Eric Haynes/Courier Professor Trisha Herrera is giving a seminar called ‘Social Media as a Monster: Interpreting Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in Our Digital Age’ in the Circadian on Thursday, May 10, 2018. The seminar is in part of celebrating the 200th anniversary of Shelley’s novel.
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The platform descended, away from the madness that called from the stormy night above. On a cold, steel bed motionless, lied a creation no one would have thought could have ever been in existence.

The covers were pulled away and its body began to twitch. What a monster we have created, but not the monster that one would think. No, this monster lives in the 21st century, and it’s name is social media.

PCC’s Honors program and literary magazine, Inscape, recently collaborated to create a series of seminars that celebrated the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” managed by English professor, Robert Oventile. Trisha Herrera, another English professor, gave her presentation “Social Media as Monster: Interpreting Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in our Digital Age,” last Thursday which highlighted over the many similarities and potential issues that could be seen when analyzing social media under Frankenstein’s light.

Students gathered around and took seats, then whipped out their laptops, tablets and notepads in order to participate within this engaged learning environment. Using a combination of philosophy with quotes taken from popular films/shows, pop culture was often used to demonstrate any major points.

For example, during the presentation, the following quote was displayed,“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should,” Dr. Ian Malcom (Jeff Goldblum) said in “Jurassic Park.”

Modern examples like these showed the staying power that this book still holds across modern media. But why is this the case, and in regards to social media, how does it resemble a monster? Herrera described this throughout her presentation.

She explained that just like social media, the monster had a father who built them from scratch, but once they came alive, they became horrified with their creation to the point of leaving them without a guide. Made from parts scattered from all sorts of places, it was difficult for the monster to understand what it was, let alone to know what it’s purpose could be.

She continued that in relation, we as human beings have been “bad dads” to this creation of ours. Those who started the foundations for what would become social media likely didn’t predict how it would be used today. Such examples spanned from “online bullying” to issues with “anonymity;” such are the ways that this monster gets taken advantage of.

To Professor Herrera, topics/discussions like these are important to understand for they reoccur over long periods of time.

“I think that whenever you have a text that deals with monsters, there’s a good chance that it’s going to stand the test of time,” Herrera said. “We are usually dealing with things that are repressed in society [like] our anxieties or what we fear…and [we] play that out through the monsters.”

Omar Ibnoujala, an English honors student, attested to this sentiment.

“It did make sense to me how social media is the Frankenstein of our society; it is the bad and the good, it’s ever-changing and so dynamic,” said Ibnoujala. “It’s kind of like it takes a life of its own self, and in a sense it’s fascinating.”

Though Herrera and Ibnoujala believed this novel’s longevity is without question, the negative implications over whether being a monster should be considered negative at all was argued by one. Alexis Corine McGowan, another English honors student, believed that the monster, just like social media, is not bad but is just perceived wrong.

“Because [the monster] is different looking than other humans, [they] perceive him as disgusting, ugly, weird, creepy or anything that has a negative meaning to it, whereas they should instead talk to him,” McGowan said.

Being a large supporter of technology and social media, McGowan pointed out how she has had more “positive experiences” with people on social media than real life. For her, social media has allowed for those of similar interests to communicate more fluently.

Regardless for whether or not social media could be defined as a monster and for what implications that could spell out, Professor Herrera was happy enough knowing that the book fulfilled its role as an extensive social commentary that could keep students engaged.

“My favorite thing about the book is that it has a lot of different levels,” Herrera said, as she paused to explain.

“We can talk about existential questions about life, who we are, what it means to be human, and we can talk about our fears of technology and deal with these things.”

 

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