Forced onto Facebook (lol)
Vail CO, Colorado
Have you noticed? Personal communication, as in face-to-face, touching someone is out of vogue. We seem to far prefer text messaging, cell phone dialing, and e-mails to actually having to sit down with someone and talk. In this hyperspace era of instant everything, we are not satisfied unless we have immediate gratification. When was the last time you took a vacation with no cell phone and computer access, and did not panic?
And now, even the volume of telephone calls, e-mails, letters, photos and packages has dwindled dramatically as Facebook dominates our children’s communications links. For those of you still in the dark ages, Facebook is the Web-based personal page portal now serving 35 million users, 30 percent of whom are college students. Some kid out of Harvard wanted a better way to keep up with his friends, built a company that now employs 300 and most recently scoffed at an offer of $1 billion to buy the company. His face was on the cover of Newsweek last week.
Facebook, is like graffiti on tenement walls, cryptic notes written in stylized code called wall postings, complete with pictures tagged because you might or might not actually be in the photo. Words are shortened to nonsensical abbreviations (lol) that communicate not only information but emotions, and actual physical reactions. We now have emoticons (is that a word?) replacing punctuation, and complete sentences have become extinct since text messaging. If someone “pokes” you, it is a friendly punch to the shoulder, saying more directly, “Hey whassup dude?”
Facebook is so prolific on college campuses that it has been suggested that universities re-introduce general literacy college matriculation exams testing spelling, grammar, and writing in compound sentences. Perhaps in lieu of college diplomas, universities could simply poke graduating students out of school. It would save a lot on the sheepskins.
The good news is that the new citizenship examinations now required of intending immigrants actually expect post-doctoral studies in civics and the ability to write a dissertation on the Fall of the Roman Empire as it relates to the globalization of “America.” These exams must be written in American English only, and expect a full cultural integration and familiarization with such icons of American life such as tailgating, opposing team fan baiting, a red, white and blue dress code, and a mandatory viewing of “Bay Watch”, “Lost”, or “American Idol” with full seasons of 24 thrown in for extra credit. Fence Building 101 is also a required text, with automatic granting of citizenship to anyone who can prove they participated in a border sighting and capture of an II (illegal immigrant) crossing the Rio Grande.
And so while our expectations of full literacy and language acquisition increase for any foreigner having the temerity to suggest that they might be qualified to be a resident, and then a citizen of this country, our standards for our own communication are rapidly deteriorating. It seems that actually having a conversation with someone just takes too much time.
It is interesting to note that we are so buried with spam (not the World War II tin food staple) that e-mail and communication filters actually reject messages from long lost friends because our computers did not recognize the address. If you haven’t heard from someone, better check your junk mail before your weekly computer checkup dumps the lot.
Last week I did not receive an e-mail from a friend because she was using the Mozilla internet browser and my Internet Explorer refused to acknowledge anything from that system even existed. So we now have Internet wars as Google and Microsoft dictate what are defined as acceptable forms of communication, and want to track every single key stroke or Web click we make to tailor the barrage of Web ads that continually pop up on my computer. I now wonder whether my pop-up blocker is actually selective, based on the source of the ads. And I do not even watch “Big Brother”.
So what can be done about all of this? Well, as much as I hate to admit it, I joined Facebook. I want to see my kids’ photos that they never seem to have the time to send, but post within seconds of accessing a computer. And I catch them online periodically on Google chat, and we have a brief, “real-time conversation” (?) with all of the code and cryptic messages flying back and forth as they chat with 20 other people at the same time. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
Heather Lemon of Eagle-Vail writes a biweekly column for the Vail Daily. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.