As I sat in my 6th grade classroom, making every appearance of listening to the Social Studies lesson of the day, my peripheral vision caught a folded piece of notebook paper making a dangerous journey forward from the rear right corner of the room. As the teacher looked down at her book, or turned to use the blackboard, a student might tap the person ahead and hand the paper up, or slide it carefully onto the desk at the left. At last the paper reached its intended recipient, whose name was block printed on one of the exposed sides. Her task was to open it, near the front of the classroom, without attracting the notice of the teacher. The message had to reach her during class, or she would pass into the halls and on to her next class without the urgent information in the note.
By ninth grade, I regularly carried messages (usually just verbal) from a friend in my gym class, to her boyfriend in my English class. When we went on high school or scouting field trips, we were given regular hourly intervals at which each meandering group would “meet back” with the rest at a common point to allow the group leaders to count heads. If we went out from home and were late returning, our parents worried and called around to our friends’ homes to find out where we were last spotted. (We were always scolded for not calling in on these occasions, as well.)
Now, all of these things are handled using cell phones which can text, tweet, or email, in addition to just outright calling another person, to make sure no important communication is missed. We indeed live in interesting times.
Now, in fact, electronic communication is so pervasive that we are seeking ways to limit it. Folks barely look up from their handheld devices as they cross a street, email boxes are full of “spam”/electronic junk mail, and we are rudely interrupted by phones ringing (and subsequent personal conversations) in restaurants, elevators, and other public places. Phones light up at the movies, distracting other theater goers, as an impatient recipient reads a text message that just can’t wait. Television commercials warn against the serious dangers of texting while driving.
Today, I read that Apple has received a patent to restrict iPhone recordings near government buildings and political events. There is an outcry over this limitation of a freedom that, fifty years ago, was pure science fiction. So many benefits, so many issues.
When I first had email, I rushed home to check my “mailbox” every night. Ten years later, I was so battered by the constant barrage of emails at work, and demands for immediate responses, that some nights I didn’t even turn my personal computer on. Now I have a phone with texting and IM-ing, a laptop with email (three addresses for different purposes, neatly sorted by Outlook), Skype, Facebook and LinkedIn on both these devices and my Kindle Fire, and the ability to create and email a blog post from anywhere any time.
These are all wonderful conveniences, but sometimes I just need to unplug. For the last five or six days I’ve been travelling. I popped into my email and Facebook twice to “keep up,” and if a family member had needed to reach me, I had a cell phone. I didn’t feel the immediate need to use another device or program. Of course, during that time I neglected my blog, but it was sort of restful.
I don’t Tweet, Facebook, or text my every move (I don’t care for it when other people do this, so I won’t burden them either.) I don’t post my opinions on Facebook (after all this is meant as social media –and weren’t we taught not to discuss religion or politics socially?) I have my blog for my random thoughts and opinions (which I post to a separate Facebook page for those who care.) I truly appreciate my friends and followers, and will try to get caught up this week – but I unapologetically enjoyed my e-vacation.
So, in the event that I’m somewhere away from home, perhaps on a prolonged trip, and I have an urgent need to communicate something on my blog, it will be wonderful that I have that ability from all of my electronic devices through email. I’m giving that a try for the first time with this post, including using some “shortcodes” – for example to tag it. However, just because I can do something with one of these marvelous devices doesn’t mean that I necessarily should, or will.
Time will tell how useful some of these new tech advances will be for me, but who knows? These are, after all, very interesting times.
9/21/12 – A quick addendum – I’m thrilled to advise that this post was selected by WordPress.com to be Freshly Pressed! Thanks, WordPress!!
This post was written in response to the the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge: Mail It In. To read more about the challenge and other bloggers’ responses, click here: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/09/17/weekly-writing-challenge-mail-it-in/