I have been thinking lately, that well, we may have gone too far. I’m middle-aged and I intend to remain that way. In my life time, there was a time when most everyone I knew have one phone, black, and located centrally in the kitchen near the hallway. That was it, other than the mail, which reached a person within a decent period of time, inside a week usually.
That was how people communicated if they were not able to be face-to-face. Nobody called it “face time” as they do now, which now actually means have a “rare” personal moment within one yard of another human being.
We all thought it was cool and modern to get that second phone, not a second line mind you, but an extension. I got mine on Christmas morning when I was 16. A pretty pink “princess” phone. I could loll in bed and chat with my girlfriends until I heard the booming voice of my father, “GET OFF THAT PHONE!”
We proceeded to beepers. I never had one of them until I was a lawyer, and there was indeed some need to be reached by my office so they might direct me hither and yon as judges needed my services. Then the computer and e-mail, and the cell phone.
It all seemed reasonable at the time I would argue. We all thought it meant faster, better, more accurate transmission of vital information. We all bought as much as we could, and used it as much as we could.
I’m the first to claim that man was not meant to be alone, and community is where we thrive. But how much is too much? How “available” do I have to be? How in touch with everyone must I be to be with it?
I realize that when I make arrangements to keep in touch with some one, I don’t get just a phone number (land line to be correct, since that must be distinguished from a “cell”–which horror of horrors I don’t have). I get the land line, the cell, the e-mail, and just to be safe, the twitter and Facebook.
Recently I reactivated my FB account, and located some high school mates. I thought it would be fun catching up on lives. After some cursory “messages” giving a bare bones one paragraph of what we have been up to for 30 years, I got nothing further. No updates on any of our other class mates, no nothing. But I can tell you their scores on “bouncing balls” and tell you how many “smiles” they got last week.
I got a hello from an old colleague from work in Detroit. To tell me the sad news of the passing of my boss. She “found” me on my blog, in the middle of my “autobiography” and left a comment. I said I hadn’t been lost, and had contacted a couple of people from there several years ago, hadn’t moved or changed e-mail or address. They had been too “busy” to continue any conversations. I just found it strange. I wrote back immediately and haven’t received a word back, though she was “excited” and couldn’t wait to tell the “girls” she had “found” me.
Maybe this is what passes for “knowing” and keeping in “touch” these days. I can read that you’re playing an Internet game and what your score is, and that you are going to do housework now. You can learn that I have posted my blog for the day, and am off to church to go to a library committee meeting.
Is this what we account as “communicating? Is this information that is important to transmit. Do we feel apart of each others lives by doing this?
You see, I have a lot of questions. Precious little answers. I just don’t know. We mostly feel compelled to proudly count the ways we are remaining hip to technology and patting ourselves on the back that we still “talk” to old friends. Does this measure up in some way that matters?
Are “friends” I know on the Internet, real friends? Are they the same as “face” time friends? Does it matter? But should I refer to them as “Internet” friends to “face” friends and vice versa? Are they acquaintances rather than friends? Would anybody care?
The world, it is a changin’ and no doubt there are sociologists and the like busily asking and testing and ruminating over these very things. Our society will and is changing as a result of all these “relationships” of whatever definition, all fostered or helped to limp along by our ability to stay connected.
Can we make do with trading pictures of our lives instead of visiting. Can I feel like I’ve “seen” your new house by the pictures you put up on FB? Do these new forms of communicating, all equally nourish the soul? That last one is a big big idea, and one we need to examine carefully and seriously. Are we getting anything of substance from these superficial “virtual” friendships? Are we deeply harming our psyches, or the opposite?
I dunno the answers as I said, I just ask the questions. All I know is that we better find out, because more and not less is on the way. It will impact us for better or worse, and it might be prudent to know which one.