Friday, December 16, 2011

Technology.

I was expecting for this post to do nothing with disabilities, law or prejudice. I simply wanted to rant on about how for four days I managed to survive without a cell phone with limited internet service, a laptop that doesn't charge and a netbook that heats up, freezes and ignores my microphone. But I was wrong. My BlackBerry feels crucial for me and not only for the work that I do and not as a cool gadget. When you are in a wheelchair and you can't move around freely my a smartphone becomes a tool  that allows you to be in touch with your friends, figure out where to go and how to meet them, when otherwise you could simply walk or drive to their house. I was thinking how strongly we learnt to rely on technology to the extent that writing about it becomes a cliche. But, by the same token when you're not as mobile as other people you don't have as many avenues of interactions as they do. And having my cell phone allows me to be tapped into that world. More so than a laptop, because I can be in the middle of the street and get a text message or a Facebook message. Yes, you can say, I remember times when people had face to face conversations or letters. But just think how limiting this had to had been if you have limited opportunity to get around. Waiting at your home for a friend to visit you or having to deal with somebody having to put up with the logistics of transporting you in a wheelchair to a see somebody. Now we can be smarter about our time and connect on different levels.

Yes, I was as confused about the purpose of some of those social tools as anybody else. In the mid-90's I had ICQ. I've had Facebook since 2004, back when it was called Thefacebook.com. With ICQ the problem was that you had the perfect tool to open yourself to the world, but I didn't feel like I knew how to use it. Should I be friends with the random stranger from across the globe that I will never meet and sprend hours online? With all this technology it felt like people should be getting in touch with you all the time. It seems like something should be happening. When it doesn't you feel more lonely than before.

Facebook was even more confusing. At the time it was for students only, so you knew they were your classmates or campus people. But as in real life you have different degrees of interaction on Facebook everyone was your friend. Those who didn't really know you didn't often talk to you much more than they did before. I guess everyone has gone through the initial phase of fascination with Facebook being able to add your Starbucks barista and know everything about them. Or the person that makes your subs. But soon we all discovered that we don't really know these random people and we don't really talk to them anyway. That's when you asked yourself: are they my friends? Should I make an effort to talk to those people? After the fascination wears off, you ask yourself, what is the purpose of being linked to them? And I guess because it felt pointless many have started to delete people from their lists.

I don't have that problem anymore. I think of Facebook as my broader sphere of influence if you will. It's fused with my phone, I use it in stead of e-mail or an instant messenger.  It's a business tool, it's a communication channel; people I work with, people I spend time with are all my "Friends". It's much easier to find somebody there. Recently I was so impressed with the local staging of Chicago I messaged some of the actors. I never delete anyone because even if we haven't spoken in ages they might share an interesting article or post something that will make me want to drop them a message even if they live in Chicago. I don't post embarrassing things, I rarely do embarrassing things,  so I'm not too concerned about being visible to be honest. It was funny how things got complicated because I didn't have a computer I could Skype Verizon the phone company to repair my cell. And then 2 day Fedex service apparently meant that when I call on Thursday I get a new cell on Tuesday.

I sleep with my cell phone next to my pillow. I hear Madonna does the same. I often wake up in the middle of the night to see if the e-mail I was waiting on is here.

If there's anything I miss  from before we were all so connected it's the anticipation. The excitement of waiting for your favorite tv show once a week or a magazine you love to hit the stands. The instant gratification of internet takes a large chunks of that away from me.

1 comment:

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