You are hereNot yet ready to be a Twit

Not yet ready to be a Twit

By Elaine Bardwell - Posted on 19 February 2011

Late February 2011:
I finally joined the face book generation this week. I had thought seriously about setting up my own internet portal for some time. I had even sat down at my computer more than once, on the verge of clicking on the face book site and working on my profile, but each time I just could not determine how much of myself I should 'advertize'. I may be an extrovert but that does not make me a total exhibitionist! 
This week though, one of my best friends was prompting me yet again to sign up and get connecting, so I took the plunge into the cyber pool. The long months thinking about what to put 'out there' and what is best kept to myself paid off as I set about filling in various boxes. In the process of creating my public CV I learnt a couple of interesting things about myself.
The first is that my default position when it comes to conveying information is written or verbal so the process of setting up visual material was a challenge to my normal way of presenting myself. The first few 'friends' I allowed onto my page were treated to an entertaining day as I gradually got the hang of the specific areas and questions and posted snippets of information with little pictures in my profile.
Then, the geek in me broke out entirely as I saw the little row of grey boxes sitting along the top of my page and the blank profile picture box and wondered how to get pictures from my computer into the spaces provided. With a bit of help from a good friend I sorted that out and was then left with the interesting decision about which of my pictures were suitable for general consumption. It's not that my photo collection is full of snaps of me (or others) in compromising positions, more that it  is full of snaps of ancient walls and ruins. It really amounts to a visual text book of the ancient world. It revealed to me that I use my camera to record archaeological sites whereas normal people use theirs to record their lives. Despite the challenge, I have managed to post a group of pictures which reflect what I get up to, more or less.
So better late than never. Come to think of it I was rather late acquiring my first mobile phone - I just didn't see the point and for a very long time I stuck to my landline and email. Gradually of course it became clear that there were certain advantages to the cell phone revolution and mine has been put to good use - mostly serious, but there's no harm in a bit of trivial frivolity at times as well.
Interestingly, I am not  consistent as a 'late adopter'. I saved up and bought a home computer as soon as I could afford one: thank you Alan Sugar for the Amstrad revolution. By 1996 I had installed a card in my Pentium PC to get online with dial-up internet: in the days before Google or tabbed browsing and Netscape was seriously cool. Email is most definitely one of the greatest benefits of living in this day and age, especially for a priest who is not sitting at a desk from 9am to 5 pm on any day. It once took me 10 days to contact someone I know, who has steadfastly refused all the benefits of modern technology and relies on snail mail or landline with no voicemail service. I am glad it was not a pressing matter...
My real technological addiction, though, has to be the iPod - I had an iTunes library the day a PC compatible version was released and invested in my first iPod the minute my credit card would allow its purchase.  You will note the word 'first' , for, yes, I admit it, I have more than one. That very first one however, I did in fact wear out, as I used it and recharged it so much. The curious must read my articles in the parish magazine to find out more about my obsession with this little white box of tricks.
There is no denying that technology is changing the world. Mostly for the better though we must be honest about some of the negative effects. There are dangers in spending too much time online (writing articles for websites?), sitting in front of screens, living in a self-contained bubble of our own construction. But then again similar things can be said about all forms of technology. For example, there are those  who have been pessimistic about books and the written word. As Susan Maushart reminds us in her recent and excellent book, The Winter of our Disconnect :  '(reading will cause people to) "cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful" and too many facts would make people "filled with the conceit of wisdom instead of real wisdom" . A quotation from a modern commentator? No, Socrates in the fourth century BC! Much as it pains me to admit it, books do encourage isolationism and a constant cry throughout my childhood from various relatives or neighbours, though not often from my parents,  was,  'Don't just sit there with your nose stuck in a book, do something useful'. Last year our two Archbishops suggested we give up our iPods for Lent but is this  just as ridiculous as suggesting we give up reading for 5 weeks?
Well, I did not give up my iPod for Lent last year and I do not intend to this year. Mind you, if face book gets too obsessive I may have to give that up. One of my friends, who is an early adopter for anything with a screen that beeps at you, asked me, "Now you have joined the rest of us on face book are you going to sign up for Twitter?"  To which my reply is, "Oh no! I may be a bit of a geek but I am no Twit!" 
Footnote : The book referred to above is: Susan Maushart  The Winter of our Disconnect: how one family pulled the plug on their technology and lived to tell/text/tweet the tale. London: Profile Books, 2011



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