Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Time to Text and a Time to Tweet

A Time to Text and a Time to Tweet

          My husband doesn’t claim to be a professional auto mechanic, but he’s always been very savvy about identifying noises in the car, and determining the possible solution. Our current vehicle did have him baffled one day. While making a short trip to a nearby store, the poor thing just went berserk.  Horn honking, lights flashing, it was in all-out panic mode. This has happened on a smaller scale when I’ve accidentally pressed the wrong button on my key fob, with the intention of locking or unlocking the car. But driving down the road? Instead of continuing to potential embarrassment at his destination, he returned home and turned the key off, stopping the racket. The next time he turned it on, the “fit” continued. The nearby parts store staff identified the problem with a simple test. This was the car’s way of telling us the battery was low. Wouldn’t some sort of indicator light have served the same purpose?

          We’ve seen so many changes in our lives since we were children. Back then, we were still amazed that pictures could cross the airways from a studio across the country all the way into our living rooms. The telephone was pretty much old hat, but we had heard predictions that someday they would invent picture phones, and we worried about answering in our pajamas. Now, web-cams provide live shots of a watering hole in Africa, or an eagle’s nest high on a cliff. We take pictures with our phones, and send them instantly to anyone who cares (and some people who really don’t).

          Some advances are totally surprising. When I was a little girl, I would never imagine leaving a bathroom stall without flushing. In the high-rise office building where I work, not only is that a reality, but I also proceed to wave my hands under the faucet and the soap dispenser to cleanse them. Then, with another wave at the towel machine, I can be on my way.

          During lunch-hours at work, we all line up for our turn at the microwave. A quick glance at the directions on my frozen three-course meal fills me in. Sometimes I must peel the plastic film completely off of one area, slit another, stir after a few minutes, replace the film and continue cooking. If the whole process takes more than five minutes, we apologize about taking “forever”, and the person behind us begins his or her peeling, poking and stirring ritual.

          Cell phones have opened up another whole new world. Now that we’re equipped, folks expect us to be in touch constantly. It’s not enough to carry the phone in my purse, I have it with me all through the day, in my pocket, or even just carried in my hand. Those who text are even able to stay in contact during meetings, sending and receiving messages to someone more exciting than the person they are supposed to be listening to. This creates all sorts of moral dilemmas. We have to assess if the call coming in should be ignored, or should we excuse ourselves and take the call outside. It could be just a “hey, how ya doin, I haven’t talked to you in a few minutes” call. But what if it’s important? As the facilitator, should we ban texting? What if the person is tweeting, and he has a huge group of followers?

          Even our old stand-by key rings have changed. Besides house keys, car keys, storage unit keys, we now have electronic gadgets hanging around. These accomplish many things, like giving us access to the neighborhood pool or the gym or obtaining discounts at the grocery store. Waving them under the appropriate scanner gives instant results. Sometimes, though, these do-hickeys cancel each other out if carried to close to each other. In other words, they don’t always play well with others.

          One thing that has changed is that we no longer plan our lives around our favorite television shows. Now, we can use a recording device, and watch these shows at our leisure. That is, if one of our friends, or some over-ambitious blogger doesn’t spoil the ending for us.

          The internet has revolutionized the way we communicate. By checking the news headlines, we might learn of an earthquake on the other side of the world, or a bank robbery down the street. We can watch the radar when severe weather threatens (until the power goes out), or participate in an auction with bidders all across the country for some item we absolutely must have.

By the way- I’ve entered the world of blogs. You can find my past columns and a weekly Haiku (thanks to Howard) on jennycarlisle.net.

          Recently, several of the members of our graduating class at Bryant used an online social network to organize a reunion of sorts. After inviting everyone electronically, we met in person for a great time.  We enjoyed some good old fashioned, laugh so hard it hurts fellowship. Now that’s a good use of technology!

          I have a prediction. Write this down. I think our grandkids may do something radical when they grow up. Maybe they will rebel against their parents’ lifestyle by rejecting all of this instant communication. They may become a new generation of hippies, living simply, stripping away the trappings of the world. Their parents, of course, will be aghast. How could they live that way? But, we’ll be right there with them. We won’t have a problem going back to the days of letter-writing and once in awhile phone calls. We’ll just hang out with them, having more time to enjoy a sunset, walk in the cool evening breeze, go fishing, chase fireflies. 

          We can remember what simpler times were like, and we’d have no problem going back.

No comments: