Friday, 7 February 2014

It's 2014 Txtng. R U there 1979?

In 1979, we did not communicate in acronyms. We had our own lingo.   This language was common to all age groups. We had phones that were dialed.  We had mail.  We had tin cans and strings.  No one ever really knew where anyone else was at any given moment.  There were times when someone was "unreachable". At 11:00, very few parents really knew where their children were.  It was a time of freedom.  It was a time of mystery.  It was a simpler time.

And then, somewhere along the line, everything went nuts...

 It seemed to start with "car phones", which were cost-prohibitive to many people and just having an antenna on a car could imply a level of status that might not be completely accurate.  One Christmas I received a "portable phone" for my car, as they became more affordable.  It was deemed a solution to a safety concern when driving to work at night.  To be honest, I never knew how this new fangled gadget worked.  I think it involved standing on the roof of the car with the plug in the cigarette lighter.

Then phones became smaller and more portable.  They also became a symbol of a "coming of age".  Our eldest was given her first phone when she was about 16.  This was the beginning of the end!!   Within a very short period of time, young people were chatting as they walked down the street.  Honestly, who did they need to speak to that they couldn't wait until they got home or use the mad money quarter and find a phone booth.  Then there was this thing the kids called "texting".   I considered texting to be teenage witchcraft. How is this possible?  I had just figured out how to send an email.  I banked "on-line". I
 I was a cool mom.  I knew MSN.  I knew about  Facebook and what "creeping" meant.  I thought I was all there, but this texting thing?!

Never one to be left behind I slowly I began to learn once again. I graduated from a car phone to a "purse phone" that I never charged or brought with me.  Then it became necessary to be reachable as my kids started calling me for advice and to share my wisdom.  Ok they were calling me for rides, but I gave them advice regardless.  Gradually my generation, like immigrants learning a new language, began to blossom.  We accepted texting as a legitimate mode of communication.  We learned the abbreviations and the nuances. We learned what T9 was for as well as the dangers of autocorrect.  I learned early that " lol" was not " lots of love". I learned 2 abbreviate like the best of u, with total disregard for all speling and gramar.  My children laughed at me. They wondered who I could possibly be texting when they were home because "who else do you know?".  I learned that without an absolute question, there was little chance I would get a response to an unsolicited text and I am still learning that no reply to a question is the new "no".   There was the progression from a 9 digit phone with complicated texting rituals, to a blackberry.  I had no idea how my big fingers would manage on this tiny keyboard, but as evolution would have it, my fingers shrunk.  My phone was becoming an important part of my day to day life, as it was for many of my friends.

My children thent started to share their advice and wisdom.  They advised me to get an IPhone.  I was resistent.  Why would I need a camera?  I have a camera.  Why would I need music? I have a radio.  Why would I use an electronic calendar?  I have a datebook.  I just didn't get it.  Now I do.  I love my IPhone for communicating but also for writing. I have mastered the keyboard and my thoughts and ideas are recorded.  My life is in my phone.  When I die, my best friend's job is to destroy this phone.  Until then it is my best friend.

We have gone from Smoke Signals to Skype.  We have gone from telegrams to texts.  Letter writing, I imagine, may become a thing of yesteryear as my daughter recently had to mail a letter and asked me "where do I get one of those stickers".  The art of writing a letter may be replaced with (hopefully) a nicely structured email.  I guess the question that begs to be answered might be " When is enough communication, actually too much?"  I was in Mexico last month and could sit on the beach and watch Downton Abbey on my phone. I didn't though.  That just seemed wrong.

I wonder how cell phone technology would have changed things for me as a young mom with little ones. If I had been texting when they were babies, would they have rolled off the couch more often than they did?  Would I have felt more relaxed and reachable when they had babysitters?  Did I really want to know their every whereabouts as teenagers? Is it a concern when kids can automatically call or text when they are in a pickle.  Would this have affected their troubleshooting skills?

Now that this technology has enveloped the world and the younger generation more and more, do we need to address cell phone
etiquette?  When is texting, although, not a safety risk, totally inappropriate?  "Okay, elbows back on the table and put away your phone". Bridget was in a confessional when her phone started to ring.  Texting at school, texting at work... If the only place that is actually a text-free zone is advertised to be a hot tub, we need to take a look at just what is too much.  Is a land line really only useful to find one's cell phone in a pinch?  Is the telephone still a more socially appropriate means of relaying information?  I would like to google an E-tiquette website. Can thank you notes be sent as a text?  Can births be announced on Facebook?  Can wedding invitations come by email?  Is there still a place for a good old fashioned condolence card in the mail.  Is Miss Manners on line somewhere, because I need to email her?

Smoke signals were probably an innovative idea in their time. Telegrams were exciting at a wedding.  There is nothing like receiving a handwritten letter in the mail. Long phone call chats with old friends are golden. Have we lost more than we have gained or is this technology keeping us connected in a newer faster-moving world?  I think when I put it all together, the important thing to me is that we communicate.  I want to hear from my children in whatever medium they choose.  I want to stay in touch with friends in the most convenient way to ensure that in our busy lives, we are able to stay in touch. I like that I can text my mother. Yes, she is that cool! My father-in-law is on Skype. Amazing.  So I will try to embrace the new normal as well. I will try to look forward to whatever comes next.  I am balking at Twitter, Instagram and Sexting, but my advice in this day and age is NVR SAY NVR.

Life has come full circle.  15 years ago I got a large car phone for Christmas.  This year we took a step back.
It Actually works!

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