When I was a child, this wonderful company called Apple came out with this crazy object called a home computer. The monitor was black, and any characters appeared in glowing green neon. I had to use floppy disks the size of my head to play Frogger. I knew enough programming to make it spit out a little x-and-o riddled Christmas tree. I was on the cutting edge.
My teens and early 20s found me moseying along, not a care in the world. I was hip; I was young; the future was my plaything. Gravity could not take away my body’s natural perkiness, nor could the need for food or sleep prevent me from enjoying all-night entertainment. I was on top of all the new technology. I was part of the now. Hell, I was even part of the five-minutes-from-now.
Until I woke up one day and found that I was obsolete.
When did this happen?
I cannot figure out when this shift occurred. I’m not even entirely sure of the first moment when I looked at someone younger than me with that uncomprehending stare that I remember my own parents giving me. It may have been when ICQ was the big thing. Twitter definitely got the blank stare from me (and still does, occasionally).
I don’t even want to think about the moment when I realized I no longer knew who the hot new bands were. That is a whole separate level of shame.
Recently, I have taken pains to get back in the game. I am grappling with the new technologies, the new social media (now that I know what that term signifies), and the new expectations that all this places on writers. What I am still struggling with is exactly how much time is spent connecting with people electronically in this new world. We are, as people who must to some degree market ourselves, somewhat obliged to build up an online presence. It is a necessity these days if you want anyone at all to notice that you – or your books – exist. While it is a little frustrating how much time is now diverted away from actually writing so that I may babysit these various digital identities, it is also incredibly cool that all this can be accomplished while sitting in bed juggling a laptop and a bagel.
I am not completely helpless. I understand the draw of Facebook (waste time while building up an arbitrary feeling of popularity) and YouTube (waste time while building up an arbitrary feeling of… okay, I’m not entirely sure about that one). Twitter mystifies me, although I use it. Blogs… well, yeah, I can understand that there are some people who have something worthwhile to say on a regular enough basis that other people might want to get in on that action, but I sincerely doubt that they are in the majority. And yet everyone seems to have a blog now.
I don’t approach this new technology with disdain, nor do I look upon it with fear. I just hate the feeling of absolute obliviousness I get when listening to younger and hipper people talk about hootsuite and tweetdeck and tumblr and flickr and memes. I’m still completely confused by memes, despite having had them explained to me. More than once.
But I love my writer’s group on Skype. I enjoy the free-flowing information and silliness and blatant irrelevancy of Facebook. I am completely captivated by YouTube’s ability to spit out the most obscure 80’s music video without batting a proverbial digital eyelash. I particularly love that it is now a common thing for writers to self-publish their novels (although many of them should have resisted the urge). There is a freedom in all these new options.
Just the fact that eBooks can make finding a flat surface in my home possible again is utterly fascinating.
So I don’t have a true conclusion to reach from any of this, I suppose. As a child of the 70s and 80s, I guess I am a little leery of too much enthusiasm. Pop culture has a tendency to embrace things beyond the point of reason and sanity (hell, look at polyester), so I do wonder at times where this will all end. When I was little, “1984” was an absolutely terrifying book. Now, it seems… tame. Or to use the new parlance, “Meh.”