Cyber Free by Joanna Sowell

With social media, we often like to trick ourselves into believing that we are still connected with old friends, acquaintances and even family because we have access to the information that they post about their own lives. People often use social media as a stage where they craft what they want to share and give others the opportunity to simply validate and give feedback. In many social media platforms, we have the option to ignore the thoughts that friends make accessible or water down the amount of attention/respect we choose to give. Gone are the days when people took the initiative to call up a friend and schedule a time to meet. Social media has made people more passive and apathetic toward one another.

“Cyber Free” is a social engagement project in which strangers I meet in various areas of Los Angeles are given a platform to share their perspective of LA as a “melting pot of cultures” in person. The goal is to hear these voices in an organic way and bring together all of these different narratives in its own collection. My hope is that it will spark conversations dealing with real issues that we face today in this diverse city, such as race relations, gentrification, and racism while also combining the reality that Los Angeles is a beautiful mix of languages, world views, and cultures.

I’d like to argue that through my exchanges with strangers (with store owners on Vermont, on the bus, and in LA Union Station), I may be able to form more of a connection with these people (temporarily, but in the present time) than I do with old friends that I see only through their food instagrams online. Though these are people that I am encountering for the first time, I may form even more of a connection with that stranger than mindlessly giving a couple of “likes” to an old friend that I only “see” snippets of through Facebook and haven’t individually talked to for years.

These interviews will be ​in­person social exchanges . Rather than allowing my brain to hurriedly process typed out words and uploaded images and videos, I will look in people’s eyes, ignore distractions around us and quickly respond to what they are saying. In doing so, we have created a disconnect between humans interacting. These connections are initiated in real life, in which I give my undivided attention, listening and engaging in a purposeful way.

ELEMENT 3: DIVERSITY CONVOS The meaning behind those conversations lies in the content: the diversity in Los Angeles. So far, I have focused on neighborhoods that have many immigrants and diverse demographics. I don’t have any hidden agenda or meaning that I’m trying to portray outside the idea that LA race relations are very complex and need to be brought up. I would like to generate discussions about this topic regardless of the person's ethnic background.