National Edition

Blurred lines: How people's lives have become an online and offline experience

Published: Thursday, Dec. 19 2013 4:25 p.m. MST

She said it’s impossible to be completely in the digital space, since a person’s physical body will remain in the lived reality. Conversely, a person can live mostly in the “lived reality,” like if they “lived in a cabin the woods,” Juhasz said.

“Mostly we’re in the blended experience,” she said.

An example of the blended experience is seen when people quickly check their smartphone when they need quick information or directions, Juhasz said. A 2012 Google study showed 90 percent of people use multiple screens and devices at once to accomplish different tasks. For example, when watching TV, 75 percent of people are accessing media through another device, like a smartphone, the study said.

But living in a blended reality has its downsides, Juhasz said. The moments “when we can contemplate, think and deal with nature are less and less common,” she said. “We’re in a new form of human experience.”

Rutledge said learning how to use the Internet is comparable to learning to drive a car. “Once you’re on the Internet, it’s a public space,” she said. People should be cautious about what they put online and who they share their online worlds with, Rutledge said. Understanding what can happen in the digital world will help you better in the lived reality, she said.

“We need to make sure people understand what it means to be a good digital citizen,” Rutledge said.

Many youngsters are learning how to be “digital citizens,” Rutledge said. She said parents try to teach their kids about the Internet and allow them to use it because many of the tools available online are for creating things. “And kids love to make things,” Rutledge said.

Most teens and young people are using the Internet for social media, according to Pew, which reported in a 2011 survey that 80 percent of those ages 12 to 17 use the Internet for social media.

But the heavy amount of social media use brings about another problem, Hains said.

“I think where I have the greatest concern about the blurring between online and offline is bullying in schools,” she said.

She said if a student was bullied in school, “the bullying stayed at school and the home was a haven.” But now bullying has migrated into the digital world, and it’s something few teachers and educators can do anything about, Hains said.

“We haven’t, as a society, caught up to that yet,” she said.

Technology evolving now

Hains said dealing with the long-term effects of technology’s growth is the next step for society. She said people will eventually have to understand that the talks, arguments and moments they have online will have an impact on their everyday life. Your offline and online lives affect each other simultaneously, she said.

“We reached the next stage in our communications evolution,” Hains said.

And there’s no going back, Juhasz said. Products we buy — like coats, cars and comestibles — will soon have digital information, she said. This is already happening by Google developing cars that drive themselves, as the computers inside the vehicle can speak to each other and don’t need human help, Juhasz said.

“That’s not even the future,” she said. “That’s now.”

But not everyone will be accepting of these changes.

“You might see a backlash from people looking to completely unplug,” Juhasz said. She said that many of these “changes in our culture [are] changes about what it means to be human. We shouldn’t just accept these changes: we need to think critically about them.”

Email: hscribner@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @hscribner

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