Yeah, still not getting it

I’m a geek. I’ll listen to The Tech Guy Podcast before the newest Metallica album. Ninety percent of the RSS feeds that I read are tech-related. Since college I’ve always worked in the tech industry. My house is tech. My friends are tech. Tech is life.

Unfortunately (or maybe not), instead of being a Web 2.x guy, I’m still sort of hanging on to being a Web 1.5.x guy. And I’m fine with that. I am my father’s son — a simple kind of man. I’m obviously a member of a completely different generation than that of my dad, one where email is a standard form of communication, plagiarism is as easy as copy and paste and, if I need to know what Britney Spears is doing right this moment, I could easily find out.

On separate occasions I remember having conversations with my mom and Mr. Wilson, my parents’ next door neighbor (where next door is three quarters of a mile a way) about my dad. Dad expressed that he would have liked to have lived in much simpler days. If I had to guess, I’d say he was referencing the days when cowboys rode the plains on their horses to neighboring cities where they would exchange Atari games, sit around the campfire and drink Tab cola.

My dad actually wrote me an email once. And I’m proud to say that in that email I learned that a propane tank is cross-threaded:

“Josh, if you were trying to take the regulator off…….it has a reverse
thread, turn your wrench as if you are tighten it and it will come off.
We’ll see you this afternoon.
Mom wants to know if you have flour and eggs so she can fry squash?

Love, Dad”

I’m pretty sure in the three hours that it took my dad to compose that email, he probably said many, many times, “damnit, Janice, I’m just going to pick up the phone and call the boy.” And I can just hear my mom yelling from the kitchen, “NO!!! YOU’RE GOING TO DO THE EMAIL!!!”

And I’m certain there was confusion as to where to put the stamp after that.

Today everything is Facebook and Twitter. Two web anomalies that I just can’t get into. I’ve half-assed tried at both and have finally resolved to the fact that they’re both just mind clutter.

I read this recent paraphrased article from The New York Times. My thoughts on the paraphrasing are:

In essence, Facebook users didn’t think they wanted constant, up-to-the-minute updates on what other people are doing. Yet when they experienced this sort of omnipresent knowledge, they found it intriguing and addictive. Why?

Social scientists have a name for this sort of incessant online contact. They call it “ambient awareness.” It is, they say, very much like being physically near someone and picking up on his mood through the little things he does – body language, sighs, stray comments – out of the corner of your eye.

Ambient awareness? “It is, they say, very much like being physically near someone”. Yes, very much like. Except only very much different.

Haley discovered that he was beginning to sense the rhythms of his friends’ lives in a way he never had before. When one friend got sick with a virulent fever, he could tell by her Twitter updates when she was getting worse and the instant she finally turned the corner. He could see when friends were heading into hellish days at work or when they’d scored a big success. Even the daily catalog of sandwiches became oddly mesmerizing, a sort of metronomic click that he grew accustomed to seeing pop up in the middle of each day.

I don’t give a rat’s ass what kind of sandwich you had for lunch. If it was that earth-shatteringly good of a sandwich, pick up the damn phone and call the boy. If you have a virulent fever, eat a sandwich and drink lots of water. I don’t need to know about it though.

This was never before possible, because in the real world, no friend would bother to call you up and detail the sandwiches she was eating. The ambient information becomes like “a type of E.S.P.,” as Haley described it to me, an invisible dimension floating over everyday life.

See, even the professionals agree that no friend would bother to call you up to talk about sandwiches. And that floating invisible dimension? That’s probably what gave you the fever in the first place.

This is the ultimate effect of the new awareness: It brings back the dynamics of small-town life, where everybody knows your business…

“It’s just like living in a village, where it’s actually hard to lie because everybody knows the truth already,” Tufekci said. “The current generation is never unconnected. They’re never losing touch with their friends. So we’re going back to a more normal place, historically. If you look at human history, the idea that you would drift through life, going from new relation to new relation, that’s very new. It’s just the 20th century.”…

That’s right, “where everybody knows your business”. Some coworkers and I were walking to lunch last week and Twitter became the topic of conversation. I told my entourage that I’d recently decided to declutter and stop “tweeting”, which lead to a very profound Web 2.#2 conclusion:

“If people really want to know what I’m doing at every waking moment, I’m just going to post every time I drop a deuce.” That’s Web 2.0 talk for “tending to paperwork”, or playing “Frogger” as they would say in my dad’s desired days.

And someone already did the Web 2.0 “grunt” work (see what I did there?) by developing a website that allows people to document their, um, Froggers, so all of their friends, family, coworkers, future employers and ex-girlfriends can keep up-to-date on the progress of that noteworthy sandwich you had for lunch while maintaining thorough “ambient awareness”.

If you’re ever made aware of any changes have been made in propane tank threading technology, please send me an email or a telegraph as I like to keep up-to-date on these kinds of things. If you have a sandwich for lunch that changes your life, you’re one of the lucky ones. The rest of the world will have to live vicariously through you. I’ll be out in the plains, keeping watch on the simpler things.

2 Replies to “Yeah, still not getting it”

  1. I’m trying to keep my brain young. I don’t understand the kids completely, but I try to keep up with them. Keep the brain exercised.

    I do have choice people like my sister who hates phones as much as I do, that it does help me communicate with.

    And who knows. I’ve got some ideas that might make it more than simply pokemon with single-sentence blog posts. And I know other people do too.

    You’ve got to look at the big picture. We’re creating these electronic relationships between people and the elements of their lives. That’s really fascinating. It’s like pure scientific research. We’ve invented velcro. Now we just need the visionary to put it on shoes.

  2. @Tim: you and I should start a shoe company. Instead of the toddler shoes that have blinking LEDs that light up whenever the kid walks or runs, we could have the shoes display tweets.

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