And it was on this day (February 16) in 1978 that social networking got its start when the first public, dial-up Computerized Bulletin Board System (CBBS) went online in Chicago, Illinois. In those days, the Internet was in its infancy, not available to most computer users. Two computer hobbyists, Ward Christensen and Randy Seuss, got the idea to create a virtual message board where CBBS members could dial into the system using a telephone modem and post notes to each other in the same way a family might communicate by sticking messages to a corkboard using pushpins. It was the beginning of social networking.
When I read about this above I thought first of 1978.
Where was I then?
I had just finished my master's degree (1977) and I had 3 kids…the oldest was 16.
I was 39 years old and teaching school in WI.
And there was no social networking then. Something current generations (including myself) somewhat take for granted now. Social networking then would have meant having a group of friends over for coffee or a beer.
It reminds me of the whirlwind of change and how young people (and by that anyone under 50) never really "know" the generation their parents knew, let alone grandparents. For instance, I was born into a world without credit cards. (I got my first one after I graduated from college and I think it was a Sears card. In those days cards were issued for specific stores so we all had 5 or 6 of them for awhile until some bank figured out a better way to cash in.)
My grandparents were born into a world without cars or planes! But I digress.
The reason that this date of 1978 and the amazing "beginning" of something that has changed the world since then fascinated me is that I was a functioning adult at the time. So my amazement is not at change but at the "rate" of change. And everyone else over 50. We all have known great change in our lives but now the rate of change is so fast that it leaves us breathless. I barely begin to understand a new computer or smart phone when a new one has come out. It's dizzying and distressing actually.
Really young people (like under 30) expect that rate of change. They were born into the communication and change age. They know that everything they learn with a few basic exceptions is changing while they are learning it. (I would maintain that there are some constant basic elements in our development that remain constant…some basic math concepts, some basic classic literature, some history, basic science) but the way that we learn about these have changed when encyclopedia companies have gone out of business and information is at our fingertips in an instant.
It's common for mature people (most everyone over 70) to bemoan change. THAT is what every generation has done forever and with good reason. Not all changes have proved to be very helpful and have come to cause great distress (texting while driving or even walking, for instance, have proved fatal). And social media has driven the terrorists networks. So we don't have much time to adapt as a society when the change rate is so high. Example: churches are closing at a stunning rate because they cannot keep up with the moving river of societal changes. (An over simplification but still mostly true.)
We no longer have enough time really to assimilate the changes. To think through the moral and physical implications.
It's always been that way but the change rate was not always this high.
I suppose that fact that 1978 is NOT the olden days (to me) and yet in the article above it implies that it IS the olden days in many ways is what started all of this rant. I dare say that I am fulfilling my obligation as an old timer now in bemoaning the good ole days…when schools still taught cursive writing and had recess, when children had some respect for older people, and for their president. When we still said the pledge of allegiance every day in schools and just visiting face to face with someone was an basic element of being human.
Should I conclude with an admonition to slow down? Smell the roses? Practice Zentangle®? Find a yoga group?
Should I admire and point out those people who can flow with change and still find deep purpose in their lives? Who have learned to pick and chose what they can cope with and learned to let go of what they cannot? Should I be proud of sharing some of the best practices of the past generations of which I am now the bearer of the stories?
I somehow feel that it's part of every generation to pull the plug on frenetic change that wears down the soul.
And here's to 1978 that was just yesterday to me.