You've heard the argument before - hell, we all have. Is being 'more connected' causing us to be 'less connected?' For the longest time, I would have said yes. I don't know on how many occasions I'd rather have a text message or three instead of an entire conversation. Yet, when engaged socially, I certainly don't shy away from a good conversation. Is this just a matter of reaching my own comfort level with the advancements in technology, or am I finally becoming comfortable with the pacing of the new communicative methods?
Let’s start small. I grew up on pen-and-paper mail for staying in touch. I was writing letters before it was given the moniker 'snail-mail.' That's not an indication that I'm old - I’m not, by any stretch - I began spreading my writing wings at a young age. I was sending hand-written letters to my grandfather by the time I was six; typed, by eight; and taking writing tips on my short stories by the time I was ten.
I didn't have much to do at that point in my life. The status of my parents was in the air. I was acclimating to being a latchkey kid. I was shifting between three different school districts. Tight, cramped corners and hidden hallways all looked welcoming and friendly, as if to say, "Come in - we have hot cocoa."
I became attached to our word processor. It was a beast of a machine - about two feet high, two feet deep, and three across. The screen was monochromatic, built into the hulking rock, and it was a gigantic eight inches diagonally. I began writing the first shorts on there. I drafted the earliest revision of the Manhattan concepts, Miza, and the fallen angels on this amalgamation of silicone and cinder block. I conceptualized worlds upon worlds, while all being within each other. I hid my body away, and stretched my mind from here to the galactic center. On occasion, back again, too.
This disconnect was hard to grasp when I was first brought around to cell phones and gadgetry. Despite being in middle school for the Clinton era's march of the internet (which, Al Gore did not create, people, and, for fuck's sake, even now there are so many people that say he did), our most accessible outlet was a public library terminal. My first chat-room experience, eBay, and midget porn were all witnessed at that terminal.
I only regret setting up the eBay account. Seriously, it was created within weeks of eBay going live, and has cost me so much money from all the awesome things I find on there. At least the chat room and porn were free.
I was accustomed to not having a huge, virtual world following me everywhere. I was comfortable being sociable as needs be, introverted otherwise. This is likely why now, ten years after major internet saturation, my perspective is reaching a hazy grey.
At first, I found the technology novel. Texting was brand new, and it didn't make sense why people wouldn't just call someone. Of course, my first cellphone looked like it was from the Matrix movies - not convenient for such things. Then I bought a Nokia taco-phone (n-Gage). With that, I could play games, surf the web, and - most importantly - play music. This was an eye opener for me, as I refused from that point on to be separated from my phone.
Good lord, I played so much bad music on that thing. I had the complete Katamari Damacy soundtrack on there. We lived in Florida, and on the warm afternoons, I’d roll my windows down and crank that like I was the most gansta playa ever. Same goes for Cowboy Bebop. I also had Radiohead and Soul Coughing on there, largely to sing along to. I knew there songs so well I was a virtual Tony Danza, only in a mobile format.
I don't like complete silence. I had several ear infections that got pretty bad when I was a kid. While only a partial factor, my ears are constantly ringing with tinnitus. Sure, you can zone it out, but in a silent room, it's like a child screaming two inches from your ear, while you're hung over, under-caffeinated, hungry, and doing the walk of shame, in yesterday’s underwear.
Just the thought of that makes me want to punt a child.
Back on point: I found a launching pad and expanded my interest in tech from there. We all have our basic reasons we like something - color, fashion choices, popularity, function, blah blah blah. I like to be able to sync up a keyboard and jam the hell out. That's why I have an 'old' phone (came out March of last year): it lets me do just that. But, the more I use it, the less it's a 'phone.'
This is an argument I established years ago. A telephone is simply used to communicate an audible conversation from one point to the next. These things - these are personal communication devices. Or, they were. Nowadays, they're full on micro-PCs.
Yet, they all depend on sociability. Would you have one of these if you had no one to keep in touch with? - To talk to? Would you have virtual social circles, short-form interpersonal conversations, or even an email account that you actually used if you didn't have one of these? The device allows us instant contact with everyone, and, at a pace we can all feel comfortable with. I've always said, a phone call goes both ways, and the same can be said of all this cyber-centric communication.
An era is always passing. You always have some doofus walking the streets with a sandwich board proclaiming doom and gloom. In the case of how we communicate, though, we're all just remembering fondly and moving forward steadfastly. The era is dying, and there were no heralds to bring in the next.
Well, unless you count falling off a pier while texting a herald. Me? - I call that fucking hilarious.
In a future that's going to contain face-mounted personal computers, smart glass windows, and flexible circuit boards, there is little now that will be familiar in another decade. The best trait of mankind is that we constantly adapt. So why waste the time complaining about the adaptation, and instead, share my stories on your Facebook or Twitter?
I'd love to meet your friends, without having to meet them.