PAT TAYLOR: Jump In and Get Connected, Gray Tigers
Since the first personal computers were introduced back in the early 1980s, I've never been afraid to turn them on and learn how they work. I've consistently marveled at how much time they save, and how much more complicated they can make life.
In fact, a little newspaper I ran in West Jefferson in the early '80s was the first newspaper in North Carolina to adopt the use of personal computers to produce a newspaper. So you could say I was something of a pioneer in the field, though job changes and software developments took place faster than my skill sets grew.
Fast forward to the present, and to three new-to-me offerings that got the electricity about technology flowing again. The first of these is the iPod, which has changed the music habits of millions and reconnected people with their favorite old tunes. I'll wax poetic about iPods and MP3s another time.
The second is Skype, an Internet-based phone service that allows users to call each other over the Internet and not only talk, but also see each other via streaming video at the same time. Computer to computer, it's free. I love being able to see my son while we're talking with him in Germany.
It's easy to get connected, and software is free. All you need to buy is a Web camera, if your computer doesn't have one. The transmission is a little sketchy on occasion, but it gets four stars from this user.
Finally, there is Facebook.com. Yes, all you tsk-tskers, I signed up on Facebook. Once the sole domain of college kids who wanted to fast-track connections at school, it's now mainstream and becoming Grand Central for the Boomers.
With apologies to Ginny Kelly, who humorously explained recently that, NO! she does not want her mom to be her Facebook friend, Facebook is simply too good not to share. While I'm sorry Ginny can't post pictures she doesn't want her mom to see anymore, there is too much to like here to allow bogarting.
It's true that some of what gets posted on Facebook (and Twitter, and every other social network) is drivel. Apparently some people don't have much to do or say , so they substitute thought by posting mindless junk like, "I'm sitting on the couch eating Cheerios." REALLY? Wowww! Thanks A LOT for sharing. What shoes are you wearing?
Getting past that minor irritant, the site is engaging and fun. It can also be time-consuming if you let it. I've connected with old friends, a couple who go all the way back to high school. I'm reacquainting with my nieces from south Georgia in ways I've not known before -- as grown women with children.
I laugh at my nephew's postings and marvel at his peculiar sense of humor. I view photos of babies I've not seen, places I've not been, and read things I've not thought before. I post my musings and photos for others. I feel connected to people in a way I've never felt. (Now don't go getting all teary-eyed at this point, it's not like that.)
In the month since I signed up, a new appreciation of the extent of social networking is forming as a result of my experiment. A month ago, I wasn't sure what that phrase meant, but now I get it. One can't help but feel both more connected, yet more isolated as all these "friends" pop in and out of postings and pictures.
I am reminded of the complexity of our lives as I keep up with dozens of people daily. It's a little like voyeurism. You get humbled a little with each visit, subtly reminded that even when you aren't there, the people you know and love most get along just fine without you.
You have to try Facebook to appreciate it. It's probably not going to change your life, but networking might make it a little more fun. (Ginny, all the kids in my extended family want me to be their friend.)
So, all you gray tigers of the world, jump in there and get connected. Just let me know if you want me to be your friend.
Pat Taylor is advertising director for The Pilot. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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