes” in them. But not as Twitter (celebrities can be more influential than common people), players can be stronger just by paying more money (for all free-to-play games) or time (for some of free-to-play games). Digital self can mismatch with the true self easily, that’s why I think people are glad to pay something for this kind of games. Pay much, then get satisfaction from winning and be in a high “social class” in a virtual world, why not pay? As a casual player in Hearthstone (play just for fun), that’s my explanation from my personal experience.

Work Cited

Smith, Sidonie, and Julia Watson. “Studying the Digital Self.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. N.p., 21 Apr. 2014. Web. 17 Feb. 2015.

Technology and Travel

If anyone has spoken to me in the past month, they probably know that I went to Spain for spring break. I went alone, to a city where I knew no one, and where they spoke a language other than English. Sure, I speak enough Spanish that I was able to talk to anyone I needed to and navigate through the country without problems, but it was still a foreign environment. (for the most part I had no problems – I did have the tendency to just choose foods at random in restaurants because the menu made no sense).

However, there was one aspect of my trip that was very prevalent: technology. Oftentimes when people talk about travel and its benefits, they talk about “disconnecting” and “getting away from it all”. For me, that feeling was very difficult to find, and apart from maybe one instance, I was probably connected for the entire week. If I needed wifi I could go to the nearest American chain restaurant, my phone still sent text messages, and it was usually either in my purse or in my hand, as I used it as my primary camera. Perhaps it was because I was in a big city, and if I were backpacking through the Alaskan wilderness things would be different, however, to me I feel that we have reached the point where connection is omnipresent – even if I were backpacking, I would probably bring something with me that had GPS. (And I would definitely not be alone).

With that experience, I want to be able to explore the connections that we have with technology and how it has affected travel for individuals. Do we even have to travel to see new places? We have instagram that gives us pictures of every place in the world. Do we even gain new experiences when we visit new places? Sure, they are new to us, but I know that I was not the first person to take a panorama of el Valle de los Caídos, and I definitely won’t be the last. Finally, is true disconnection, or at least a disconnection with our origins, even possible? I don’t know. I definitely wasn’t able to achieve it last week. Even considering the people that I met on my trip, the interaction with them was different as a result of technology. We didn’t just “meet up”, we used whatsapp (or wasap, as it is commonly referred to by Spanish-speakers) to make plans, facebook to make sure we keep “in touch” as our respective journeys end, and instagram to take pictures of the memories we were making. What happened to experiencing without recording? When we have to take a moment to take a picture of what we’re doing, it removes us from the act of eating, the act of talking, the act of seeing, the act of living. Technology has changed travel irrevocably. Sure, in some ways it facilitates exploration – 100 years ago I wouldn’t have been able to fly from Ohio to Madrid in less than 12 hours, but in other ways it hinders it. Maybe travelers would be better served by leaving the technology behind – not always, but sometimes it just might help us to access why we travel in the first place.

Digital Self

Social networks have completely changed human interaction and the way that society communicates as a whole. This came with some cultural adjustments as the medium in which the real life situations were shifting to the online world. This created some privacy and security issues on how people used the system and the information that arrived with it.

Through our social media we give away so much information, that we are not even aware of, that endangers other aspects of our life. From our social media a lot of other medias can be figured out, our email information, phone number, addresses, even your whereabouts at that particular instant. With pictures, statuses, comments, Internet searches are only some of the information and trails we leave behind. We don’t only share information about ourselves online but of our family and friends, so through us, not only is our information in danger but everyone else’s as well. So this made it a little bit weird to take our romantic relationships online, but with time it has proven to have some potential behind it.

As you can’t see who’s on the other side of the Internet and on the other computer people can distort their digital self to the extent they want or even make up completely inexistent people through these social media accounts. This phenomenon became so common in today’s world that a term for finding out about fake or mischievous accounts was invented. “Catfished: Having a fake Facebook profile, images and avatar in order to lure people to have romantic feelings. They are then catfished when the victim realizes the person they have fallen for via Facebook is not who they APPEAR to be.

These are the most extreme cases of being deceived on the Internet but in general a lot of people do minor tweaks to how they portray themselves in the social networks compared to their actual self. Today we have the power to highlight our virtues and positive qualities while we omit or hide some negative traits or details.

The digital self differs from the physical self in that online, a person can be whomever he or she chooses to be. The digital self offers a level of anonymity that cannot be replicated in real life. This can be good or bad. There are many activist groups, such as Anonymous, that rely on Internet anonymity in order to accomplish their goals. However, many instances of cyber bullying occur because the online anonymity gives bullies a mask to hide behind. In addition, anonymity allows many people to get away with illegal activities that they otherwise would not have been able to carry out had their identity been more visible.

One of the biggest issues in people developing an online persona is that oftentimes they are not who they say they are. Although this level of deception can be carried out in person, it is much easier to do this online, where all it takes is a fake name and picture to assume a new identity. Although some people use online anonymity for a positive cause, others can use it with deceptive or malicious intent.

“Fact Sheet 35: Social Networking Privacy: How to Be Safe, Secure and Social.” Social Networking Privacy: How to Be Safe, Secure and Social. Web. Feb. 2015. https://www.privacyrights.org/social-networking-privacy-how-be-safe-secure-and-social.

The Self-Representation of Facebook

There are few human needs greater than that of the need to stay connected.  As humans, we feel the need to stay up to date as to what is happening in the world as a whole and the microcosm of our own world, most notably our friends.  We want to know what is going on in their lives and, at the same time, update them as to what is going on in our lives.  One way in which this has become incredibly easier, thanks to the invention of the Internet, is Facebook.  We all know the story: Mark Zuckerberg created the site as a rudimentary dating site for college kids at Harvard, and it has now transformed into a social phenomenon that has changed how we gain information of the world and our friends exponentially.  Says Doug Gross of CNN, “Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection” (2014). (1). However, how has Facebook changed us; namely, how has it changed how we view ourselves and how we represent ourselves online?

Facebook allows us to create a virtual profile, or self-representation of ourselves.  These profiles include age, school, workplace, and interests, among other things.  Through these few facts about ourselves and the things we post, others are supposed to gain a clear picture of who we are; however, it is difficult to determine the authenticity of these claims.  According to Watson (p. 2), ” Although the claim to authenticity promises unmediated access to some “essence” or “truth,” virtual environments only underscore the poststructuralist critique that self-presentation is performative” (2014). (2)  People want to believe what others say about themselves, but they can often lie and fabricate part of their identities.

Facebook has, in a way, changed who we are as a society, both collectively and individually.  Through Facebook and other social media sites, we now self-critique ourselves very harshly.  This can stem from seeing others posts and thinking their lives are immensely better than ours, or from others posting hurtful things on our posts or “walls”.  Through Facebook, we can easily vent our feelings on a particular subject and hurt others if we want to, all from the safety of behind our computer screens.  This has led to people thinking people they can say whatever they want, and there will be no consequences whatsoever.

We all want to put our best image forward, and Facebook allows us to do this.  We can only highlight the good aspects of our personality and being in general, and are able to hide our negative qualities that would much more easily come out if we were to meet face-to-face with someone.  Watson expands on this further, saying, “…however malleable and interchangeable identities are online, they are qualified offline by the complexity of embodied social identities” (2014). (2) This has led to many people being less social in the real world, or being less of a “peoples-person”.

In conclusion, Facebook has led to many changes in our lives.  It has changed how we can inform others about ourselves and how we gain information.  It has changed how we live and think in so many ways “that it tweaks our emotions, for better or worse” (Gross, 2014). (1)

Works Cited

Gross, D. (2014, January 31). 5 ways Facebook changed us, for better and worse. Retrieved from: http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/31/tech/social-media/facebook-changes/

Smith, S.,Watson, J. (2014, April 21). Studying the digital self: Five analytical concepts that can guide scholarship on virtual lives. Retrieved from: http://chronicle.com/article/Studying-the-Digital-Self/145971/