Social Media promotes instant gratification and
ambient connectivity. Perhaps with a cost.
Are you ever reminded of some item you lost years back? Was it your fault, some act of carelessness? What do you tell yourself to make yourself feel better?
Mine was a watch. And not just any watch, but one that belonged to my grandmother. A white enamel and gold cuff. You had to open a little lid to check the time.
I was a freshman at Wesleyan University, studying in a cubicle on a beautiful East Coast fall day. The watch was a little small for my wrist, and hurt if I wore it for long periods. So I took it off before heading to a nearby restroom. As I passed through the door, I turned back to appreciate how the sun caught the gold glint of the watch. Somebody else appreciated it too, because when I got back just minutes later, the watch was gone.
A friend helped me post flyers offering a reward, but I knew I would never see that watch again. My only consolation: Maybe that person needed it more than I did.
Years later, I still wonder about that watch. What happened after I turned away? I picture a boy or girl walking by, hesitating, then on impulse, hurriedly stuffing the watch into a pant or shirt pocket.
And, inevitably, a flood of conflicting emotions follows. Was I stupid to display such an expensive temptation? Yes. Naive? Definitely.
With a mix of regret and acceptance, I again pack away the uncomfortable memory, with the understanding that the story will again unfold in my mind at any given time, triggered by who knows what. Then the cycle will repeat.
Over the past months, these social networking tools have opened direct lines into other people's lives, some complete strangers, others friends, family or acquaintances from high school.
And I have given them access into my life.
Do I feel closer? Yes and no.
Social Media promotes instant gratification and ambient connectivity. Perhaps with a cost.
For example, I am debating whether or not to attend my high school reunion in June. Unfortunately, travel costs are significant, especially for a two-day event. And the magic and mystery are much less now. Thanks to Facebook and Twitter, I receive ongoing updates from former classmates on kids/careers/vacations. Sometimes even a daily play-by-play, starting with the morning coffee to the nightly sign-off.
No longer do I have to wonder "whatever happened to ..." I know it all. And see it all through photo albums and videos.
Less so with my family, ironically. But still, the need to travel becomes less urgent when you have such immediate access.
Troublesome, this sense of false intimacy?
You have to wonder what patterns will imprint on the next generation. And what will be the effects.
Perhaps by 2020, the airline industry will have much more to worry about than the high price of fuel.