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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Times, They Are a'Changin'

I grew up with a black rotary phone firmly attached to the wall. "Pay calls" were expensive and kept short. If possible, penny postcards were used instead of the phone to send messages. Out-of-state calls were made only for emergencies. We wrote letters to keep in touch with long-distance friends and family. The news was old (by today's standards) by the time it reached them.
Now that we have cell phones, email, blogs, tweet and twitter (which I haven't learned to use), Facebook, and Youtube, messages and pictures can be sent and received within seconds. Out-of-state phone calls are as cheap as a call to the next county. Conference calls allow people to chat and listen to conversations going on all across the country.
The downside of this great advantage is the loss of privacy. Over the weekend I discovered someone had told on a church-wide conference call that I am working on writing about the Burkholders. This is a conservative church that does not allow members to use Facebook but their conference calls are social networking nonetheless. Now people all across the country know what I'm writing, thanks to the tendrils of the Mennonite telephone grapevine.
I have no control over where my messages, posts, and pictures are forwarded after they leave my computer. People have gotten themselves in serious trouble by foolishly posting messages and pictures they never should have created.
This explosion of communication makes us vulnerable and allows the world to watch our stupid blunders. On Friday afternoon (Jan. 12) a girl was spotted falling into a fountain in a local mall. She appears to be engrossed in texting on a cell phone and not looking where she was going. She falls in, gets soaked, and climbs out again. The video was posted on Youtube and there have been 1.2 million hits on it in three days. At least the picture is not close enough to identify her, but she certainly knows who she is.

In the old days we probably would never even have heard about something like this. Now we can watch it happen. I hope no cameras are watching the next time I make a stupid mistake!

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