This technological age continues to amaze me, though what I most want the current epoch to do is leave me behind, preferably in a dark bedroom with a cool rag over my eyes. It’s not that I’m technologically challenged– it’s just that I’m the type of guy who was quite happy being one of the many consorts of Ma Bell and her limited options. Remember? You made a call, and the line was busy– you either breathed a sigh of relief or called back in ten minutes. Long distance calls were rare and only dialed so the caller could deliver news about important things like breech births, or that your neighbors were Communists or– even worse!– divorcing… period! And the one phone you had in your house was Bakelite, molded in a foreboding black color, further precluding its use.
Everything is different now– nobody even uses the word “telephone” anymore; I will leave it up to my readers to recall the current terms. And not only are we expected to burden ourselves with these new devices… we are also expected to use them to log online every three minutes in order to let the entire world know what we are doing.
Let’s examine that phrase a minute, and let’s be honest– isn’t “the world” limited to those people we have allowed into our Facebook and Twitter and AOL lives? And aren’t these simply walls to further hide behind while we try and fool ourselves into believing that we are being global? WHAT is so global about letting my 103 Facebook friends know that “it’s a beautiful day in downtown Orlando?” And what is so global about reading that one of my exclusive circle of friends is on her way to Publix to do a little shopping? And do I need artichokes, because they are on sale?
I think it’s all crazy, yet I’m just as guilty as everyone else in thinking that I am in constant reach of “friends.” And THAT word has been hijacked by the online community to infuse ourselves with a false sense of popularity and belonging. When I really think about it, I have like a dozen true blue friends– and even a few of them are on probation (you know who you are). A friend is someone you can call and ask help to paint your garage door; a friend is someone who will drop everything in order to drive you to the airport; and a friend will donate a kidney to you.
And then there’s Twitter, which came along because Facebook and AOL were considered too damned slow. Twitter limits your posting to less than 150 characters, which means you had better be extremely skilled at letting your friends know what you’re up to. And now that we’ve gotten past the sniggering related to the past tense of the verb twitter, it has turned into a very big business indeed. Remember when it first started a few minutes ago? Thousands of innocuous messages related to beautiful days in downtown Orlando and artichokes clogged the ionosphere; now the application is riddled with 140-character commercials about aluminum siding and penis extensions.
I could end this essay with one of those typically unschooled closings: “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must alert my readers to this blog update and, if I have a few seconds, I’ll Twitter about it as well.”
But I won’t. Instead, you’ll find me in a cool, dark room, patiently waiting for a black Bakelite phone to ring and let me know that my Communist neighbors are divorcing. Now that’s exciting !