By: William Whitehurst
Society has the tendency to go through cycles of changes based on people’s shared values, ideas, attitudes, and assumptions. These cycles of change come with the introduction of new laws, trends, and technologies. A time period can be analyzed by the things that a society holds at a high value. Before this fast-paced sharing of information and vast amounts of technology, people used to build relationships, whether business or personal, through face-to-face communication. The main things they valued included family and loyalty. Today, it is clear that technology and reputation are the two things that our society values the most. Computers, cell phones, and tablets rule the virtual world and make it easy to communicate over multiple platforms. Through these devices, coupled with social media, one is always represented online in some way, shape, or form. Social media has become the biggest platform for personal expression and it is has become all too easy to share personal information. With dozens of social media sites and even more devices, it has become a daily routine for one to post their day-to-day activities. The reason for sharing such personal information in abundance is trying to keep or build one’s own reputation, which is an attitude that is shared by many people. In fact, regardless if whether one is rich or poor, keeping one’s reputation is something that is universally valued. Jackie Siegel can certainly attest to this. Even when her family was going through a rough time, she would still try to keep up the appearance that nothing was wrong. She did this to keep her and her family’s reputation in tact (Queen of Versailles). Today’s society has a need for public gratification and acceptance, and will go through great lengths to achieve that.
The items I selected show us that people are becoming more introverted due to the many advancements in technologies. The steady decline of face-to-face communication is an unforeseen consequence of these new technologies. However, for the time being, the positives outweigh the negatives and technology keeps our society plugged into the outside world at all times. Though it seems that we are straying away from traditional ways of living and communicating, people still value certain practices and traditions. This is why the third item I choose is so different from the first two, yet just as important. As Cvetkovich states, “In insisting on the value of apparently marginal or ephemeral materials, the collectors of gay and lesbian archives propose that affects — associated with nostalgia, personal memory, fantasy, and trauma — make a document significant” (Cvetkovich 112). The meaningful message of this quote is to highlight the fact that anything that causes someone joy, pain, or any type of significant emotion, is deemed as a significant item. This is interesting because although we are all guilty of living in the moment and trying to stay up to date with everything that is relevant, we all as a society still tend to share some traditional values from time to time. We all have that one old, worn, or torn item that is special to us for our own reasons. I think that this is important for everyone in a society to have because it keeps one level-headed and down to earth, just like the Hershey bar did for David Siegel (Queen of Versailles). No matter how advanced the world becomes or how many times our society will change, there will always be an old childhood item that keeps a little tradition sprinkled into our ever-growing technological world.
I chose this item because it is the door into the digital and virtual universe. A computer not only allow you to delve into the World Wide Web, but it also allows you to store any and all documents, music, movies, pictures, and files that you could ever need. This machine is one of the most important items that anyone could have in this day and age. Owning a computer has endless advantages and will give you access to mostly anything you want to find. This is important in a world where information is being created and processed at an exponential level. The main thing that choosing this item highlights is the fact that our society has an intense need for information and being up to date and in the know.
Today, it has become almost impossible to find a person that does not have a cell phone. The reason for this is because land lines have become a thing of the past and the primary means of communication is through the use of a cellular device. This, in turn, tells us that people need a device that they can have with them at all times to stay in touch with the outside world. There is a massive epidemic of fear of missing out and it has effected a majority of the world.
I chose this necklace because it is a very important item to me. It represents who I am and brings me back to my childhood every time I look at it. This necklace was given to me as a baby by my grandmother. I have cherished and taken care of this necklace for as long as I can remember. Every single person has such an item that brings them back to when they first received it or to whom it was that gave it to them. Society cherishes personal items that have meaning and place special value onto things that they feel are important to them. This is one of the very few things that has remained unchanged in our society. This is due to tradition and following in the footsteps of our elders.
This post was completed as part of an assignment interpreting the “material culture” of home, and how objects, keepsakes, and ephemera from our domestic lives contribute to our social identities. For additional information on the assignment, please visit: https://americanstudiesmediacultureprogram.wordpress.com/the-concept-of-home-spring-2014-the-archeology-of-home/