In 2003, Mark Zuckerberg co-created a new definition for connectivity in his Harvard dorm room–He called it Facebook. He gave “people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.” Today, 500 million users worldwide are connected via this open world—the social networking site, Facebook. Twitter connects over 100 million users and over 200 million are tied through MySpace. There are only 308.4 million citizens living in the United States. There are more users connected to Facebook than there are citizens in America.
Society, through social networking sites, has created a new way of maintaining and creating relationships—of staying connected and it all takes place online. It’s casual. Connectivity and access to social networks are simply part of life. We do not even recognize the dependency we have on technology and the amount of time we dedicate to these social networking sites or to what extent it has taken the place of our everyday actions—like saying hello on someone’s Facebook wall as opposed to giving that someone, your mother, a call. We surrender ourselves to technology. We let machines do what we use to with our hands and with our voice. Now, we express ourselves in 140 characters or less. We exist in two parts—in person and online. It’s simple. You are not connected if you are not online. This notion of connectivity is thoroughly illustrated in “Our Connected World,” an editorial cartoon by David Horsey published April 09, 2009. Horsey’s opinion on the impact of social networking sites, like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace is portrayed thoroughly through his rhetorical use of language, sarcasm, and humor in the cartoon’s dialogue. Visually, through the use of contrasting colors, a sepia tone background and variations of the backgrounds, Horsey brings to light the effects of “our connected world” — the effects that society so easily misses because technology is slick. We depend so deeply on technology to do the thinking for us that we rarely step back and consider what we think of technology, like Horsey illustrates his opinion in his cartoon.
In the cartoon, a young man is yelling at a woman wondering where she had been. He checked his email, his text messages, her blog, her Facebook and he just couldn’t find her. For the five minutes that her Twitter was idle, she was. As if she only existed online, Horsey recognizes that effect of social networking sites and illustrates that not only in his character’s conversation, but also in the background. The top portion of the cartoon is white. It’s blank. It represents the sad fact that she didn’t exist until he checked her twitter. Only after he saw that she tweeted her whereabouts did that background come into the cartoon. The illustration reflects a social perception that if you are not on Facebook, you do not exist — “It’s like you fell off the face of the earth!” Our dependence on this Facebook created state of being connected has changed that “face of the earth” into status updates on your wall, tweets, emails and blog posts. Social networking sites are the new face of the earth. They are the face of what it means to be connected.
Horsey’s use of a sepia tone background could simply represent his desire to have the characters stand out, or maybe it plays a role much deeper. The use of sepia tone in the illustration may symbolize the notion that the world around us is dull without technology. Color represents life and life in this editorial cartoon only exists online—when the characters are connected. The device they are using to connect online is in full color, but the world around them is pale. Horsey’s use of color is a part of his rhetorical strategy—it supports the claim he illustrates.
Online, we create this digital presence that acts as an extension of us—sometimes as a surrogate to our physical capabilities. Though the message is the same, the medium is different. Tweets have replaced the common handshake. An email has taken the place of a simple phone call and relationships are not official until updated on Facebook. In the case of Horsey’s cartoon, instead of telling her friend where she went, she tweeted it. It’s simple, but it represents a complex theory. These prominent social networking sites have redefined us—our way connecting to one another and communicating with each other.
Horsey was precise in his rhetorical strategy for this cartoon. He wanted to prove a point and he chose his words with determination. The woman tweeted, “Upstairs. Going to the bathroom. Be back in 5.” Horsey gave her those words for a reason. He gave her the simplest activity—to depict the idea that we, as a society, use technology in every aspect of our life. By being connected, we must tell the world everything that we are doing, when we are doing it—even when it is just simply going to the bathroom. Knowing what other people in your social network are doing is a captivating feature of social networking sites. It is connectivity.
More than 500 million users are connected online, and the characters in Horsey’s cartoon represent those 500 million social networked consumers. Technology consumes us. It is starting to replace us. It does our work for us and we give it permission to. Society has become Google-educated and Facebook dependent. We rely on Facebook notifications and Twitter’s trending topics to communicate—to connect with our social network. When users create an online profile, upon hitting log on, we submit our control to technology—our voice to html text and status updates. Our connected world is an online one. It grays out the rest of our life—our background becomes sepia tone and we depend on these social networking sites to exist for us. You’re not connected if you are not online. “It’s like you fell off the face of the earth!” Facebook created a new definition for connectivity. Twitter, email and MySpace redefined communication. It’s easy.