Aug 29, 2007

Family Net

Vowing Wedding Favors

The New York Times featured a very amusing story illustrating how the Internet is rapidly becoming a basic essential of life. It tells the story of the effect on the dynamics of a family gathering.

That was my first inkling of how the vastly expanded electronic and informational needs of houseguests would flavor our time together. Soon guests were positioning themselves to get dibs on one of the three computers in our Long Island house the way they would otherwise line up to jump in the shower.


Oy! Couldn’t we all stop the keying/ringing/texting/e-mailing and just talk? Mea culpa, on that score. My own escape from an overstuffed house was to sneak away to my office, where I pecked away at the mounting e-mail and checked Yankees scores. But my solace didn’t last long.

“I hate to bother you,” came a small voice from behind me. “The downstairs printer is jammed up. If I send you an attachment as a Zip file, can you unstuff it and print it up here?”

A somewhat much milder version of this happens in our family as well. In the last 3 years, our very geographically extended family got together twice, after a long time, for a couple of weddings (including mine). At some of the venues where we stayed, there was obviously no internet. Those of us who have become habitually connected into the online world, felt very fidgety about being unplugged. There was an element of restlessness and feeling helpless. One's eyes inevitably seek some sort of monitor, fingers itch for buttons to press. And wherever there's a computer, usually it's only one without Wi-Fi, everybody takes turns checking their emails, making sure all is well with their online world. People upload their digital photographs and everybody gathers around to see them again and again. Conversations drift towards discussing latest software, hardware and digital exploits. Yes, I did load some old movies & photos and show them off to relatives - to various reactions of embarrasment and laughter.

There were other aspects - everybody carried cellphones (and their chargers), everybody carried digital cameras (and their chargers, memory cards etc. ). Some moments in our wedding felt like walking into a field of paparazzi - there were so many continous flash bulbs from so many digital cameras.

Our family is still safe - there are not that many confirmed techies among us. We are still able to talk to each other in person. Our recent gatherings turned out to be a lot of fun (after the digital withdrawal symptoms had dissipated) and there were many lively conversations and sharing of experiences.

Nevertheless, I feel more connected to those who are online. Those I cannot email, seem to be living in an unreachable place. I can't tell whether this is the new 'normal' or the digitally obsessive.

The New York times story is here.

You can also try the quiz below (thanks, Praz), to see how geeky you are

80% Geek

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