Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Feeling Old in the Digital Age

When I went to college, email was still a relatively new and novel phenomenon.  People's primary method of getting onto the internet consisted of America On-Line.  AOL would flood your mailbox (your snail mail box, I should point out) with CD's that offered 500 hours of free online browsing.  If you were particularly cheap about it, you could string together a whole bunch of those CD's and get free service for quite some time (having to create a new account and new email address each time).

19.6 kilobits per second was a pretty good data transfer rate, because it was coming over your modem.  Not your cable modem ... your phone modem.  Then modem speeds went to 33.6 kbps and others offered 54 kpbs, but nobody could actually go that fast because the phone lines are just too skinny for that mode of data transfer.

Yes, e-mail had been around since the early 1980's, and various bulletin board services and other "internet-like" pages existed, but email was just hitting the mainstream in the mid 1990's. (Anyone remember Eudora?)  And hence, my impression, my use, my behavior towards email is still shaped by those formative years when the mannerisms and etiquette of emails were still growing.

Which is why, after reading this article in the NY Times, I feel really, really old.

The author talks about how he has largely eschewed conversing with his family by email, doesn't respond to voice mail (remember when it wasn't voice mail?  when it was an answering machine? And even those things were cool?), and instead opts for the shortened forms of communication provided by texts and Twitter.

The author claims that salutations and closings, such as Hello and Sincerely, are going by the wayside in the name of efficiency.

And that many people in the digital age today are so swamped with electronic communications that  thank-you message is unwanted.  The author closes the piece with,

Here's hoping that politeness never goes out of fashion, but that time-wasting forms of communication do.

I'm not 100% sure how to interpret that, but from the tone of the article, he appears to include email as one of those time-wasting forms of communication.

And that is why I feel old.