QCQ 5 – Baym

QCQ for “Making new media make sense”

by Nancy K. Baym


“In US News & World Report, Neal Postman offered a futuristic scenario that summarized the dystopian fears concisely:

Public life will have disappeared because we did not see, in time to reverse the process, that our dazzling technologies were privatizing almost all social activities…. We replaced meeting friends with the video telephone and electronic mail…We became afraid of real people and eventually forgot how to behave in public places… (1993)” (45). 


I hesitated to add this as my QCQ quote until I had finished the reading just to make sure that Baym didn’t counter it with a more convincing argument, but I found that she did not. This quote is precisely one of the biggest concerns that I have with social media, personally. I have seen not only this happening with my close friends and family, but with myself as well. 

Surprisingly to some, I do remember a time when I lived without smartphones in my life. Yes, we had a computer when I was really little, but it was huge and all I remember is that it always screamed “You’ve got mail!” whenever my parents received an email. I remember the day my parents got shiny new Motorola flip phones, my mom’s silver and my dad’s red, and how they were so excited to have them. I also remember when my mom and dad got iPhone 3Gs, and all I really was excited for was to play the Paper Toss game and to be able to play an online game of pool in separate rooms. That was so exciting.

Then I got my first flip phone, then one of the sliding keyboard ones, and eventually going into 8th grade I got an iPhone 4G. That’s when I changed. I was on it so much that my parents had to restrict it, and I quickly became addicted to offline socialization (social media). When my parents took it away I was devastated. It was only recently that I realized the damage this did to me, which I am now seeing happen to my younger sister as well. 

I wasn’t the same after that. At this fragile time in the development of my brain, I became obsessed with social media. Not the interest-driven kind, but the friend-ship-driven one. I started secluding myself from others and learning to live my social life through my phone. It was not until recently that I deleted most social media and started living in the present and started to actually learn to form real relationships and socialize comfortably in public places.

Mine may have been a rather extreme case, but it can be seen even to a less degree in the day-to-day world. When people get uncomfortable or don’t want to talk to others, they look down at their phones. Almost every college student leaving class has their phone in their hand. When teachers give 5-minute breaks, the first thing students do is look at their phones most of the time. People take photos when they’re out solely to post on Instagram or Snapchat. We may not have completely replaced social interactions, but it definitely has diminished since the rise of social media, and I think that this is a very sad, very real problem.


Do you think it is a real threat that eventually social media and cell phone use will lead us to live mostly online? If so, why? If not, what will happen?