Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Stuck Between Stations

She was a really cool kisser and she wasn’t all that strict of a Christian
She was a damn good dancer but she wasn’t all that great of a girlfriend
She likes the warm feeling but she’s tired of all the dehydration
Most nights are crystal clear
But tonight it’s like it’s stuck between stations
On the radio

- "Stuck Between Stations," The Hold Steady (Craig Finn)

Twelve years ago, while serving my time in a cube-farm corporation, I was passing along one of the gray aisles on the fifth floor when something caught me eye: A colleague, maybe 20 years my senior, held her mouse up like a remote control and clicked it at her monitor in utter frustration. (I quickly intervened to douse the embarrassment.)

Three years ago, I sat at O'Donovan's pub in downtown Minneapolis and told an alumna of my university (10 years my junior) that when I went to school, the Internet didn't exist. As the blood drained from her face, it left a look beyond mere shock or curiosity; it was pure terror.

Three weeks ago, I struck up a conversation with the guy sitting next to me at a coffee shop, and I learned that he made his entire living setting regulations for--and helping people sell goods on--Second Life and IMVU.

The marketing demographers would put me in the Generation X clan. I'm not even sure what that means anymore, except that being the first generation to grow up with MTV was supposed to be a big deal. As a rule, I don't put a lot of stock into these increasingly impatient lines of alleged demarcation. But I've become a believer in one distinct border that is real and will continue to cause enormous disruption. In light of this conversion, I am now suggesting that whoever comes up with these alphabetical tags start moving backwards and change my group's moniker from Generation X to Generation T.

The T stands for Translation.

You see, my people are the only hope that Baby Boomer Nation will have diplomatic relations with Internetistan. My people live in the middle country. We still read newspapers, but we also look at RSS feeds in our Firefox live bookmarks toolbar. We like Guitar Hero, but we also enjoy hiking and camping. I can sound young by saying that I have two blogs, a Facebook page a LinkedIn profile and a (dormant) MySpace page... that I'm a "mobile marketing coffee shop creative" whose office consists of a MacBook and an iPhone. But at the same time, I'm reading Mark Twain and listening to an audiobook on Abraham Lincoln's depression. I had the nerve to look up a word in a hard copy dictionary just the other day. I think Twittering is a frightening example of digital masturbation. And I'm still stewing over the fact that Bill Maher misused the word "disinterested" twice during his last show.

The point is this. If I may say something profoundly unoriginal: The Internet matters. In particular, the speed with which the social media phenomenon has overtaken everyone under 30 is astounding. Yesterday, a friend is in his upper 20s finally broke down and started a Facebook page "because it's the only way my friends communicate anymore." I'm not one for predictions (most are overblown to sell books or increase speaking fees), but I do think that I will see the complete death of the newspaper, the local newscast, the album and possibly the movie theater in my lifetime.

It's hard to avoid thinking that these changes will continue to accelerate... and that people who still put two spaces after a period, print web pages, poo-poo Wikipedia and read newspaper editorials will cease being able to connect with those who only know text-messaging spellings, only trust their friends' product endorsements and think that they should document every time they go to the bathroom.

Then again, maybe not. The pencil still exists. In fact, I have one in my computer bag.

3 comments:

Guhn said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I don't have a myspace page, I'm not LinkedIn, I don't have time to make a Wikipedia entry even though several folks think I should make one to further my research ideas. I occasionally use pencils, and I didn't understand a number of things you said.

But I do have an iPhone and I concur that this makes me a bridge person (who happens to be insanely cool).

Bee Slippers

Ps. I thought the person waving the mouse at the computer was actually going to be weilding a Wii. Guess that's another example of how freakin fast things move.

Mark R. Trost said...

Good post man. I see what you’re saying. Social interaction has become enter action. I enter the text as it enters my mind. I don't consider; I just constipate my consonants. Society evolved from the parlor to the porch and from the written word to the spoken call in the twentieth century. Now we’re evolving toward the totally typed message. And as we travel more and move further, I wonder why our conversations embrace brevity and the content is confined to mere levity. That can’t be progress. If our emotions and considerations and communications can be confined to three words without vowels – then we’re not even grazing the surface of communication. We’re spending all our time on one blade of grass. Yet the ones who ruminate will continue to chew over thoughts as the ones who grazed will just spit out what was chewed. And I'll still chew the end of my pencil. But that's just because I quit smoking.