My phone has become recurrent entity in my daily-life. I rely on it as a means of communication between myself and friends, as an alarm clock to arouse me in the morning, and, being terrible with remembering how to get across town, as a guide to aid me in my travels around Tampa and the surrounding area. I have become reliant on this technology to stimulate my daily life. In A Cyborg Manifesto, Haraway mentions that “The boundary between physical and nonphysical is very imprecise” (Haraway, 1984), we have trouble discerning what is real and what is not. I have realized that I have trouble delineating between what is physical and nonphysical around me through the lens of my phone.
My phone has become a life-line. Without it, I am isolated and lost, unsure of what to do or where to go. Humans have become an unreliable source of information that cannot be depended upon. Only my phone has been consistent, even though it is people who input the information and configure the programs that allow me to communicate and receive direction. Those people have become fellow cyborgs, only visible through the lens that is my screen, thus instilling a sense of trust between common ground. My phone allows me to split my life between what Haraway would refer to as material and ideal. The online persona that I have adopted is gregarious towards others and unafraid to engage in conversation. My ideal, this unreserved identity, exists in the nonphysical realm of existence.
Based on the application that I am using, my identity evolves. On Twitter, I am cheeky and sarcastic, my thoughts expressed in “tweets” consisting of one hundred and forty characters or less. Facebook is meant for family to observe my daily life, so updates on school and accomplishments can be found there. Instagram exhibits my life through a lens of the ideal, while Snapchat shows the unfiltered observations of my life. Messenger and WhatsApp are sanctioned for communication with friends over trivial matters.
This realm of communication has become so integrated with my physical interactions, that I have found that I have trouble connecting my physical and nonphysical relations. As with many others, I rely on social media to communicate with my peers when I cannot be with them in a corporeal matter. What occurred the other day, however, has expressed the complexity that surrounds my cyborg nature.
While sitting in the dining hall with a group of friends, I was participating in a group conversation on WhatsApp about shoes that had one of the girls in the group hadn’t ordered but were sent to her. She was asking another girl at our table if she would want those shoes, as they would not fit her feet. After a couple of minutes of conversation on the group chat, I realized that no one at the table was speaking, they were all on their phones, paying attention to the group chat. It is not as if most the people in the group chat were not present, they were. Out of the five people in the group chat, one was not present, and she was not relevant to the conversation. We could have easily had the conversation face-to-face, as we were all sitting within ten feet of each other, but we have come to rely on this alternative means of communication and depend upon it for our social interactions. It did not appear to strike any of the others that it was odd that we were conversing on an online forum even though we were physically next to each other.
I presented this to the table to see what their reactions would be when this cognizance was brought to the surface. At first, they were surprised. They hadn’t made the connection that all representatives of the conversation were present, and there was no reason to not discuss this topic among others, especially when all involved were in the group chat. Their cyborg nature had blurred the lines of physical and not to where it was difficult to determine when they were in reality, or subsisting in the realm of nonexistence.
More so, however, is that we cannot blame technology for turning us into the natural cyborgs that we are today. Haraway believes that cyborgs “…are the illegitimate offspring of militarism and patriarchal capitalism…illegitimate offspring are often exceedingly unfaithful to their origins.” (Haraway, A Cyborg Manifesto, 1984). She is stating that cyborgs will eventually divert from their intended purpose, but I believe that to become a cyborg in the first place, we must abandon our own origin. Technology in this case has not diverted from its intended purpose, but it can be argued that by becoming cyborgs, we have diverted from ours. Although I understand where Haraway arrives at her assumption, I believe that we have designed our ideals to come in line with the cyborg-like nature that has been afforded to us. Thinking biblically, there is no mention of communication occurring over a server that was designed by humans, there is only angelic and physical communication. So, by introducing this new method of communication, aren’t we abandoning our original direction, thereby fulfilling the destiny of the cyborg?
Haraway, D. (1984). A Cyborg Manifesto.