Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Disconnection of Constant Connection

My generation moved from low-tech (or tech free) to high tech seamlessly. When I say "my generation" I recognize that there may be some debate about who falls into this group. I readily accept that Gen X ended in the 70's. The generation that came after (some say 77-94) is often called the Millenials. Although I was born in 1982, the idea of being group in with "Millenials" terrifies me.  Us early 80's babies have almost nothing in common with the early 90's babies. So, I suppose that makes me Gen Y, if that is such a thing.

Part of this differentiation comes from our experience with technology.  As an 80s baby, I remember when we first got the new and tiny internet, I got my first cell phone in college and avidly used Friendster and MySpace in my 20s before Facebook was ever born.

My generation grew up without these technologies, but were young enough to accept them as they were introduced. We took to cell phones, tablets and social networking slightly faster than our older siblings, but had a memory of walkmans, fax machines and typewriters that our younger siblings did not.

I was in middle school when I got hooked on AOL Instant Messenger, the precursor to a lot of the social media that I eventually got hooked on. As social websites evolved, I stuck with it.  I loved connecting with friends who had moved away, promoting my writing ventures, and using the hive-mind those applications collect to make decisions for me (What movie should I see tonight?), but recently I started to pull back. Perhaps it's the memory of what once was that has been causing me trouble.

When I close my eyes, I remember debates about movie characters that were not solved instantaneously with Wikipedia. I remember writing and receiving long emails and even paper letters full of details of friend's lives, rather than skimming their About Me sections, and receiving phone calls of good news rather than reading about a Relationship Status change on my cell phone while I wait for the train. I remember waiting to hear a song on the radio - and excitedly blasting it in the car - instead of just downloading everything I want whenever I want.

The happiness and energy that I used to feel being connected to so many people and their lives all the time has faded. The more I read about my friends and acquaintances online, the more distant I feel. My phone rarely rings. My emails are all deals and promotions. Friend post funny stories on my wall, instead of telling me in person. Happy hour plans are made electronically.

I think the recognition that this sort of constant communication leaves all of us out of touch is something Millenials might not be able to feel. They have always had everything at their fingertips. They have never gone 5 years without seeing the faces of their friends.  The memory of what once was makes this reality a little harder to accept. I think this is the feeling our parents (and their parents) have always tried to communicate to us with all of their "back in my day" stories.

The good thing is that getting back to the connections and communications that I remember isn't that hard. When I have a funny story to tell you, I'll call. When you see something online that reminds you of me, send it in an email. Cut out a magazine article and mail it. Let's ask each other how we are doing rather then gleaning each other's moods from our newsfeeds.

I'm a Gen Yer. That means that technology is a part of my life (a part that I love) - but that also means that I came of age during a simpler time. A time when people connected in person, and we shared our good news with our family and closest friends before we told everyone we've ever met with the click of a mouse.

Maybe by disconnecting a little we can all feel more connected.

This post from buzzfeed actually addresses this gap a little bit.

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