Thursday, March 13, 2008

Road Kill on the Information Superhighway

I was answering e-mail last night. Picture this, me, 40 or some years from now. I'm sitting there with my grandkids on my lap, I'm a grumpy old man.
I talking to them, much like my dad did to me when he told me how things were in "The good old days."

One of them has just found a cache of old letters and looks at me in wonder. "Grandpa, what are these?" he asked.

"Oh, they are called letters, we used to mail them in things called envelopes with things called stamps," I reply.

That was of course before e-mail and the Internet.

I remember the first time I heard the term "Information Super Highway." At he time it wasn’t a clichĂ©. I was sitting in my mass communication class at Shasta College and my professor started to talk about how it will be the road map to the future.

At the time there was no mention of the "World Wide Web" in my textbook and in the index of my book it went from "interact" to "interest" without stopping at "Internet." Now it seems I get more e-mail then regular mail. And yes it has become a fun way to keep in touch with my friends but it hasn’t come without disadvantages

Last Thursday I turned 36. I remember getting cards in the mail. This year while I received lots of happy birthday “blings” on MySpace and Facebook. I didn’t receive anything in the mail. It was sorta depressing. Of course only five years ago we never had said things like; “What’s your myspace?” or “Okay I’ll add you,” or the dreaded “You are deleted.”

I think the same thing that is supposed to be drawing us closer together as a community has also done the exact opposite.

I always thought it was funny when I walked into the computer lab at Chico State and there were about 40 or so people sitting there at computers, another 40 waiting in line. None of them were actually doing papers, they were either online, answering e-mail or chatting. Most of them were either on MySpace.

The nosy person I am, I took an informal poll once, meaning I actually talked to the people sitting next to me and discovered this person wasn’t chatting with anyone far away, he was chatting with another students in other buildings on campus. This was about the time of Valentine’s Day and he started to complain about being alone. These people seemed to be depressed because they were alone, but none of them were willing to venture past their keyboards to do something about it. Worse, if you attempted to talk with any of them they got upset, because you where interrupting them. How social is that?

I’m just as guilty. I know have a Blackberry Curve, it’s the coolest thing. I can chat, text, check all those social websites all on my phone. Yes, the world is now my Internet cafĂ©.

But technology has also wrecked havoc on more traditional forms of communications.

Call me old fashioned, but there is just something really nice with getting real mail. It’s more personal, you feel like someone took the time to actually sit down and put pen to paper, not to mention correct punctuation. Now we type long paragraphs, sometimes all in caps and spelling is sort of a formality reserved for rare occasions.

And forwards. This is about the most annoying thing this side of a Jim Carey movie. In the real world if I bundled all my junk mail into a big envelope and sent it to a friend they would probably not enjoy it much. I didn’t know I had so many friends who worked for foreign governments who needed help getting money into the country, or that the real answer to my prayers comes from sending the same message to 50 of my best friends.

And phone calls. This new fun little toy is after all a phone. I like talking to people. Now I mostly just get text messages. Today I got a number of messages that said “Hey, LOL! happy b-day, g2g, ttyl.”

No comments: