Monday, July 13, 2009

From face to face to Facebook

When I was a kid, and yes they did have telephones and electricity back then, if I wanted to talk to my friend at night, I would have to wait until the next day rolled around to talk to him at school. The telephone was for grownups. My father did a lot of business in the evenings over the telephone and the idea of me talking on the phone for an hour with one my friends seems so absurd I can hardly imagine it.

That was the mid 1970s. Back when America made terrible cars, I give you the AMC Pacer, and the Ford Mustang II. We wore terrible clothes, polyester bell bottoms and tube tops sound familiar? We also listened to some pretty bad music- The Bee Gees- I rest my case. It's actually shocking to me that we made it through the seventies without doing irreparable harm to our culture. On second thought, maybe we didn't escape unharmed.

Today when I pick my nine year old daughter from school, I see several of her friends carrying cell phones. This is fourth grade people, I carried a Six Million Dollar Man lunch box to school and I am pretty sure I left it on the playground more than once. I know you get the phone free with your plan, but dang, I hope they buy the insurance for the phone.

Computers are much the same today. When I went to college I remember the computer lab having brand new IBM PC's. These were the new AT models and we were not allowed to do anything that would deviate from the class outline. Computers were for grownups, rich grownups. Today I have to keep reminding my kids not to install anything, or if a window pops up asking you to click OK, come find me.

Kids are not scared of technology. They have grown up with it. It is all around them. Most elementary school kids have reading or spelling programs on the computer to help them with school work. Every junior high and high school students knows Google and Wikipedia forward and backwards from doing research for reports or homework. It is amazing to me how tech savvy our children have become, maybe a little too savvy.

Take social media for example. Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, IM (that's Instant Messaging for you old folks) they all add up to more access, more interaction, in one day than we had in a week. There are a few things you need to be aware of; this bold new world comes with a silicon-based memory.

Remember the days of getting caught passing a note to someone? I don't because I am a guy and guys don't do that kind of thing.

Why write a note to girl asking if she likes you? Just pick her up carry her around the table at lunch; if she screams loudly, she's just not that into you. But I digress. If you were caught with a note, or someone intercepted the note, there was a pretty good chance you could retrieve your message to spare yourself further embarrassment. Those days are over.

With Myspace, Facebook and the interconnected world of today's youth, if you get mad at your boyfriend, or get dumped by your girlfriend, some kids will lash out electronically. Electrons have very long memories. Things said in confidence to a friend in an email or Facebook message can come back to haunt you when the winds of change come blowing in. Someone you are best buds with now may be your arch enemy in a month. So it is with teenagers. That confidential message you sent is now posted for the whole school to see. Ouch.

I tell my son and anyone else that will listen, treat electronic communications as if they were post cards. Don't put anything inside that you would not want the world to see outside. If you want to have a personal conversation with someone, wait until tomorrow at school, you can talk to them at lunch.

You will have to excuse me now; I have to go check my Facebook status.

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