Monday, October 15, 2012

How We Digitally Live Now

Last Friday morning my husband Jerry and I were sitting at our separate computers when there came a loud cursing from his study. The Internet connection was out. It wasn't the router or the modem. I picked up the telephone to call Time Warner Cable, no dial tone. All the TVs were out too. No MSNBC. It was a total communications blackout. A call to TWC on my cell resulted in a recording saying there was an outage in our area. It was like being in the Dark Ages, how would I view time-wasting videos of Jack Benny and Carol Burnett on YouTube? I also had theater reviews and other pieces of vital information to email. After doing what I could offline and still no restoration of the magic communications lines, I went to the Starbucks with my laptop, bought a mocha Frapaccino, and found a seat. This was no mean feat since the place was packed with displaced surfers of the information superhighway. Jerry says it's always crowded in there. No one was talking to each other. Everyone was intent on their own computer, making phone calls on their cell, conducting business.

I wound up spending all afternoon at Starbucks. It was weird. I pictured a future where no one works in an office, the population gathers in cybercafes and lounges, sipping coffees and lattes as they virtually connect with their co-workers. Everyone will have thousands of friends through Facebook and followers through Twitter, but few flesh-and-blood friends. Hey, that's not so different from now. But I still won't get a flying car like on The Jetsons.

Another thing I've noticed in my own digital dealings: Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn have become competitive rather than just for pleasure. When I first got on these social media platforms, I thought "This is going to be fun. I can write all kinds of silly stuff about what I had for lunch and what movie I saw last night." Now it's become a race to see how many likes you get and you feel like you've failed if you get less than 1,000. There are marketing strategies on the right time of day to tweet and which words to use in order to draw the most hits to your blog (I must have been sick on the day of that class.) The phrase "social media" is a misnomer, it should be called "self-promotion media." The joy has sort of gone out of it because it's become a business tool instead of a mechanism for what I used to call being busy (meaning the exact opposite. An example of being busy would be to chat about Golden Girl reruns instead of filing a vital report). I have to stop worrying about the number of pageviews and just concentrate on having fun, then the page views will follow--to paraphrase some self-help business model.

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