“I’ve never been on the internet,” my dad tells us defiantly. He has wandered into the dining room where Stephen & I have set up our makeshift home office while we are visiting my parents. I look up from my computer.
“Of course you have, Dad.”
“Nope,” he shakes his head. ” I never have. I’m not going to use it. You know why? Because people who use the internet lose their ability to communicate.”
Stephen is concentrating hard on his screen. We’ve heard this before. In fact, we’ve heard this about once a day for the 2 weeks that we’ve been here.
“People send emails instead of talking to each other,” Dad continues. “When my secretary sends me email, I have to get up and walk down the hall to her office just to see what she wants.”
My dad is a very successful lawyer. He’s smart, honest, hard-working, and terrific in a courtroom. But he is also a man who has a Blackberry for reading email, and doesn’t realise that it’s also a cell phone. So he has a separate phone for making calls. He’s not what you would call technologically savvy.
“If you two keep typing away on those things you’re going to forget how to talk to each other.”
My dad is not a fan of social media. When I arrived in town, he presented me with an article he cut out of the paper. It read: Social media newest way to get scammed. When I tell him how well things are going at work, his reply is always the same.
“I don’t understand all that stuff. And I don’t want to.”
Usually this is followed by a loud rattling of his newspaper, or some fervent channel flipping on his TV remote. Traditional media Dad is cool with, but social media… well, the closest he want to be to ‘interacting’ is thinking about calling in to the Rush Limbaugh show. (Surprise, Dad, Rush has a Facebook page… he has 680,000 fans.)
Some would say Dad has a point. Stephen and I have been known to comment on each other’s Facebook status while sitting at the same table. And there is the odd occasion when I text him from my office (upstairs), while he’s in his office (downstairs). But for the most part, we do plenty of talking.
And it’s not just us. On an average day, I use social media to talk to my college buddies in Boston, my high school pals in Atlanta, my friends and former co-workers in Maine, Michigan, Oregon, London, Germany, Afghanistan… the list is endless. Sometimes it’s just ‘Hey! How are you? I miss you!’ But more often, we talk about news stories (‘check out this link to npr’), pass along information (‘I made this YouTube video about my job’), share feelings (OMG, I’m sooooooo ready for 2011!’) and recap our day (‘Humiliated! I just hugged three people before realizing I forgot to cut the tags off my new sweater!’)
I have more interesting conversations in one afternoon, than I remember in the years when I actually had to pick up the phone to stay in touch. Sure, we’re typing and not talking. But the communication is there. What we’ve lost – is the distance.
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