Tales from Technology

Our world is simultaneously bigger and smaller than it was twenty-five and fifty years ago.  This is a tremendous benefit to grandparents and writers.

Last night my Middle Son had a music concert.  Week night events are nearly impossible for grandparents to attend.  My parents are three hours away and DH’s are four.  Not an easy, hop-in-the-car jaunt when the musical event is sandwiched between two work days. 

Had the concert taken place fifty years ago, our parents likely would have been living in the same town or even the same house as us.  They would have had no problem attending a week night event.  Twenty-five years ago, they might have been a town or two away.

As technology has advanced, so has our mobility as a society.  Now-a-days, we judge proximity by states not miles. 

Yet last night, an amazing thing happened.  Our parents did attend the concert.  Our school is in the infant stages of webcasting school events.  From four hours away, DH’s mom nudged me via a text What is he wearing?  Is he next to the girl in the red dress?  Oh, I just saw him speak!

It was magical to share our lives from so far away. 

And some astute authors are cashing in on this magic.  They have begun virtual book tours and blog tours.  They speak at events through webcasting, chat on the phone with book clubs or discuss topics online via chat sessions. Connecting to a wide range of people is limited only to an author’s  imagination and determination.

All this technology has expanded our global reach.  We can be the guest of honor on a blog in Australia.  We can attend a school visit in Europe.  We can “chat” with authors and readers from one coast to the next, all from the comfort of our home. 

Yet as our world expands, it also shrinks.  Technology takes the miles away and brings our family, friends and loyal readers from states away and puts them back in our home towns and right into our living rooms.  We can connect on a personal level despite the distance. 

With this magical new world comes greater responsibility.  As writers and as humans, we need to be hyper-conscious of the ease of technology.  We need to safegaurd our relationships.  All of them.  I think technology could easily replace personal relationships.  It could become so comfortable to web-cam from home to home that the urge to visit and be visited diminishes.  After all, why bother with the inconvenience of travel when it is easier and more cost effective to boot up the computer?

As technology becomes the norm, we may be able to attend events without ever really showing up.  Which is fine if you would prefer Aunt Maud to spill her cranberry vodka on her own carpet while you said quick hellos from across the room continent on Christmas morning. 

But what about writers?  My worry is that, unless we are mindful, technology can create a chasm between writers and readers.  It would be rather easy to revert back to the smoking jackets and hermit-like ways if we can sip our cranberry vodkas while “speaking” to a room full of kids.  This valley could become an uncrossable canyon in terms of knowing our audience and really connecting with them.

Do you feel that technology enhances or detracts from a relationship?  What concerns do you have about going “virtual”?

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12 responses to “Tales from Technology

  1. I think technology, like money and automobiles, is just a tool. It is morally neutral–and people, the users, detemine its worth or lack thereof.

    Though I am a serious internet/virtual relationship junkie, there’s no way virtual relationships could replace real life relationships for me. I have a LOT of webfriends, and some of them have also become real life friends, but those two kinds of relatinonships aren’t interchangeable for me. Though I often hug my computer–because it is a really good computer–there is no substitute for being able to hug real people, being able to share a meal or a cup of tea with someone you care about, swapping books (the actual, physical objects) and music and recipes and produce from the garden. These things are all really important to me.

    On the other hand, for networking and seminars and teaching and all of that? I love the virtual aspect, because crowds and strangers make me nervous in person, and traveling isn’t always the most convenient thing.

    How’s that for a non-answer? I guess what I’m trying to say in a very long-winded manner is remember balance and all things in moderation.

    (Note–moderation is not my strong point, but I’m working on it.)

    • Michelle,

      I love two things you said:

      I think technology, like money and automobiles, is just a tool. It is morally neutral–and people, the users, detemine its worth or lack thereof.

      and

      I guess what I’m trying to say in a very long-winded manner is remember balance and all things in moderation.

      These are very good points. The tools we use are neither good nor evil. It is how we choose to use them that counts. And like all things, moderation is the key to a happy, healthy, long life.

      Thanks for weighing in.

  2. jmartinlibrarian

    Honestly, I feel technology bridges the chasm. I’m grateful to live in an age where communication between an author and the reader is just an e-mail, twitter, or blog comment away.

    Without technology, I would have never had the pleasure of “meeting” you! ;)

    • Jenny, thanks for commenting. I think you are right in so many ways. We can use technology to a great advantage. I know my life as a writer would be much more lonely without having connected with all my cyber friends.

      And, in truth, it has brought me closer on a real level to others who don’t “know” this side of me. My blog has been a natural way for them to learn who this part of me is.

      I love being a key tap away from my cyber friends.

  3. I’m going to quote Napoleon Dynamite. (the movie)

    [from the wedding scene with Kip and LaFonda]

    “I love technology
    almost as much as you, you see.

    But I still love technology,
    always and forever.”

    Not a very grown up answer, but it should be my theme song.

    I value my real life friends and the interaction with them just as much as my cyber friends. I’m grateful for the technology to be able to ‘know’ all of you. My real life friends don’t/can’t offer me the type of friendships I have with other writers. And to me it’s just as important because it fills that (huge) void.

    • TK,

      Like you, I have some very strong cyber friends. I live in a place where there are very few people who understand where I come from as a writer. Normal people golf. They play baseball, watch movies and go out to eat. Writing is a very different animal than most extracurricular activities and hard to understand from the outside. It’s nice to have a place to connect with people who know the reality of writing, editing, submitting and rejection. As well as elation at the small steps we take to get to those places.

      Technology has filled a void for me in the form of all my cyber writing buddies. I’m glad it does for you too!

  4. I love how your son’s grandparents were able to “attend” the concert!

    I see technology as a wonderful tool that has such an amazing ability to enhance our everyday experiences. Writers today have more of an ability to connect with their audiences than they did in the past, I think.

    • Belle,

      It was pretty cool to have them there!

      You are right about the abundant opportunity that technology presents. We can reach out and touch lives all over the world, everyday. It is a responsibility that we need to take seriously as we go forth in our daily online endeavors. I think by following in the footsteps of good bloggers and learning to be professionals from them, we can succeed.

      I appreciate having you as a role-model in that respect.

  5. Gotta love technology! I’m so impressed your school is webcasting – what a GREAT idea :)

    All technological advances come with down sides. People are much less interactive with each other, and much more interactive with technology now. It does making some things easier/faster/better, but people’s social skills are also deteriorating. It will be interesting to see how the world progresses over the next 50 years!

    • Jemi,

      I can’t tell you how wonderful it is. I was so thrilled when I found out they were webcasting some events. I hope they grow to include them all. With our mobile society, traveling mommies and daddies also miss these important events, as well as split families. Webcasting affords the ability for everyone to “partake” in special events when it otherwise would be impossible.

      As a teacher, I’m sure you see the impact technology has on social skills. As each generation passes, kids become more comfortable with the computer than they do with real people. I try very hard to put my kids in situations where they have to interact with real people on a real level.

      I often tease my daughter that in the future, we will have evolved so our voice boxes no longer work and we’ll have micro-mini fingertips–the better to text you with, my dear!

      Like everything, there is good and bad in the technology explosion. I guess it is like Michelle said: everything in moderation.

  6. I have a love/hate relationship with technology. I love it for things like being able to skipe with my family back home since we live a thousand miles away. It really allows all my parents, brothers and sisters to see our little one in between our visits home. And I get to see my nieces and nephews. Plus I have met fantastic people from the writing world that I too would have never had access too and have learned so much in such a short period of time. I love the idea of connecting with readers through live blog chats and think there are endless ways to use it to the writer’s advantage.

    My hate for technology comes with: one my lack of understanding of how some of it works at times but more so the use of cell phones and texting. It has become so dangerous with people texting while driving etc..it drives me batty when I see it happening on the road and especially when I see kids in the backseat. I think everyone should have to spend at least one day in a pediatric ICU and we could drastically cut texting and speeding etc down while driving. Sorry for the rant..it’s the nurse and protective mama bearz in me coming out!

    • I totally agree with the texting rant. The daughter of close friends was in a car accident about a year and a half ago and the first thing they did was check her cell phone. Incoming and out going calls and texts. Thankfully she had been an attentive, yet misfortunate, driver and not an irresponsible one.

      I think you might be on to something. Every soon-to-be new driver, new parent and new cell phone user should have to visit three places: the ICU, the local jail and a lock-down residential unit for juveniles. Maybe newly, going-to-be marrieds need to add social services and the food shelf to their list, so they can get a foretaste of over-spending their income before trying to keep up with the Jones’.

      Charlie, I think you single handedly solved America’s problems. Now to get these ideas implemented…

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