True friendship is priceless and can’t be measured, contained, defined, or bound by any earthly means. I’m aware of that. But God put something in my heart just now, that will bust me at the seams if I don’t write it out. I wanted to look at how friendships have changed as technology has changed over just a lifetime.
In the 70’s: Hanging out with a friend meant going out of your house and walking,or riding your bike, to your friends house or to your favorite “hang out” corner, and talking face to face. You could also call someone on the phone, if that person had a phone. Fights, backstabbing and lies were less common, because the person doing the lying/backstabbing had to deal with their victim face to face.
In the late 80’s: we had this groovy brand new thing called the “world wide web” or “bulletin board” that required you to do a wild hook up with some Radio Shack purchased phone adapter gadget that looked like it was swallowing your phone – and I mean the old fashioned kind of phone, with a “microphone speaker” and a “voice speaker”, then dialing 16 numbers to connect long distance (which resulted in AT&T sending your mother a bill for $1000 the next month) to a server, and waiting for about 30 minutes for the connection, that would happen at the amazing speed of about 300 baud. Never heard of baud? There’s a reason. This was usually encompassed by nights of D&D, inventing new DOS programs in order to play TIC TAC TOE on a green screen, and typing the words IF and THEN until your keyboard died. The connection was with usually 1 friend at a time. You had the ability to be anonymous only if that person could not track down your physical address by using your phone number.
Between the early and late 90’s,people used e-mail to contact others, or chat rooms at places like AOL (these chatrooms were as crowded as a baseball stadium and getting the “boot” was an everyday experience). Writing an email required more thought back in those days – to actually type out a “letter” and type out the email address, and send it. The dial-up experience was getting a little faster, it was 9600 baud by then if memory serves, and phone companies were getting with the program by allowing free long distance!!!!!
Between 2000 – Myspace: Keeping in touch with friends meant going to a forum (writing an email to a friend and saying “You should check out this forum, we can talk there, they have a quiet and private chatroom!”), typing in yourscreen name and password, and reading pages and pages, finding “the right one” to respond to with your thoughts. Friendships were capable of being many, but a lot of contact meant a lot of multi-tasking. Connection time was DSL, very fast and reliable. A few more bullies, but it was manageable. You could always open your own free forum for your friends to use to get away from hurtful people online.
Myspace: Our first taste of instant gratification, mass appearances of anonymous bullying online, and speaking to friends and relatives very easily.
And then came wi-fi, Facebook, and mobile uploading of photos/status updates: Staying in touch with a friend or relative is as easy as following them on your news feed – in essence they come to you, so speaking to them requires no effort. At the same time, if you want to be a blazing asshole and show the world how much you need to shut your mouth by not doing so – no effort is required, and you can even do it anonymously, thanks to Facebook allowing multiple accounts to the same IP address (using a different email to set up an alternate account).
And then came the government legally monitoring every thing we say and who we contact, day to day. It was bound to happen, but did you notice that it only happened when we made it easy?
All of the above is a reminder to me of just how precious true friendships really are, and how with great power comes great responsibility.
Thank you to all of my friends for being there, especially the ones who have made every effort to stay in touch – through us all growing up and moving, through our marriages, divorces, job changes, technology changing around us, and our ever-changing homefront.