Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Cyber Life

Many times in the past few weeks, I have been reminded of the old Joni Mitchell song lyrics You Don't Know What You Got 'Til It's Gone.

The day before my vacation in November, my home computer died-- again. It had the same symptoms as when it died in June--OK one day, dead the next. To add insult to injury, while I was on vacation, my laptop decided to stop accepting my broadband antenna. Great. Instead of being able to access the Internet anywhere I could get a signal on my Verizon phone, I had to scout around for Internet cafes or unsecured networks to latch onto with the wireless card. (Let me tell you I was jonesing for a Crackberry during those dark wintry days in Ohio. I longed to hear from my friends and family in Tucson. Why did I return that cute red Crackberry back in February? What was I thinking? I didn't think I needed 24/7 access to the Internet. Ha! It was a jittery time of withdrawal.)

When I got back from vacation, I contacted the techie who fixed the computer just a few months earlier. He said that the 5-year-old motherboard was shot and other parts would fail in the new future. He suggested that I let go of the old machine once and for all. On Christmas day--after much pleading with him-- I got my new computer. It is such a joy to behold-- fast, quiet, sleek, my black beauty. I love it!

In recent weeks, I had become a fixture at Ike's Coffee Shop on Speedway. Their free WiFi (which works 85% of the time) led to completion of 2 coffee cards and consumption of too many chocolate scones for breakfast. :-)

I was surprised at my reaction during those few weeks without the Internet at home. I really missed it! I love blogging, reading blogs, reading online news, and e-mailing (as many of you know!)-- especially since I don't have television reception at my house.

Yesterday and today, while installing my software on my new computer, I have been contemplating the Cyber Life.

At Brake Masters yesterday-- yes, the car needed repair also!-- I read an interesting article in a 6-month-old Newsweek. (My reading choices were an old Newsweek, the apartment guide, or sports magazines!)

Anyway, the techie author was talking about his addiction to e-mail, Instant Messenger, text messages, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and his multiple blogs. He waxed poetic about being able to continuously update his friends and business contacts and about receiving similar messages from them. "I'm hungry." "I'm going to eat at Joe's." "I'm going dancing." "I'm bored." (You get the idea.)

Although he really enjoyed all of these technology-based forms of communication and used them to their fullest, he found himself in an existential quandary. Just because he and his friends could continuously update each other with often minute, inconsequential life details, should they? Is communication through a mechanism like Twitter or Tumblr really communication? Or is it just noise? Just another distraction in our bustling technology-based lives?

This lead me to analyze my own communication habits, as I languished at Brake Masters--without my laptop. (Did you know Brake Masters on Grant has free WiFi? If I had only known!) As mentioned above, I enjoy blogging and e-mail, and I use text sometimes because my friends do. I have 5 e-mail accounts, 3 IM screen names, a Facebook account, a few online dating profiles, 3 meet-up memberships, and dozens of online accounts with software vendors, retailers, banks, and other businesses. Consequently, I have a notebook of passwords.

Recently, I've become more enamored with Facebook and social networking communication tools. I use Facebook to keep in touch with my friends, to flirt, to waste time on silly quizzes, and to promote my artwork.

What is fascinating to me about Facebook are the tiny glimpses of people's lives. Most of the posts are answers to the question: What's on your mind? There were hundreds of answers to this question. When I'm off of Facebook for more than a day, I am shocked at what I had been missing! One friend said that she and her hubby were hiding in their bedroom because a sleep-over was taking place at her house. (I thought this sounded a little funny, but I'm assuming that she meant one of her kids was having a sleep-over.) Another friend was knitting. Someone was freezing in Chicago. Their posts always prompt me to post or comment.

In other words, there is a lot of chatter going on, and I have only 70-some friends. My thoughts come back to the question posed by the Newsweek author: Just because we can continuously update each other with often minute, inconsequential life details, should we? I must admit I am engaged by the chatter and the photos on Facebook and on blogs. Some of my "friends" on Facebook are really acquaintances. My blogging friends are people I've never met. Reading little snippets of their lives is helps me know them better.

My conclusion is that, although these messages are tiny bits of people's lives, they are valuable in that they help friends, family members, and acquaintances stay in touch and learn about each other in a non-threatening way.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this blog entry. My idea on updating the meaningless stuff happens to be on the same page as the author of that article, update if something BIG is going on. But you do make a good point in the fact that it does bring people, who don't know each other very well, closer together and understanding each other. It also is a good way to start a conversation. -Di