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Sunday, January 10, 2010


My daughter spoke to a friend on the phone. This, please be clear, is news. Had it been the 22-year-old talking on the phone, I'd be surprised but not shocked. But this was the 17-year-old. Talking on the phone. To only one person. At a time. Granted, now, it was simply to clarify directions that had become too complex to explain via text messaging or Googlemap. But still. She talked. On the phone. To a friend. I noticed the emerging iGap three years ago. Older daughter chatted on the phone with friends, deciding on plans, arranging a meeting place, the usual back and forth: where do you want to go? what time? but maybe we'd prefer to.... At the same time, her younger sister, by only four years and a few months, not even a meaningful fraction of a generation gap in years past, had stopped talking on the phone altogether. Gone were the delightful specialized ring-tones that each of her favorite friends had created, "Pick up the phone, pick up the phone! Annika, this is Hanna, pick up the phone, pick up the phone!" I even got one, "This is your mother. You need to talk to me. Now." It was great fun! We haven't heard one of those ring tones in years. When Annika and I made our first trip together to NYC in 2008, she spent more time texting her friends than interacting with me. "I'm on 5th Avenue," "I'm at Michael Kors," "I'm on the Staten Island Ferry." And she was kept up on all the local gossip; she had might as well have been right there at the pool herself every afternoon. She was absolutely, entirely, virtually in two places at one time. When Kaia and I made our first trip together to NYC in 2005, the only time her phone came out of her pocket was once or twice -- to call me to check on a meeting time and place. When Kaia was admitted to college, in the spring of 2006, Facebook was a brand new phenomenon. To think, kids going to the same college could begin to connect before they got there. How cute. How clever. Sometime during that summer, she and her classmates began finding Facebook -- and what a different Facebook it was then. It felt exclusive, you could join your university's network and that seemed just about all there was. When Annika received her Early Decision admittance to NYU a few weeks ago, the first thing she did -- after hugging us and screaming for a full five minutes -- was text all her friends. It was viral within half an hour. At one point she had 28 new text messages. The second thing she did was look online and sure enough, there were already two new Facebook groups for early admits to NYU Class of 2014. Thanks to technology, she now 'knows' future classmates from around the globe, including two she's met, from Vail and the Ranch, just down the road. They are 'talking' constantly about the relative merit of various dorms, scanning virtual floorplans, and choosing roommates. They text constantly. And it is simply a part of their social arrangement that it's okay to be texting others while with some. They multi-task, she does, anyway, perhaps 16 things at a time. I'm doing good if I can listen to classical music and concentrate on writing this. The NYTimes comments on this change, this quickening in the technological gap, today, citing a forthcoming book by Larry Rosen, calling children born in the 80's, now in their 20's, the Net Generation, and those born in the 90's, still teens, the iGeneration. I confess, I sure like these monikers better than the Gen X and Gen Y that has been used in the past. So, the NetGen and the iGen. I buy it. But that gap is closing fast. As older young-adults get hold of iPhones and other new generation technology, sometimes out of fairness, before their younger siblings, they are quickly changing from tone to text. I see Kaia texting far more now than she used to. And with an iPhone, her adaptability to new applications is remarkable. I have 12 extra apps on my iPhone. She has about 30. She too is multi-tasking, maybe eight things, at a time. The other night at dinner, she whipped out her iPhone seven times to collect info from the 'net about matters ranging from sheep (!) to geophysics, to NY style pizza. I smugly proved that Hayden Colorado was where I thought it was, way out northwest, by googling it and pulling up the map. And history. I have to say, it does tend to keep us from running out of things to talk about. Remember when complaining about the remote -- and surfing channels was new. So last century. We want information, and we want it now. And we get it. Now. No waiting. Dr. Rosen wonders what impact this will have. I think I have some idea. Already, we are more and more impatient, expecting data, contact, change to occur immediately. Think about -- whatever you think politically -- the evaluation of Obama's first year in office. The 'war on terror' is not won: Fail. The economic catastrophe he inherited is not fixed: Fail. A new health care plan is not in effect: Fail. Are we serious? Do we really expect that much that fast? We do if we are living according to the iWorld, where everybody is instantly accessible, I read the NYTimes this morning in bed from my iPhone (not even my laptop), and send out an instant commentary before I'm done with my second cup of coffee (still in bed). We expect instant change when we live in a world where we can touch Yemen and Tadzhikistan and the latest images from the Hubble all in three minutes. I remember taking a business class about 15 years ago -- geez, where did that time go? -- where it was news -- new news -- that technology was turning over so quickly that generations of technology were new every few months. That trend is unending. My exercise routine is now an iApp, my weight loss program is LoseIt, I read the latest Sara Paretsky on my iKindle and before today is up, I will have read at least four newspapers from around the world, including my beloved NYTimes Weddings stories (thank you, Calvin Trillin) on my iPhone. I'll take a photo or two, record a few notes for the novel on the voice memo and do the "old fashioned" thing, write a few memos on the iPhone's legal pad. I can check the scores -- like I care! -- of playoff games, and listen to an NPR podcast. I'll check Facebook, update my status via Twitter, and send a few text messages. It is not likely that I'll talk on the phone. I too now prefer texting to talking. In the past week, I've sent 62 text messages, including some to my family in other rooms of the house, and have spoken on my phone five times. I've sent and received hundreds of emails and well, I wonder if, for some of us geezers, the iGap is closing. I'm in the process of buying a car and plan to do it -- all except the test drives --online. Even the financing. It is unlikely I'm telling you anything you don't already know, and do. But the point that strikes me this morning is that we're going to have to keep our expectations out of line with our capacities for communications. There is this uncontrolled variable. I think it's called human nature. And as long as that is in play, it will take longer than a year to enact comprehensive health care reform, win the war against terrorism, convince Wall Street banks to end the practice of usury, and put an end to stupidity on television. In the meantime, I've got to go. Annika is awake and I need to text her to find out what her plans are for the day.