Do you ever think about how much of our lives are in “the cloud?”
Students at my college were big users of AOL Instant Messenger (oh so 2000!), and we religiously updated our away messages. “I’m sleeping.” “I’m writing a paper.” “Sexiled.” (Remember that one?)
After Sept. 11, 2001, during which I was in D.C., I began thinking a lot about my own mortality. For the first time, I realized that I could die unexpectedly. I would think, what if I died from a bomb on the Metro? And the next immediate thought was, “Who would update my away message?”
In 2007, I’d said on Poynter that journalists should be users of social media. (This is back when journalists were actually debating it. Now, it’s a given.) If we are to report on the world we live in, then we have to fully live in it.
But what happens when there’s a technical glitch?
My Facebook profile has been inaccessible for two days. The company is having some sort of problem, according to this message board thread. And people are getting upset.
One frantic user writes, “OMG!!!! I’m about to lose it…. My birthday is coming and I don’t want to miss my birthday wishes. This is really annoying!!! I’ve been waiting for 5 long and awful days….This is a serious issue. No one seems to care.”
I don’t know this user’s age, but I found her comment adorable and completely honest. Before you judge her, consider this: People communicate now via social mediums, some people exclusively so.
And when the medium goes down, we lose our social.
Spare me talk about the old fashioned way of communicating — face to face and via phone — and how it’s so much better. No it’s not. And if you think this way, you probably leave too many voicemails. (Voicemail is dead.)
In the capstone thesis class during my senior year of college, one student wrote her paper on social technology, concluding that technology only enhances the social qualities that we already have — thus, social people are even more social online.
To me, it is not an insult to wish someone happy birthday via text message. Go a few years younger than me (I’m 28) and the communication methods are even more drastically different. True story: My college-age younger brother’s home burned down last month. I learned about this via his Facebook status update.
I then communicated the news to another family member via e-mail, who then responded to me the next day via text: “WHY DIDN’T ANYONE CALL ME?” (This 40-something family member only texts in capital letters. We love him. He tries.)
Another example: My birthday this year happened to coincide with my first day as a non-journalist. It was mostly a lonely day of packing for my next adventure, interrupted only by jaunts over to my open laptop to read my birthday messages from all my friends. So great!
The day that I expected to be filled with the radio silence of losing my public voice was instead filled with dozens of messages. I was no longer a working reporter, but I still had friends. And those friends chose to share via Facebook.
I wouldn’t have it any other way, especially after having moved to a new city six times in the past 10 years. Keeping in touch is so easy, thanks to the social media that have become my lifeline.
There is just one upside to the fact that my Facebook profile is down: It freed me up long enough to write this blog post.