Last night I enjoyed dinner out with a friend who is also my next door neighbor. We have a lot in common. In addition to living side by side, we worked together for over 20 years, we have sons who are the same age and went to the same schools until college, and we socialize together, just the two of us and with larger groups too. We had no trouble filling the long leisurely dinner with a wide variety of conversation topics. As I reflect upon the conversation today, I realize that it highlighted a couple of Tech Frustrations. (For those who live near us, we had dinner at a new restaurant called Locality. The quantity of food was small, but worth the price because it was so tasty. My wine was very good too. After the main course, I wasn’t even close to filled, so we pretended that we were in Italy and had a salad to close out the meal. I highly recommend this place!)
But back to our conversation that highlighted a couple of Tech Frustrations. The first, and maybe the “funniest” frustration (based on your perspective) is that we seem to be playing a running game of “telephone” thanks to our sons who are also friends. The “boys” live over a thousand miles apart now that they’re away at school and more than that some of the time since each has studied abroad. In spite of the great distance between them, they’ve been able to easily and casually communicate thanks to technology. And no matter where they’ve been in the world, they’ve been able to watch the Denver Broncos play football live while “discussing” the game with each other real-time. That’s pretty cool and fun thanks to technology, and not a frustration at all. As their mothers, we get snippets of info from them which we sometimes share with each other … and then report back to them. That’s when it can feel like a game of telephone. I’ve been chastised more than once for misunderstanding info as it goes one way or another. I think the boys probably consider these info exchanges a real frustration … probably amplified by technology.
But the thing that has me really thinking about our conversation last night, is how technology is shaping each of our views of current events. To be fair, now that I’m not going to work every day, I’m interacting with far fewer people than I have in the past, and my interaction with people from outside the US is mostly (but not totally) limited to Facebook friends now. I’m relishing the quiet of home, and plan to enjoy more solitude for quite a while. And this does mean that I’m not “out there” talking with people as much. Still, I’m on Facebook chatting away most days, I watch TV sometimes, I read some news via the Internet, and I often go out to meet friends and enjoy life, so I’m not a hermit.
Last night, as we spent a long time discussing the recent presidential election in the US, I was surprised to learn that my friend was not so surprised by the outcome. I, on the other hand, was totally surprised. I also mentioned the "big deal" situation at Standing Rock and learned that wasn't getting as much "play" via her networks. I was blown away by the differences in our perspectives about these two current events. We spent a fair amount of time talking about these differences and concluded that they stemmed from differences in our “virtual” worlds. Facebook really. We agreed that it wouldn’t have been possible to predict the outcome of the election if we had limited our interactions to people who live around us here in Colorado. Neither of us heard about any significant support for Trump before the election from local friends and acquaintances. We live in a dark blue county of a light blue state. We concluded that the reason that she saw it coming and I didn’t is because her virtual network is more diverse than mine, so she was exposed to way more people than I was who openly supported Trump. I saw very small pockets of support for Trump via Facebook, but nothing significant. She was exposed to more. So while we live right next door to each other, and share so many day-to-day experiences, friends and acquaintances, our virtual worlds, which provided anecdotal info, are vastly different. And that caused us to have vastly different expectations going into the election.
And then there is the situation at Standing Rock. When I casually mentioned it, it didn't immediately register with her. People in my virtual world are keeping this story front and center, while it’s not as big of a conversation topic in her virtual world. Here we are, two women who live right next door to each other, who probably agree on many issues, use many of the same tools for communicating and staying plugged in, and yet we have some very different perspectives about what is going on in our country. I’ve concluded that my virtual world has given me a false sense of feeling informed. And that is a Tech Frustration. My friend suggests that maybe we need an app to measure the diversity of our virtual networks. Now there's a great idea!
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