Pay phones-- virtually a thing of the past. Cell phones-- total necessity. Computers-- who can live without them. VCR is now DVD and in some of my books, even that hadn't been in homes. This all illustrates one advantage of writing historical novels-- possible technologies of the time don't change at least not if you researched it well to start.
April 2008 Seal Rock
What has triggered this thinking is what happened in Steubenville, Ohio. If you followed it, you know the details, if not, I won't go into them as they are pretty unpleasant. The part that relates to what I'm thinking is how social media played a role as it has in so many happenings especially with youth but also oldsters.
Kids today simply don't know the same world I, or even my kids, did growing up. Today, youth are connected and online, some from early childhood. Their every move is recorded and passed onto friends and family in a way that past parents could only dream of doing. As soon as they are old enough, they have cell phones and text their friends to the point they are never disconnected from their social network. How will this impact the emotional maturing of these kids?
The rape in Steubenville was compounded by tweets and instagram photos of the crime while those not connected directly to it watched and did nothing. Would the young men have even done what they did if they had not been drunk themselves and then egged on? We know the gang mentality of the young where murders have been committed, lots of kids knew, and protected the crime through some kind of group loyalty or psychoses. This rape though was discovered and its damage compounded by social media that enabled voyeurism and guilt by association (some of whom may find there is a criminal penalty to be paid).
May 2009 Seal Rock
Lately I've seen several sites writing about hurt feelings from words that were only possible because of blogs, Facebook, or other social sites. People forget that everything they say here, it all is out there and can be found by others. Some give intimate information on their lives that maybe they won't later want to have available to the world-- but it will be.
Social media has a particular tendency to encourage more sharing of things that at one time would have been unthinkable to tell strangers-- and yet that's exactly what is happening. Old folks are as prone to this as kids.
We can now publish books, put pictures of ourselves online with no censorship at all in some places. Facebook does censor but still people in their underwear to strangers? Seriously? In some ways we can know more about strangers than we do our neighbors but do we really? How much of what we read is invented?
December 2011 Seal Rock
We can be dragged into voyeurism ourselves if we don't have a strong sense of values that says-- I won't read or look at that. Whoa, those words went too far for me! That photo, is it what I think it is, and instead of staying and salivating, shutting down the site.
When I began on the internet, I was in a group site where you could have private chats but also share in designated rooms. I was chatting with a guy who was flirting or trying to with me, but he also was watching something he told me I should go see. In one of the 'rooms' a couple had put up a link to their webcam where they were making love. The guy thought it was great. I thought it was wrong for them and anybody who viewed it. I didn't want to be part of encouraging this couple to degrade themselves from the egging on of others. He saw nothing wrong with it. The twenty year age difference between us might have explained part of that different way we saw it.
People build friendships through the Internet, and I am the first to say it can be done. I have met people this way who became real time friends. I also know those who were defrauded by people who created identities aimed for that purpose. Some do it out of loneliness but others are grifters who make money off the loneliness of others.
My main thought here is how easily people say mean things, things they'd never say to someone in person because the internet makes meanness easy. It makes possible to encourage someone who is degrading themselves or others, an act that person would never do in person.
To many people the internet is an alternate reality, a different level of relationship which can become a trap. It is a fact in our world where we do our business online, learn the news, talk to friends, share our experiences. That genii is out of the bottle, but it does take a sense of ethics to use it wisely for ourselves, not become part of things that are wrong because they don't seem real-- not make it the center of our lives.
Especially for the younger generation, it is a constant battle to stay connected enough without it becoming crippling to their physical reality-- or as happened in Steubenville, get them into serious trouble.
March 2013 Seal Rock
And for oldsters, I think it's just good to keep it in perspective. Use it, don't let it use us. Understand that what we write, either in a blog or comments, goes beyond the immediate and can be found for years to come. Nothing out there is really private to those who know how to hack.
Photos are the ones I mentioned of four long time friends at a vacation spot we have enjoyed over the last five years. Sometime I will take the time to find the photos of us through the years-- we go way back-- although not quite to childhood. I came across a few of them when looking for petroglyph photos. Hard to believe it's even us ;). Today we use social media as this couple are the only ones with whom I chat now using Skype (with MSN messenger going down). We could use the phone, do get together now and then, but we enjoy the convenience of typing, connecting and onward to our days. The internet isn't a bad thing. Social media isn't harmful unless we lose control of it.