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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Social Media Then and Now


 Present day social media doesn’t have anything on my generation.  I recently had the opportunity to catch the movie American Graffiti for old time’s sake, and the images struck home when you view it in proper context.

I remember getting in trouble at home if I spent too much time tying up the one telephone at home for too long talking to school friends.  If you were lucky you had a private telephone line and not the party line.  The party line was sometimes an option for the cheaper price.  In some locations especially out in the country you might not have the option of a private line.  The other party line participants were not very patient and even aggressive at times. 

Other means of communication (our texting) you could write a letter or note and pass it through contacts at school the next day to your intended recipient.  You could also meet at church and talk (usually after service) on Sunday.  Because we didn’t have the Digital Technology of modern times, we accepted our limitations, and didn’t even realize we had limitations.  I personally was as happy as could be with all I had going for me.

Cruising is a social activity that primarily consists of driving a car. Cruising can be an expression of the freedom of possessing a driver’s license. Cruising is distinguished from regular driving by the social and recreational nature of the activity, which characterized by an impulsively random, often aimless course. A popular route (or "strip") is often the focus of cruising. "Cruise nights" are evenings during which cars drive slowly, bumper-to-bumper, through small towns.  In fact we invented rush hour traffic "Gridlock."

The equivalent to Facebook of our time was “Cruising the Main Drag.”  It wasn’t always named Main Street, although quite often it was.  I remember that everyone made plans during the school week and couldn’t wait for Friday night, to cruise the avenue, and check out all the cars, and young men and women that came out without fail every Friday, and Saturday night.  During the high school football season, everyone pretty much showed up after the game.  Those students from other schools that were not on their school team and whose teams were playing a game away from home would show up.  Even at half attendance you could hardly tell if it was a slow night or not.

Much of the cruise ritual was to make the circuit from one end of the drag to the other end, and back again over and over until you connected with someone.  When you did connect with someone, old friend or new contact, you usually agreed to park at an empty parking lot bordering the main drag avenue and talked.  Similar to Facebook except that if you had 10, 20 0r 100 contacts (friends) they were real.  Jay Leno on the Tonight Show recently said as part of the monologue; “if you claim to have 5,000 friends on Facebook, post that you are painting your house next weekend and see how many show up.”

Today on Facebook whether you are popular or not, outgoing or not, you can still build up multitudes of friends because you don’t have to talk face to face.  I know that when I say that cruising was our social connection it wasn’t all inclusive, because not everyone had a car, not everyone was popular or outgoing, many parents were stricter than others, so not everyone was allowed to cruise the avenue.  How was your experience?  Do you remember cruising even if it was in your parent’s family car?  Times were actually financially tough for some families; I actually knew families that didn’t have home telephones or televisions.  When I say that not everyone had a car, I realize that today not everyone has a smart phone, iPad, or their own computer; some kids have to share a computer with their whole family.  Guess what; times are still tough, especially when you have to decide between buying gasoline, or paying for a smart phone.

I participated in 3 school sports and lettered on all three meaning that I had a special tie or relationship with all my team mates from each of those sports, and that carried with it their friends and girlfriends.  My circle of friends was probably larger than I deserved, but I enjoyed my friends, and nurtured my friendships.  My junior year in high school, I was the only boy (male) in Typing Class. Many of my classmates thought I was cool because I was taking training in an area that wasn’t traditionally required for boys.  I can now confess that I liked the ladies so much that I didn’t mind learning to type.  Who would have thought that keyboarding would someday be the common denominator for many modes of communication?  The best is yet to come…

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