Cover Design by Hannah Lee
We live in a technology-driven world. As much as we don’t like to admit it, our lives revolve around the technology we use, whether that means spending hours perfecting our Instagram posts or experimenting with nifty gadgets. Technology has become such a dominating factor in our lives that we rarely stop and reflect upon reasons why we use and rely on these inanimate objects.
What’s our relationship with technology? Maybe it’s how we express ourselves through Bitmojis, or how we edit our Instagram photos. Maybe it’s our dive into virtual reality, or that we allow technology to control even the most personal aspects of our lives.
This question may never be truly answered in the ever-changing contemporary world, but by investigating the many aspects of our life that are impacted by technology, we’re just getting a little bit closer.
With The Oculus Rift reinventing virtual reality headsets, other companies like Google and Playstation follow in its footsteps, pushing virtual reality systems into the gaming market. We had MVHS students and staff try a less-expensive alternative of virtual reality headsets to get their opinion on the future of VR.
She’s at the mall, shopping with her friends. They stroll from store to store, chatting happily and trying on clothing.
“Let’s take a photo!” Her friends gather around and pose, smiling and laughing as they take pictures. As they disperse, she looks at the photo and a dozen thoughts fill her mind.
I like this picture, but my left eye is higher than my right eye. My waist could be thinner, and my butt could be bigger. Why do I have so much acne? It’s alright; I’ll just do some light editing and post it on Instagram.
Senior Irene McNelis uses Facetune, a photo-editing app, for her Instagram photos. She first downloaded the app the summer before her freshman year due to the severity of her acne. At first, she would only smooth her skin and darken her eyes.
As she continued editing her photos, she began changing other aspects as well: reshaping her body, making her hair shinier and whitening her teeth.
“When you’re standing at certain angles, maybe you look a little bit chubby or your face just looks a little bit off,” McNelis said. “It’s not something where you think you’re ugly. It just enhances the beauty of the photo that you already have. It can take a photo that is really good except for just one thing, and you can fix that [one thing] and you can take it out.”
For McNelis, Facetune allows her to worry less about her appearance when taking photos, as she is reassured by knowing that she can retouch her photos later. When comparing her mindset before and after downloading the app, she sees a clear difference in her approach to posing in front of the camera.
“I used to be really nervous whenever someone would take a photo of me for a family [gathering],” McNelis said. “There [are] so many different things and it would make me so nervous to take photos that it wasn’t even fun for me. I’m not a fat person, but from a certain angle you can look a little bit fat or be afraid to eat right before you might be taking photos. It’s kind of liberating.”
Junior Kirtana Ummethala has been taking photos professionally for a year, and has an Instagram account “picsbykirtana” for the purpose of showcasing her photography. On her account, she shares her photos before and after editing, emphasizing the contrast between the two.
“Half of [photography] is taking the photo, but half of it is making the photo come to life in some form of editing,” Ummethala said. “However, I don’t think that augmenting people’s body shapes is okay because you have to stay true to the person. [If] the person that I’m shooting has a special kind of characteristic, when I edit, I would really bring that out.”
Senior Afrah Ali, who started taking photos her freshman year, agrees that editing is a crucial aspect of photography, adding that editing can be an outlet for a photographer’s creativity.
“[Editing is] the most important part of photography itself,” Ali said. “Ten different people could take the exact same picture, but it’s how they edit it that sets the picture apart and makes it more individualized. In terms of editing models, I do think that it’s necessary because the photographer should make their images fit their own personal aesthetic and their own personal style.”
In Ali’s experience, having good communication with the model is the most important aspect of editing a photo in order to fit the preferences of both the photographer and the model. She believes that there isn’t a set limit for editing – it is simply dependent on the model’s comfort level.
“Once, I took a direct portrait of one of my acquaintances, and I edited her skin because it was such a direct portrait,” Ali said. “I sent her back the picture and she was like ‘I think this is too heavily edited. Could you lessen it?’ So I lessened it. I kept in touch with her and kept sending her back the versions of the images I was editing. I just made it until she was happy with it, and until I was happy with it.”
As for self-editing apps, Ali supports those who use them and feels that editing photos is justified if it makes an individual happy.
“I think if you’re the one who wants to edit your own body, then it should be fine because you want to make yourself look good in front of a camera,” Ali said. “But I don’t think it’s okay for other people to do that for you without your consent. I think if I was to take a picture of the model who wanted me to edit her body or something about them, I would do it because she would want me to do it.”
Ummethala feels more strongly about self-editing, believing it to be an alteration of an individual’s true self. Although she supports lightly editing a picture to highlight characteristics an individual already has, she specifically opposes reshaping and changing features to exaggerate them.
“I feel like [seeing severely edited photos] makes people feel upset about themselves,” Ummethala said. “What you see online, and seeing edited celebrities, it gives you a distorted perception of what’s real and what’s not. I really feel that photographers should never try and take away someone’s features, because that’s not staying true to who they are.”
McNelis, on the other hand, understands why many people, particularly celebrities, may feel pressured to edit their photos and doesn’t find fault within their reasoning.
“From certain angles, you just don’t look as good,” McNelis said. “That doesn’t mean the entire photo needs to be out there with people potentially saying bad things just because of an angle. To edit it to more conform to how you look realistically, or just to fix any insecurities you have, I don’t see anything wrong with that.”
Ali admits that although editing may have a negative effect on people’s self-esteem, it has become part of modern culture and is a driving force within social media.
“Now, [editing] is so widespread and so many people edit the models to make them look perfect, that I think it’s hard to go back from that,” Ali said. “If you see a picture of Kendall Jenner, everyone expects it to be edited and that’s what they appreciate about it. It’s that the edited perfection is what they’re liking. It’s not good, but it’s reached a point where it’s hard to go back from it.”
McNelis acknowledges that there is a negative stigma surrounding editing and reshaping in photos, but has learned to look past it. Her confidence has dramatically increased since she has started editing her photos, and has kept her motivated to continue posting edited photos on social media.
“When I first started using [Facetune] I didn’t tell anyone, because I wanted people to actually think that my skin is flawless,” McNelis said. “Now, I’m not shy about telling people that I edit my photos because I think it’s silly that there is this stigma. I can make myself look better later, look more presentable.”
Looking back at her first few edited photos, McNelis takes pride in how much she has improved her editing skills. According to her, using Facetune and other editing apps have not only allowed her to upload higher-quality photos, but have also made her more content and happy with her body.
“Since [pictures are] so permanent on Instagram, you really want to put out your best foot,” McNelis said. “I just think [editing] allows me to be a lot more happy when I’m taking photos with other people because I know that I don’t have to look perfect.”
Facebook, Youtube, Amazon and the New York Times are all internet kings that serve their own purposes. Facebook connects us with the rest of the world, Youtube provides us with entertaining videos, Amazon improves the online shopping experience and the New York Times is one of the largest sources of news. But is there a site that combines the purposes of all of these websites into one?
In 2005, University of Virginia roommates Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian founded Reddit. Reddit is an informative, entertaining web space that has been deemed the “front page of the internet.” Reddit is a massive discussion hub that allows people to share anything they want. It is made unique by over one million subreddits that each cover a different subject in which posts are made accordingly.
Until ninth grade, I did not know much about Reddit. Obviously, I had heard of it, but I wasn’t familiar with its purpose. Scrolling through the front pages of Reddit, I initially thought the interface was bland and immediately went back to Youtube. Eventually, however, you get bored of watching the same old videos, so I decided to give Reddit a shot.
As I scrolled through, this time with an open mind, one of the headlines caught my eye: “I am Gordon Ramsay. AMA.” Initially, I thought this was fake as I questioned why someone as busy as Gordon Ramsay would be answering questions from Reddit users. But I clicked on it and there it was, random people querying the Gordon Ramsay about practically anything. Soon I learned that on this subreddit “iAMA,” some of the most famous people we know answer questions of regular people. Bill Gates, Bernie Sanders, Elon Musk and even Barack Obama have answered questions from people on Reddit.
This experience changed my outlook on the Reddit experience and soon, I became more active on the website, as I came upon more hysterical and informative subreddits and discussions. Reddit is one of the more unique websites on the internet. Reddit isn’t just a social media platform, online news source or online forum – it’s the “front page of the internet.”
For those who have never used Reddit, here’s a quick guide to enjoy the Reddit experience.
Subreddits for fun:
AskReddit is one of Reddit’s massive forums in which people ask questions about anything, whether they be hypothetical or personal.
This is one of the more useful discussions. Here, people discuss interesting but not well-known websites. One of the most interesting websites mentioned analyzes reviews from websites like Amazon, Yelp and TripAdvisor and tells you if they’re reliable.
You won’t find questions like these anywhere else but on Reddit. Questions like these generate thoughts that swirl your mind.
But of course, there are always some witty responses that are fun to read.
To me, questions like these are the most interesting. People from all over the world share their personal experiences and unique stories.
It’s unlikely you’d hear stories like this anywhere else.
ShowerThoughts shares the thoughts people randomly have while going through their day.
Here are some of the best:
This subreddit is what separates Reddit from almost every social media platform. You may see GIFs while scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, but it is simply amazing that there’s an entire subreddit with just GIFs on Reddit.
Subreddits for help and instruction:
We’ve heard the phrase, “Learn something new everyday,” but do we ever put this into action? The “todayilearned” subreddit is a hub of fun facts, in which people share something interesting they learned that day.
I didn’t learn this in history.
Not every big business is in it for the money.
For all the “Parks and Recreation” fans out there.
Here, biological, mathematical, philosophical or even economical concepts are explained in the most simple, yet informative way.
The news is from a variety of publications. It isn’t isolated through one website.
The news can be filtered depending on the topic it’s covering.
Every night, my room is filled with a haze of green from the fairy lights that hang from my walls, turning red to yellow and purple to brown. For a while, it’s comforting, but as my eyelids become heavier, the green begins to hurt, and I turn towards the little black circle on my nightstand. “Alexa, turn off G’s room lights.”
I love my Amazon Echo Dot. It encourages me to be my lazy self. Alexa doesn’t make me get up to turn off the lights or the fan, she lowers the projector screen in the home theater and she reads recipes aloud so I don’t get flour all over my laptop. She reads me books when I’m sick, blasts music so I can scream and dance when I’m home alone, tells me the time, weather and news and even plays games like “Guess the Character” or “Song Quiz.” She can also disarm my home’s security system and unlock the door to the garage by hearing a few simple verbal commands.
My dad’s phone holds even more power. On top of doing everything Alexa can do, it can view and control the security cameras installed around the house, the temperature, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, the Neato-O vacuum and open the garage door from miles away, all with just the touch of a button.
From Apple watches on my friends’ wrists to Google self-driving cars gliding past me on the road to experimental food delivery robots crossing the streets of Palo Alto, I see the highest forms of modernization all around me ; after all, I live in Silicon Valley. But there’s something about a home that can be completely controlled by a single piece of technology — a “smart” home, my home — that unsettles me.
I may just be paranoid from watching one too many episodes of “Criminal Minds,” but it’s terrifying that access to my home is granted through a slick black device or an Echo Dot. It’s not just that my dad’s phone could easily get stolen, and whoever has it would be holding a free pass into my house. It’s not just that every smart home system can be hacked into (remember, Silicon Valley). I’m scared that we have grown dependent on technology for the smallest of comforts and become complacent with the security of our homes.
When I go to stay-away camps, I find myself turning to Alexa for the weather, for alarms and to turn off the lights — and when she isn’t there, I feel a little lost for a second, before I realize that there are other ways to get things done. I’m so used to telling Alexa to remind me of it that simply taking my phone out and making a list of things to do in the Notes app seems archaic and time-consuming.
I’m not going to be getting up from the comfort of my bed to turn off my lights any time soon. But there are some things I can get up for — arming our house, turning a lock. I don’t want to depend on a phone to put the garage door down as we drive away when my precious dog Jackie is still alone in the house, or to make sure our house is secure as we go to sleep. I trust Alexa not to mess up my cooking, to turn off the lights and play the music I like, but I don’t trust her with my life. And you shouldn’t either.