The Digital Age (Part I)

Isn’t it funny how technology can literally change everything about how people interact? Not only the method, but the actual way in which we do it–such as what we say and how we say it. It happens very slowly over time, so that you don’t realize everything is different until you look back to where you started. The only question is whether or not you’re better off now, and that one is always up for discussion.

Of course, I’m really talking about two things here: e-mail and cell phones. Ten years ago, most people had neither (and if you did have a cell phone, it weighed more than most small dogs). Now, however, a huge majority of people rely on these two items for almost all of their communication. I’m certainly one of them. So how did we get here? Wouldn’t it be interesting to look back and see? Because this topic could cover quite a bit of space, however, I’m going to limit this post to e-mail and tackle cell phones at a later date. Preferrably one in which alcohol consumption is not an obstacle.

Looking back over my outbox at work (digital, of course), it looks like I send anywhere from 30-40 e-mails a day. A far majority of these are business-related, and therefore require a fair amount of thought when writing…sometimes with various documents, spreadsheets, etc. as attachments. My boss, who sits in an office approximately 15 feet away, e-mails me several times a day. Some guy named Joe has doggedly e-mailed me numerous times this month asking me to visit his web site full of teenage girls (obviously this is what we consider “spam”–surely Joe’s mother can’t be proud of his new job). Outside of these things we still have product offers, jokes from Aunt Cindy, reminders I send to myself (nice logic there), organizational efforts, event planning, gift registries, alumni donation solicitations, cooking recipes, and of course my personal favorite: greeting cards. It goes on and on. So the obvious question our children must ask is, “Mom? Dad? What was life like before e-mail?” And let me tell you, it’s a tough question to answer…not to mention a great reason for not having children.

But there’s a second part to all this, as well, in that the introverts of the world have finally been given a voice. Throw three extraverts and three introverts in a room, and the extraverts will dominate 90% of the conversation. Do the same with e-mail, and all of the sudden it’s an entirely different ballgame. It’s something like facing a soldier armed with a nerf ball versus one with an AK-47…and trust me, I’ve used both. So because the introverts are behind the technology of the world (again, trust me on this one), could it be true that the world is trending more to that way of thinking? Would you look back and say that your relationships now are less personal than they were ten years ago?

Certainly I wouldn’t. I didn’t even talk to people ten years ago. But for a lot of people, I wonder. And it’s especially interesting that it takes quite a bit longer to write an e-mail than make a phone call, when you’re looking to express the same amount of information. So what gives? I don’t know, but I do know that by the time I get home now, I’m pretty tired of writing e-mails. It’s not so much a conscious thing, but before you know it two weeks have passed and you still have four people you should’ve written back days ago. For those of you that have fallen into this category (in my e-mail failures of late), I sincerely apologize. In thinking about it, though, I’ve come to what should be an obvious conclusion (for me): I’m going to pick up the phone a little more often. If I have e-mails to respond to, I’ll try to give you a more personal response…that doesn’t mean a 30-minute phone conversation or anything, but a simple hello over those things we call phone lines. It should be fun! So if you get a phone call from me sometime, don’t be too surprised–and remember, you can always hang up. 🙂

If anyone else is interested, the same always goes for you, too…give me a call anytime at home or cell. I’d love to hear from you, as long as you have nothing against white people.

And if it doesn’t strike you as slightly ironic that I’m writing you to say that I’ll talk more by phone, then perhaps your irony meter was turned off. 🙂 But this isn’t an e-mail, of course, or some equivalent of the phone. This site is a way to stand up on the bricks outside your local bookstore, shouting to the masses with my electronic bullhorn. And that, my friends, is the true beauty of the internet.