What does
time travel worm holes, current news, and the realization that most of us can’t
actually predict the future have in common? This essay, along with a few other
things. Long Divison by Kiese Laymon
is science fiction novella, starting off with teenagers in 2013 post-Katrina
rural Mississippi. In addition to the time travel, it is book-within-a-book
story, featuring some of the same characters in multiple time periods. I will
be discussing what recurrent themes run rampant through Long Division, and mainly how media can shape and support society,
including individuals and the future. I will begin my discussion with
socialization and cultivation theories, along with the consequences and why all
these questions, along with the book, matters in the long run for the future.

Socialization theory believes that peer
groups, rather than parents, influences personality and behavior when
individual’s mature. Teenagers spend more time with
peers than with parents. Therefore, peer groups have stronger correlations with
personality development than parental figures do. For example, twins whose
genetic makeup are identical, will vary in personality because they have
different groups of friends, not because their parents raised them differently.
Let’s take
the characters in Long Division, and
how their personalities, over time, change with their experiences with each
other. Some mature, being less volatile and more respectful, while others go
the opposite way. Even one character’s grandmother remarks in this change in them
in a later part of the book. (Tome) Peer pressure occurs when the individual
experiences implicit or explicit persuasion to adopt similar values, beliefs,
and goals, or to participate in the same activities as those in the peer group.
The influence of peer pressure is usually concentrated in relation to the relative
influence of the family or an individual. The level of peer influence surges
with age, and resistance to peer influence often declines as the child gains
independence, yet has not fully formed an independent identity. One study in
particular confirms other research findings that the values of the peer group
with whom the student spends the most time are a stronger factor in their level
of academic success than the values, attitudes, and support provided by the
family. Compared to others, students whose families were not especially
supportive but who spent time with an academically oriented peer group were
successful, while those students whose families stressed academics but who
spent time with peers whose orientation was not academic performed less well. The
peer pressure study contradicts prevailing ideas about the influence of
families on the success of racial and cultural minorities. For example, African
American students, whose families tended to be highly involved in and
supportive of education, were subjected to intense peer pressure not to perform
academically. Again, peer group values and attitudes influence, more strongly
than do family values, the level of teenage drug use. Regardless of the
parenting style, peer pressure also influences the degree to which children conform
to expected roles. In order to achieve this balance, rather than attempting to
minimize peer influence, families and schools must provide strong alternative
beliefs, patterns of behavior, and encourage formation of peer groups that
engage in positive activities. Having a higher number of friends with more risk
behaviors also emerges as a factor with a high impact in involvement in risk
activities, which is in line with several studies that have identified peers as
the variable with the greatest influence in the involvement in such actions. Taking
into account that adolescents seem to choose to be less involved in risk
behaviors when they have friends that are not involved in risk behaviors;
although peers’ influence is indirectly related, it is very important for
adolescents’ health and well-being, as suggested in other studies with similar
results. As a result, friends that have a higher involvement in risk behaviors have
a higher probability in influencing negatively their peers; whilst friends that
have more protective behaviors and more easiness in communicating, strengthened
by friendships with quality have higher probability of influencing positively
their peers.}

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Cultivation
theory states that the more time people spend on social media, the more likely
they are to believe social reality aligns with reality portrayed and
advertised. It also tackles the long-term effects of television/social media on
consumers. The theory proposes that the danger of social media lies in its
ability to shape people’s moral values and general beliefs. Social Media can,
through stereotypical and national images of a group or people, create a mental
image in the mind of the individual about “the other”. What the viewer sees on the screen becomes
the basis of a mental image that the individual forms about the social
practical status of values, population characteristics, and the various
cultural standards common by the society’s classes, categories, and all kinds of the
content it presents, and not restricted to “cultural programs”, which
refer to programs that deal with art, science, and literature. Conventional
program division into news, cultural, entertainment, educational, children,
woman, etc., is used only to facilitate management or research. Gerbner says
that cultivation is some sort of indiscriminate learning that results from the
buildup of exposure to media. ( Mosharafa ) There are social norms and identity,
beliefs and social change, especially relating to growing children and
teenagers. They change quickly.

Consequences
of media participation and consumption, from journals and media can range from
positive, neutral and negative, from find and communicating with those that are
further away or far gone, and negative being backlash and confusing of messages
portrayed. Michael Zito, PhD, and licensed psychologist in private practice
says that the 1970’s spurred an era of self-entitlement rather
than self-esteem, and social media fueled this point of view.

Psychologists have also noted that exposure
to graphic violence, and to negative media can either cause an
over-sensitization, where we become more sensitive and/or pessimistic or can
lead to desensitization, in which we are numb to the effects of violence.
Negativity on television is difficult to ignore, and it can significantly
influence how we view our lives and the world. Negative media can lead to
negative thoughts, leading us to view our lives as more distressing than they actually
are. Some of the negatives of media is often because of our biology, and
pessimism could lead us to ignore the many things that are positive in the
media, and in the world. Media can have websites that are “pro-mental
illness”, among
other dark things, such as pro-Ana sites and hate groups, such as the Westburo
Baptist church.

On a more
positive note, media does have its benefits. Pamela Rutledge asserts that there
are many benefits for people who are withdrawn or shy. Media can add creativity
to our thinking, and allow us to explore and become actively involved. Games
can show students how better to deal with success and failure (in order to win
at many games, you sometimes have to fail first). Social media allows more
people to connect with others around the world. Teachers have found that games
not only engage students, but they also inspire learning. Teaching with video
games (game-based learning) is an emerging tool for motivational and engagement
learning. Students become part of the story, rather than sitting back listening
to a lecture. (The impact…) Media can also educate in general…you can
just go online to figure out about”Peripheral neuropathy” within a
few minutes, rather than going to a library and searching for hours.

Before we
go into what the future may hold for media, we must address that we are not the
best at predicting the future. We don’t imagine events correctly, nor do we
imagine them as they will unfold. We also don’t know who we will be when we are
experiencing that event. We underestimate the mind’s ability to react to events
in a different way than it’s reacting to them in prospect. Almost every event
you experience feels different once you’ve experienced it then you imagined it
would have before. I can give you another example of this, which is the movie Back to the Future. In this, they
predicted that we would have flying cars and hoverboards by October 21, 2015,
but we didn’t. Even though we’ve
advanced incredibly quickly since this movie was made, this movie is a great model
for how we really can’t predict the future accurately. Rather than
hover boards, we made things such as Self-balancing scooter (called a
hoverboard) which has two wheels on the side and is controlled with buttons on
the middle of the board, and rather than flying cars, we have smart cars that
run on electricity, or hybrids, that run on a mix between electric and gas.

Illusions of the future are that because
often times we can’t predict who we are in the future, and what
we might want from that, the true details of the past and present that might
add up to our future, and often, we ignore wrong predictions, and we support
our beliefs that we can predict our own future when we get it right. No matter
how many times we experience these errors in our lives and how many times we
make the same mistakes, we don’t learn from them, and we’re left with the same
confidence that we had before. (You v. future you) Let’s take an
example from Long Division, when the main character first goes through the
wormhole and observes the smartphone. They have no idea what it is, and even
take it to figure out what it is. If we can imagine ourselves in the same
situation, in the future (perhaps 3018?), much of the technology of that time,
regardless of what it is, would confuse and bewilder us.

Now that we have that out of the way, many
technologies we use today came from artists, writers and creative visionaries.
These visionaries imagined future inventions with remarkable accuracy, even if
they didn’t know how to actually make them. Science fiction books, movies, TV
shows and art also allow us to explore the social consequences of these
advances. They link human narratives to scientific questions, and explore the
full social implications of research. The center experiments with these changes
and ideas through several projects. (Science Fiction) To go back to “Back to
the Future”, even though this movie did get a lot
wrong, it did get a lot of things correct, from personal drones to medical
devices.

The way
technology changes and the way it changes us is the result of decisions that we
make as “tool smiths”, individual users, and groups. Robert Heinlein said in The Door Into Summer, “When
railroading time comes you can railroad-but not afore.” All through
history, inventors envisioned things that looked consistent to helicopters, including,
famously, Leonardo da Vinci.

Internet social
networks were already a huge influence before Facebook, such as Myspace and
dozens of others had already come and gone. There was an adjacent possible in
play: The cyber world and the web subsisted, and it had grown enough that many
of the people you wanted to verbalize with could be found online, if only
someone would design an accommodation to facilitate finding them. An
accommodation like Facebook was inevitably predetermined, but how Facebook
works was not. Facebook, along with other current social media sites, is
designed like a casino game where the jackpots are attention from other people
and the playing surface is an astronomical board whose components can’t be
optically distinguished most of the time. As in all casino games, in the
Facebook game there’s one ecumenical rule: The house always triumphs. Facebook
perpetually fine-tunes its algorithms to maximize the amount that you disclose
to the accommodation because it is lucrative by selling that personal
information to advertisers. Integrating the surveillance business model to
Facebook was an individual call. Unless everyone you can call along with you
not to utilize Facebook, being a Facebook vegan is hard. It factitiously lets
you optically separate the casino for what it is and make a more apprised call
about what technologies you depend on. Opting out of Facebook is not a personal
call but an expressive one, one that you chose on your own at the cost of your expansive
life and yourself to stay in touch with the people you love. Science Fiction
often warns of a world where technology controls people in lieu of the other
way around.

In
conclusion, the recurrent themes in long division can be associated with
theories such as the cultivation theory or perhaps socialization theory, and if
we associate this book with reality, we can understand the impact of media on
society, and perhaps even predict the future of media consumption, using long
division as one of the many ways fiction can align with
reality. ­­

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