Succumbing to the Realm of Social Networking – AKA Did I really go to school with all those people?

OK, that just might be an exaggeration, but this guy who can’t even keep up with his blog has entered the world of Facebook. Yes, I did it. I set up a Facebook account. I’ll look into therapy next week.

We live in a fascinating times. It wasn’t that long ago–really it wasn’t–that social networking sites were little more than a coder’s twinkle in the eye. The concept, however is much older.

Fast forwarding past drums and snail mail….when I was in high school I got my amateur radio operators licence. This geeky kid with less than an exciting social life was the prototypical pimply high school computer geek of this age–except I had radio with vacuum tubes and no microprocessor.

Back in those days, even before the advent of computer bulletin boards–because almost no one had a computer yet–back in those dark years of later 1970s I used Morse Code to communicate to fellow amateur radio operators. Yes, Morse Code. If you don’t know what that is, Google it.

In time communications became a vocation. Spending my days fixing communications networks and being a consumer of them too, the idea of playing with radios in my spare time became less attractive. Mind you I also got married and there were many more attractive things to do, not to mention responsibilities.

As the years ticked by, PCs became readily available for the price of a good used car. I bought one. I played around with bulletin boards, but no one I really wanted to talk to used the one I was on, at least not anyone I didn’t see at work. I do recall when thanks to telnet I was able to access crude e-mail on the Internet…but I still didn’t have any one to talk to. Good thing I was married.

Dial up Internet access, now that changed things a little. With that I could easily send e-mails to people I knew who had Internet access–which was almost no one. Back then they were even talking about this weird idea of the world wide web–weird ‘eh.

Fast forward a few years…have things ever changed. My kids have basically grown up in a world where cell phones and instant messaging have “always been there.” I wonder if my youngest would know how to talk to her friends with out texting, messaging, Facebook, twiddle and tweet.

So what has changed? Accessibility.

Thanks to high sales volumes of high tech gadgetry and networks, what was once expensive and complicated has become affordable and usable by most people (at least in my neck of the woods). What was but a dream when I graduated from high school in 1980 has caused a revolution in how we relate to one another.

I tend to view the philosophical constructs of “modern” and “postmodern” as descriptive rather than prescriptive. How we define community today is vastly different than how we did just a few decades ago–a mere flicker in the human timeline. Community used to be defined by geography. Live in the same village and you were part of that community, like it or not. Today we create the communities of our liking. All that is required is mutual access to a network. If people subscribe to texting, messaging, or social networking sites, you can be part of their community.

Point in case. Much to my dismay, I had lost touch with almost all of my high school class mates. I moved out of town and became part of other communities. Some stayed in that beautiful valley (it really is beautiful) while others moved on. When my 10th year reunion came up, I couldn’t make it for personal reasons. When my 20th year reunion arrived, business demands prevented me from going. I figured I would probably never reconnect with any one other than the occasional chance meeting…and then along comes Facebook.

I was slow to get on Facebook. My kids were on Facebook, but I stuck with a blog. A few days ago I broke down and subscribed to Facebook. Then it happened. First one old school mate and then another appeared. I confess I have had to work at remembering who some of them are. My Grad Year Book got damaged beyond repair in a flood so I can’t even go back to that to remind myself. How sad.

The beauty of it all is this; I can re-enter a community that apparently remembers me better than I remember them (to my shame). I can do it because in this postmodern world, community is accessible. I look forward to getting reacquainted with people who in a sense I never knew, at least not as adults free of the vagaries of teen age social pressures. May be a better way of stating it would be to say that I used to worry about being “weird,” but now I don’t mind it at all 😉

I’ll end this ramble with two thoughts.

First, it is ironic that I start “high tech” networking with a single key, but now it takes a keyboard full. It took one key to say -.-. –.- -.. . …- .–…  but nine keys to say CQ THIS IS VE7.

The second, is a wee bit of paranoia…what happens when the power goes out. Did you ever consider that our postmodern idealism of community building as enabled by technologies such as Facebook was adding to global warming?  I told you I was weird.


PS – I am still happily married. Even though we live in the same house, we have been known to text each other at home–just to silly. It got really strange though when I left a message on my wife’s Facebook wall.