The glare of two computer screens in a dark room assaulted my retina as soon as I walked into my daughter’s bedroom to say goodnight to her and her friend, who was spending the weekend with us. I immediately reminded them of the lateness of the hour and the No Electronics After 8pm policy.
“Let’s be friends the old-fashioned way instead!” I suggested as I turned to leave, and I’m not sure what that might mean to the two teenagers grumbling behind me because they could no longer access their email, Pinterest, Instagram, FaceTime or YouTube.
My parents, excited to offer us all the technological advancement available at the time, purchased an Apple IIe when I was a freshman in high school. They convinced us this machine, along with the huge dot matrix printer, both of which now occupied a lot of real estate in our dining room, were going to help me with my schoolwork. I can still feel those molded keys under my inexperienced fingers as I laboriously typed out an assignment for my science class and waited for what seemed hours as the printer screeched back and forth across the page as it rolled through the side-punched holes feeding its progression, a step above typewriters, and I knew I was cool to have so much technology at my fingertips.
My daughter doesn’t know anything BUT having access to computers – at home, at school, in libraries, wherever she goes. All of her school assignments are submitted using Google Docs and any required research happens via the internet. Did she recognize the card catalogs we passed yesterday walking through antique stores? My parents also purchased the World Book Encyclopedias for our use at home, and sometimes I wonder if my daughter even knows how to look up something alphabetically in a book with paper pages. As she starts her freshman year of high school she has her own MacBook Pro with the ability to send a file to print at home, even if she’s not, and she doesn’t know what it means to re-thread the paper if it gets off-track, being careful not to separate the perforated holes from the standard sheet.
If I wanted to talk with my friends, I had to wait my turn to use the telephone mounted on our kitchen wall. (And this phone pictured looks EXACTLY like the one we had for years.) There were ten people in our home, so sometimes waiting your turn could mean you wait until tomorrow. And you were always in a very public space when speaking to anyone, although my mom put an extra long cord on the phone so you could walk the length of the kitchen without compromising your call, but public is public.
My daughter has owned her own cell phone from the age of nine even though I’m not sure she’s used more than 60 minutes of air time since I activated her plan. She only uses it to text. Even when she needs to communicate with me. Perhaps one day our cell phone provider will allow me to purchase a text-only plan, with optional voice minutes. Wouldn’t that be a dream-come-true?
When I spent time with friends we giggled in the backseat of the station wagon and bragged about our sticker collections, which Michael Jackson song was our favorite, and how many layers of socks we could successfully roll. My daughter sits next to her girlfriends and they iMessage one another while bragging about how many people have *liked* their photos on Instagram, and debate which game in the app store is their current favorite. I guess the way we manage our friendships isn’t so different, after all, because there’s still a whole lot of giggling.