Weird New World

Today, because I live in the land of the teenaged, I spoke to Charlie,  who is upstairs in the kitchen as I write this (from downstairs in my office), on Facebook chat.  And you know what?  It was sort of fun.  Tone of voice, which can so easily derail a conversation with someone you love who also happens to be under the influence of, well, whatever it is that makes you a teenager, is entirely absent when you type.  No one rolls his eyes.  No one raises her voice.  No one expresses disdain or impatience or irritation.  Maybe we need to spend the next four years texting and twittering and chatting.

I am beginning to see the charm of micro-communication.  140 characters need not always be superficial communication.  Those 140 characters can add up to something quite substantial when they are partof an ongoing series of micro communications.  On Facebook, I know when my friends are happy or worried or feeling elated. I can see the shifts in their moods, the moments that make up their days and what they really, really like to eat.  (Who knew there was such a thing as a sushi burrito?)  And because the price of admission to Facebook for my children was that they had to publicly acknowledge me as their friend,  I know when my child isn’t too crazy about school, or misses Easter, or is loving his freedom this weekend.  I don’t DO anything about any of this — except maybe a thumbs up (not to the teenagers — they really don’t want your thumbs on their facebook page) and an observation or two of my own.  But all this information accumulates into a sense of who people are — or who they want to be, or who they’re working toward being.  It’s terribly interesting and awfully weird, but really quite wonderful too.

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15 thoughts on “Weird New World

  1. I agree – great way to communicate with teen children, even if you’re in the same house. And when my college-age son hasn’t returned my phone calls, I send him text messages threatening to post a ‘Call your mother’ message on his fb page. Usually does the trick, even if it’s a reply text saying I’m busy until 10pm and will call tomorrow. (He almost always does).

    I think Twitter would be a great tool for a very busy family with teens to keep each posted about whereabouts & doings. Much better than posting notes on the fridge when nobody is home to read them. I think Twitter would have been great when my son was in hight school.

  2. I’m enjoying the brave, new world of micro-communication with my soon-to-be teenaged son, too. We did the same thing with Facebook–he could get on it, if his father and I could be his friend. Strangely enough, all his friends “friended” me, too. So now I just sit back and watch (sort of like when you’re carpooling a bunch of kids) and listen, without getting in there. I even try to resist the thumbs up thing. And I definitely hear the chatter I want to–mostly from his friends who are girls 🙂 Also, texting on the phone has been a great way to communicate with him when he’s out and about–for some reason, he doesn’t resist it, like he does other modes of communication!

  3. How nice to have children on something as obviously accessible as facebook. My son would never go near such a thing, his privacy being in the mode of a fortress. But very occasionally we have text conversations when he’s on the bus coming home and he cracks me up. Whatever this generation produce, literature-wise, it’s going to be concise.

  4. In many ways micro communication has made it easier to get short bursts of ideas out and to instantly guage reactions. The negative that continually pops up from this is that people take advantage of it, particularly those with little impulse control, and as such they seem to blurt otu anything, regardless of the feelings of the person receiving the communication. Sometimes the absence of tone makes for greater misunderstandings. That said, twitter on.

  5. My response to Twitter et “smallia” has always been, “Well, if I had kids, I suppose it could be a good thing”. Apparently that’s so. Still, for me – it’s not exactly a non-starter, but it’s an early stopper. I joined facebook and forget for weeks at a time to even look at the site. I’ve never texted anyone, and twitter? Weeelll… the phrase “old fogey” comes to mind. Also, “pleistocene” and perhaps “luddite”. Except I don’t want to destroy any of it, I just can’t see the attraction of using it, any more than I see the attraction in sitting around watching Survivor. 😉

    But that’s just me. It sounds as though it’s been great for you!

  6. Ms. Shoreacres — et smallia — I love that. For a long time, I was in your camp about all of it, including texting. The thing is, I discovered a use for texting, for small bursts of communication. “See you at 4 in front of the library,” for example. That’s not poetry, but it’s useful. Sometimes, though, there is something more, something flirty from my husband, or the chance to tell my son, who is waiting backstage at the opera to go on and sing his three lines that I’m proud of him — I like that. For some reason, I can’t get any traction on twitter though. Maybe it’s because my days are just not that interesting — or I can’t imagine anyone finding them all that interesting. I admit, though, that I do like the facebook status things. But only when something interesting happens to me — or I am waiting for the train. Anyway, I think old fogey is wrong — I’m going to guess that you have no need for these forms of communication — so why use them?

    Hello darkened jade and welcome!! How nice to see you here. I know what you mean about the hurtful, blurted out thing — anything that facilitates that is a mixed bag, isn’t it? I have, for quite some time, been admiring the self-control of people in my parents’ generation — the restraint that wasn’t always repression, but was also something dignified and private.

    litlove, that’s a really interesting observation, about your son’s avoidance of facebook because it doesn’t allow him his private self. I wonder if there is a difference between american and british teenagers around this — facebook is ubiquitous here. And although it initially appears to be all about exposing oneself to the world, in fact, I think the self that is being shown on facebook is a constructed self, behind which lies something that’s kept quite private, a different, maybe more authentic, or maybe just more vulnerable self.

    Hello Gentle Reader, Oh, I do love seeing their friends in action! You’re wise to listen but not comment, something I have to force myself to do. xoxo

    Dear Cam, I always love hearing about your son and your relationship with him — I feel like you’ve negotiated this terrain so wisely and well, and it gives me hope that I’ll come out of this period with sons who are as lovely as yours sounds.

  7. Boy, you’re making me think I should quit ignoring my Facebook account. I seem to have completely lost interest in it, somehow (except for the email component for keeping in touch with my family members).

  8. Thank you! I’ve been enjoying Twitter and Facebook too, not least because I can keep up with my siblings that way. And I’m also enjoying how it lets me get to know my blogging friends in an entirely new way — I can see more of their daily lives than I do on their blogs. It’s fun, and I agree that micro-communication doesn’t have to be superficial.

  9. I love communicating with my son (who is grown) via Twitter and blogging. We’ve always shared a love of the written word, and each see a different, freer side of the other when we communicate in our favorite medium.

    I’m facebook friends with a number of my teenage students, and I learn a lot about their moods and feelings which they otherwise wouldn’t dare to express verbally.

  10. I pretty strongly resisted twitter for a while and now, while I don’t use it for my personal life, I find it incredibly valuable for the job I do. It’s been great to follow reporters and news stories and engage in conversation that doesn’t need more than 140 characters…while a lot of people in my field swear we are moving into a 140 character world, I don’t believe that so much as I believe in the value of brevity! That said, I had my last big work thing for the summer this weekend and I’m looking forward to returning to my blog and wandering around that venue – I do still love long, langorous days and long, langourous blog posts!

  11. Bloglily, have faith, you are doing a great job with your sons! The love and respect you have for them is so evident in your blogs…they are growing into fine young men! Also, as the parent of a 27 year old, albeit a lovely daughter, have even more trust that you will not only survive the teenage years but enjoy your adult sons…its amazing how wise us parents become once they are in their 20s! I love your blog, and now read it regularly. Keep up the good work!

  12. I’ve never thought of the positive side of Facebook & twitter re teens. My kids are still school age, but it won’t be that long and I’m keeping this in mind. Thank you.

  13. Dear Lilian, I do want to say that occasionally my children would REALLY really prefer me not to be their friend. But then, isn’t that what we hear all the time about how you aren’t really exactly their friend when you are busy being their parent. I look forward to hearing how things go with your kids.

    Oh Gail, that’s just such a nice thing to say and here I have so rudely been absent from my blog and have not thanked you for this lovely comment. Thank you! xo

    Courtney, I twittered yesterday for the very first time. It was weird, but it was also really fun. I am getting into that whole 140 character thing. Soon, I will be unable to blog — I’ll have some version of blog agorophobia the next time I click on the “new post” link on my screen. I’ll stare at the big page and I’ll freak out — you know, “my god, I can write as much as I want now!!! OMG! AGGGGHHHH.”

    Becca, I think that is very true — I don’t really need to engage exactly, but I do love knowing what they’re feeling, and I am amazed by how articulate they are about that kind of thing (even if they use facebook speak to do it in.)

    Hi Dorothy, I’m very happy about twitter (and thrilled to see you on there, by the way). It felt weird at first, but it suddenly began to make sense to me — this is the place you can put the weird stuff you think about in bursts and nobody really cares if it’s weird because it’ll disappear pretty soon anyway!

    It does sometimes seem like too much, doesn’t it Emily? I’ve been distracted from my blog by work, and when I began to feel ready to get back in touch, I liked how easy it was to just dip a toe in with the twittering, and then send an e-mail or two, and then thank god for John Baker being such a wonderful writer and interviewer, is all I can say about the blog right now!!

    Oh, but SW, the two year old cannot drive his brother to school (give them two years for that), or bring in the groceries or help you do the dishes, or …. well, you get the idea. All will be well. xo

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