Do you ever look around and wonder just how you got where you are? Was there a navigator or even a map involved? Just what turn of events was pivotal, or is it even possible to pin it all on one key moment? This is how I ponder when I’m flipping pancakes or having other quiet moments. And since my daughter requested pancakes this morning, I had some ponder time. Just how the hell did I turn into a nearly 42-year old mother of 3, flipping pancakes while checking Twitter, Facebook, email and the weather forecast on my iPhone while successfully managing to answer my land-line?
As a Gen Xer, I am part of yet another generation that has witnessed lots of cool stuff happen. In the big picture, it hasn’t been too terribly long since the Age of Enlightenment, but wow! the stuff each generation comes to think of as normal. Rather mind boggling, isn’t it? Land-line? iPhone? Twitter? Just think of all the “normal” stuff that your childhood self, wearing plaid bell-bottoms circa 1972, would have flipped out over.
One of the biggest changes in my life is just the number of connections I have with others. I see this as the most obvious form of progress in our current world. Think of the average villager in 1592. Regardless of which nation claimed their village, the number of people those villagers actually knew would have been a fairly limited number. And that makes a difference. The bigger our world view, the more we are able to view within that world. Or in other words, as we are able to see the larger global experience, the more we are able to see the humanity of the other inhabitants of that world.
I lived for the first 3 years of my life in Fort Klamath, Oregon (population 83 in 2000). From there, I moved to Wilbur, Washington (population 814 in 2010). I grew up in very small town America. Even my “big city” experience came from graduating from high school in Reedsport, Oregon (a town with a rousing population of 4378 in 2000). And these small towns all had one thing in common. A lack of diversity. I don’t remember a single conversation outside my childhood home that didn’t paint folks from different countries or religions as “the other.” Thankfully, my humanist mom made sure to instill in me a value of our humanness. I think I must have been about five when she taught me “prick me, do I not bleed?” The Merchant of Venice still rings true all these years later.
So it’s not terribly surprising that I had a tiny little body of actual acquaintances and they were all pretty much like me in most ways. Compare that to today, and it is nearly mind-boggling. And it’s all because of technology and my access to that technology. Modes of transportation allowed me to actually live amongst people from other cities and countries. Modes of media allowed me to “see” places in the world I was unable to visit. Modes of communication allowed me to meet people from around the globe. My village is so much larger than any villager’s in 1592.
A major game-changer for most these days is the internet. My first blush with the internet came with a little comment from my husband. We were in his office and he called me over. “Hey, wanna see something cool?”
Now you may not always associate your husband offering to show you “something” with technology, but I do. In this instance, Mister Soandso showed me “Pine” and “Gopher” which are now “prehistoric” forms of communicating on the internet. I admit that my eyes glazed over as he waxed poetically about the technology used to create those conversations with professors at the University of Minnesota, but I recognized one important thing: access to this is going to be the big separator of the “haves” from the “have nots.” And that which folks did or didn’t have was going to be more than just money or access to information. It was going to be connectivity and how that connectivity has the power to make people greater than they are.
That conversation was in 1995 — before “Yahoo” or “Google” or even blue M&Ms. So much has changed since then. For example, my on-line life has changed significantly, and with it, my self as well.
My internet presence was born on the Weight Watchers Bulletin Board back after the birth of my son. It was the first time I used the internet to “meet” and “befriend” people from who knows how far away. From there, I went to first MySpace and then Facebook as easy ways to stay in touch with my siblings who lived over 2000 miles and 2 times zones from me. Then came my blogging persona and then Twitter.
All in all, I have met IRL (in real life) nine people I first met via the internet. Which is a much better rate than my one pen-pal back in my childhood, whom I shared letters with for six years but never met. Of course, the difference between my childhood rural self and my adult urban self are vast. But then, so is our world. I am working to create a “pen-pal” system with a group of children in my hometown with a group of children in Uganda, using the internet for ease of communication. Just like I had a childhood pen-pal with a young girl in my home state, the children involved will also have pen-pals, but in their home “world”. In creating this program, I am hoping to give kids the life-changing experience of expanding their connectivity to others — or making a world-sized village filled with people more able to see similaries than differences.
I want my kids to know more than just the kids in their local world. Technology allows us to broaden our horizons and let more and more people into our “world.” I am raising my kids in a community made of many skin tones, prayer styles, and perspectives. And by using technological advances, I have the ability to make my kids’ community even larger than what our “city limits” defines it as. And that makes me happy. Very happy. As a retired teacher, I truly hope that all children of every village have the ability to use today’s technology to “see” the whole world and all the world’s children as people just like them…humans who all bleed the very same way.
Just how did I end up here? I’m not sure, but it has been a wonderful ride. And I simply cannot wait to see what is round the next bend in my road. After all, I have a whole world to travel.
How about you? What was your first blush with the internet? How has the internet and technology changed your life? Have you met your BFF or your life’s love via technology?