Have you ever seen those lists that are sent around telling of all the changes our parents saw in their lifetimes? Most of the changes tended to revolve around travel – from horse and wagon to the Model T to having a car for every member of the family. They saw travel move from trains to airplanes to super-sonic jets to space shuttles.
While transportation may have defined the changes our parents saw in their lifetimes, I believe communication methods will define our generation.
Yes, our parents went from telegrams to phones for communication. And some, like my 86-year-old mom, are pretty proficient on computers. But just look at what we baby-boomers have seen and mastered since childhood.
Our phone was on a party-line when I was growing up. For any youngsters (younger than 50) reading this, that means there were 3 or 4 households sharing a phone line. When I picked up the phone, I might hear our neighbor Lucy chatting to her sister about the latest family news. And so I’d have to wait to call my best friend, Cindy. Waiting – what a concept these days, eh?
Of course, that waiting went both ways – when Cindy and I were lucky enough to get the phone line after school, the neighbors would have to wait while we talked. And they’d wait. A lot. My parents received a few complaints about it, if I recall.
When I started working for a living way back in the 70’s, my employer copied all of their orders onto microfiche for filing. Microfiche was a little plastic card that would hold negative images of the orders. They were too tiny to read with the naked eye, but when you put the microfiche into a reader, it would be magnified, like magic, and you read it on the screen. This was the same “technology” used by libraries to keep copies of newspapers, etc. I thought it was pretty cool.
Then the first fax machine came into the office, and I knew that surely this was the most amazing communication tool ever. I mean, I was standing at a machine in New York, feeding a paper into it, and a copy of that same paper was simultaneously appearing in an office in Minnesota, where someone else was standing by to read it! We couldn’t get any more instant than that, could we? Side note: Do you remember how creepy that thermal paper felt from those old machines? Eww…
Ten years later, I sent an email (on the great and wonderful World Wide Web) to Hubby’s cousin in Ireland, and I got an answer within an hour or so. It was amazing. I can remember turning to Hubby and saying “I’m having a conversation with Ireland right now! For free!” This new Internet thing was awesome.
And then the floodgates opened. Web pages. Newsgroups (remember those?). News online. Blogs. Streaming TV shows. Netflix. WiFi. Texting. All very cool, very timely, and very cutting edge.
And now there’s social media. Where we actually participate in the action, in the conversation, in the world. My Space (is that still around?), Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest. Instead of the world just using technology, the technology is actually shaping our world.
I’ve reconnected with friends and cousins via Facebook that I hardly ever had contact with. I was found on Facebook by my afore-mentioned best childhood friend, Cindy (an event worthy of many tears of joy). I’ve shared in births and losses and celebrated and grieved with people from all over the country and around the world.
Is there a lot of nonsense out there? Oh, hell yeah! You can’t believe most of what you read or see online. Verify everything. Two or three times.
But is social media providing a way to connect with people around the world that we never even imagined as children? Again, hell yeah!
I watched the presidential debates last month with Twitter open on my iPhone. It was a blast! It made it feel like I was watching the debates with the whole world. The comments were real-time, and varied from enlightening and insightful to hilarious (especially Chris Rock) to offensive (some nut railing against “Zionist America” every two minutes) to just plain stupid (and the winner is…Donald Trump!).
Social media is like sharing a really cool party line with a few million of your newest, closest friends. Take last Saturday evening, for example. I had myself a real-time chat with Jim Cantore.
Yup. That’s right. The weather dude. He and I are tight now.
Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but we did have a “moment” via Twitter. One weather geek to another. He posted something about TWC naming winter storms. I responded with how silly I thought that was. He responded nicely (be still my heart!!!). I responded back. And he responded to me AGAIN! That, in my book, is a conversation. A light-hearted one. With one of my favorite personalities. In public (the guy has over 163,000 followers). While I sat on my sofa watching TV.
That’s the kind of communication we have available to us these days. I’m trying to keep up without letting it consume me. I have a Facebook account, a Twitter account, a LinkedIn account (I’m just beginning to figure that one out), and most recently, a Pinterist account.
I’m not sure I understand the value of Pinterest, but I once thought that about texting, Facebook, Twitter, etc. So we’ll see…
And what’s next? I hesitate to even guess. After all, I’m the one who thought a thermal fax was magical.