Ten Years and 800 Miles

From Party Line to Skype Party

From Party Line to Skype Party

I’ve been thinking about all the different means of communication lately.  Other people have said it better, but we’re living in a time that the history books will discuss with the same fervor as they discuss the Industrial Revolution.  In my lifetime, we’ve gone from telephones on party lines to parties on Skype. 

In my lifetime, we also went from manual typewriters to electric ones, “memory” typewriters to computers, cute pocket-sized paper appointment calendars to PDAs, and PDAs to smart phones. I was barely keeping up with all of this and the explosion of Web 2.0 is really giving me fits.  I was the last person on the planet to get a mobile phone and nearly the last to begin blogging.  I started Twitter about 8 months ago and just recently was coerced into Facebook. 

I may have reached the end of my patience with learning curves.  I’ve been on the internet since before pictures and sound when Usenet ruled the world.  I even remember the social gathering sites before Usenet – when a digital communication was judged by its (correct) grammar, spelling, and readability.  In 1989, I was the only person in my town who knew what a smiley was.   The other day I got around to asking someone what wOOt meant.  I was only mildly annoyed that people kept wOOting me and I wasn’t sure what their intentions were.  I had figured out it was, generally, a positive exclamation of some sort.  I also just recently sorted out kthxbai.  I’m kind of fond of that one but the Urban Dictionary just told me it is generally used to express contempt.  wOOt!

I’m too old for texting and gaming language.  I’m one of those who usually can’t figure out what the vanity plates are trying to say.  (I also can’t quite figure out why people use their license plate to communicate.  It would be different if you could change them like a Twitter status.)  Fortunately, I have access to people of minimal years and/or gaming experience who are willing to explain this stuff to me.

With all that said, these communication technologies have been very good to me and for me.  I’ve met some people I feel closer to than my immediate kinfolk and many of them, if not most of them, I would have had no chance of meeting prior to this communication revolution. 

As I sit here typing this, I’m bouncing back and forth between Google, my anonymous email account, my “real” email account, Facebook, Twitter, a forum, and Skype.  I gave up the instant messenger a couple of years ago which was a good thing, I guess.   You can only open so many applications before stuff  starts crashing.  Today, I have communicated with friends who are literally strung out all over the globe, many of whom I have never seen in person and some whom I have never seen at all (or heard).

I can’t quite remember when I got the first instant messenger available, but I was one of the first – my ID number is a low one.   In tandem with the IM, I was active on a couple of mailing lists where I met the man who is now my SO.  I’m given to understand that I must now define SO as that acronym seems to have become passe` – significant other.  After one’s 30s, the terms boyfriend and girlfriend are just stupid.  It conjures up middle-aged meat markets where people are wearing clothes that are too tight, makeup that is too heavy, and any number of comb-overs.  Blech.  Gentleman friend is almost as obnoxious.  The SO is indeed a gentleman, but gentleman friend conjures dapper Victorians, lavender smelling salts, and a trace of sock garters.  (I believe this communication revolution is not complete as we do not yet have phrasing that is correctly descriptive.)

As the friendship moved into the area known as Something More, our communication technologies increased.  While we began digitally with instant messaging and email, we regressed to snail mail and land lines with the occasional mobile phone call.  There was a brief flurry of text messages until I cancelled my data plan.  Between the USPS, Fed Ex, AT&T, Verizon, and ICQ (with the occasional 3D meeting), we got to know one another pretty well.  Now, we’ve added Twitter and Facebook.  We are so wired (and wireless) that I’m sometimes convinced that I have datacom cable running along my spine.

Have I mentioned he lives 800 miles away and I’ve known him for ten years?  He does and I have.

Skype has added another dimension.  We can now do video phone calls.

I like Skype.  I’m glad we didn’t have it in the early days.  We’re now such an old unmarried married couple that I don’t feel the need to put on makeup or brush my hair or even change out of the ratty sweatshirt before I fire up the Skype.  But in honor of Valentine’s Day, I did all of those things, plus moved into a room with good light.  We had champagne and chocolate covered strawberries on my chaise lounge – well, I did.  He sat at his desk and I’m not sure what he drank.  This is much better than sitting in the coat closet talking to my junior high boyfriend via the handset to the kitchen phone that had the 50 foot cord that was always knotted and permanently kinked where the closet door closed on it.

It’s all rather peculiar, yet so normal.  Something I couldn’t imagine in my 20s is now part of my daily life.  These technologies have been so good to me and yet I’m grousing about the emerging ones. 

Just a few months ago, I howled with laughter at the idea of Twitter.  I’m now so enamored of it that I’ve adopted the unused dry erase board in my office to share my “status” with my Twitterless co-workers.  Next to a childish drawing of my face are the words Faceboard Flitter Status – Connie is followed by sick of winter (really, really sick of winter) in a different color.

I haven’t been sure what this compulsion to share my status and my thoughts with friends and strangers is.  It’s one of those things that if I think about it too long, I just get confused.  I do know that my journaling has slowed way down and I often forget these are public musings.  Whatever it is that I’m doing, I ‘m not doing it for the audience, because I’m still surprised anyone other than me is reading it.  In the old days, I lurked for months and sometimes years, before I jumped into an email list or forum.  Those things were groups.  Some of these newer things are solo acts.  We glom together, we step back, we comment, we announce, and we end up grouping again.  I think what I’m doing is just talking; and bonding with the folks who listen and who, in turn, I listen to.

In a previous paragraph, I had written that I wouldn’t vlog under any circumstance, but I edited that out since it seemed out-of-place as I was talking about what I was doing.  I ridiculed the concept of Twitter, but now use it somewhat regularly.  At some point, I am really going to internalize never say never, but I can’t fathom what would have to happen to get me uploading vlogs to Youtube.  That will be a personal revolution I can’t imagine right now.

Kthxbai!  (I mean that sincerely – no contempt implied.)

7 thoughts on “Ten Years and 800 Miles

  1. Loved this, Connie. I was just thinking the other day about my progression from balky second-hand typewriter (I painted it yellow and put rose decals all over it. Hey, I was 12 years old). I scorned electric typewriters as not-for-serious-people. I was in college before I broke down and got an electric. Not long after college, a memory-electric — followed in quick succession by a Kaypro cp/m, then a pc, then over the years, about eight more pcs; at some point in there, I switched to laptops. Each pc was about 200 times as powerful as the previous and cost about the same. now cost is going down; the ibm is about to bite it and I’m looking for a new one. Holding out against Facebook, though I’ve started to Twitter.

    jes

  2. Angie, I’m socially isolated and have no friends. More importantly, I do have former co-workers who take advantage of my kind and loving nature; hence I restrict my Facebook contacts to people I have no reason to think will use and abuse me. It may not be a good plan, but it’s mine, dammit.

  3. Jes, my cellphone is more powerful than my first home computer – the one that cost $3000 by the time we bought the printer cable. Amazing, eh?

    Connie, probably should point out the cell phone is 3 years old and not some sleek G3 AK47 Streaming Video With I-9 Compression and a Built-In Dishwasher

  4. Sometimes I enjoy the feel of a good pen in my hand and a lovely cream-colored paper to write on. I also like the sound of a loved one’s voice at the other end of the line whether it be analog phone, IP phone, digital phone or wireless Smartphone. Some forms of communication will always remain a necessary part of human interaction. Our digital tools just make things a bit simpler. 800 miles huh?

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