The expression, “Bursts of Expression” came from one of my readers, Margaret Light, who wrote to me after reading my column, “Does Being On Time Mean Anything Anymore?” She wrote, “If we want to foster what I call ‘bursts of expression’ (or how a kid communicates via technology) rather than conversation that actually relies on a give and take relationship, then keep nurturing cell phone use. If we want to foster a perception that the world we walk through and live in is the size of a ‘2×2’ phone monitor even while birds and butterflies pass through our lives unnoticed, please nurture technology use. If we want our kids to value making a difference in other people’s lives, foster relationships with people, not their virtual selves.”
Not only did I love her expression, “Burst of Expression,” but I also felt she articulated in very eloquent prose a significant issue that I’ve been observing in my own boys and in society at large, but especially with our younger generation with the explosion of modern technology. I’ve become even more aware of these changes, as I’ve spent the past two years, learning much of these emerging technologies, not only for my own growth but for my second career as a writer, radio show host, and more recently as the co-creator and partner in a technology oriented web-site, BoomerTechTalk.com.
How we all use these various technologies is fascinatingly different. If my own household is a microcosm and completely arbitrary mini-sample, it is nonetheless, an interesting one. The four of us comprise two generations but four distinct uses of technology. So, for the fun of it, let’s look at how my family members each uses modern technology and express ourselves in this correspondent’s term “Bursts of Expression.”
My “Bursts of expression” take form in many types of technology with dozens of daily tweets (Twitter), e-mail, texts, Facebook posts (twice a day on my “A Dad’s Point-of-View” page, less frequently on my personal profile), once-a-day updates on my “News of the Moment” page on BruceSallan.com, as needed comment replies on BoomerTechTalk.com and BruceSallan.com, once-a-week article posts on BoomerTechTalk.com, once a week “A Dad’s Point-of-View” columns written and distributed to at least 100 newspaper and web-sites, with several individually posted by me each Tuesday, as well as the occasional guest blogs that I write for friends or by request.
I also broadcast my Radio Show every Thursday “live” from KZSB AM1290 in Santa Barbara, California. This list of my “Bursts of Expression” doesn’t include speaking engagements, other writing, my book (which will be coming out prior to Father’s Day, 2011), but is a good overview of my use of technology. The least used tools are my cell phone, except for texting and checking e-mail, and our home phone, which I rarely use except to send the occasional fax.
My wife primarily uses her cell-phone to communicate with clients, as she’s a realtor. She also uses a landline, both at home and at her office. She just recently began texting and uses e-mail pretty regularly both for work and personally. She does not use any social media and wouldn’t know a tweet from a chirp.
Will, my 17-year-old, primarily expresses himself through his drums, guitar, and iPod. He used his cell-phone for both texting and calling his friends. It’s a tool of convenience. He rarely e-mails, could care less about Twitter, uses Facebook mostly to post dumb photos of himself and friends, and to see how many four-letter words he can use in one sentence. He shares his current favorite song of the moment and that changes, frequently.
David, my youngest, at 14, is really a generation apart from his brother, as his cell-phone is used primarily for texting. I’m not sure he’s ever seen a friend except for at school and birthday parties, though he and his friends do regularly video chat. I think he’s sent and received 10,000,000 texts last year. I’m not sure–I may be under-estimating. Seriously, I thought he was socially behind or shy, but I’ve come to believe this is really how he and his friends relate and he’s quite the norm. The irony is that by my decades old standards of social success he may have been falling short while, in fact, he is both popular and well liked. The “norms” have changed.
So, the question comes back to what are “Bursts of Expression” and are we as parents, inhibiting and/or condoning poor behavior by allowing our children, let alone ourselves, to isolate ourselves via social media? For example, what am I modeling by preferring e-mail and Twitter vs. talking on the phone? When I seeg David relate to his friends by texting and video-chatting maybe I should encourage him to invite a friend over now and then? By just “letting it go,” am I letting his social skills develop along the lines of 140 characters or less (the Twitter limit)?
As for my marriage, do we only speak on “Date night,” which was been relegated to now and then? Maybe “Social Media” should be renamed “Egocentric Media,” since it does more to isolate us than bring us together? And, maybe Margaret’s clever choice of words, “Bursts of Expression,” should be replaced with, “Bursts of Isolation?”