Having worked for tech and internet start-ups for the past four years, one thing I’ve realized is that developments happen much faster than they did before the digital age. If you’re a company, this means that you’ve got to build a strategy that is flexible enough to adapt to changes, and proactive enough so that you’re ahead of the curve.
As a regular everyday person, this also means that you need to prepare yourself to get a text message from your mother that reads “omg” much sooner than you thought could be possible. My aunt, who once asked me to trade BlackBerry cases with her because she thought mine was “hipper” insists that the phrase, “omg” has been around since the 70s, which I can’t confirm or deny because I wasn’t born yet.
One thing I can confirm is that watching people adapt to technology is a fascinating experience, particularly because each channel of communication has its own language. I’ve heard countless stories of people who started IMing with their parents and would laugh because IMs always got signed, “Ok, I’m going to bed now, Good luck tomorrow, Love, Dad.”
There’s something really beautiful about these liminal communication phases; they serve to highlight the very best of each medium. They mark, too, the tremendous steps we’re taking technologically everyday. I particularly loved this moment that occurred when video-chatting with my mother for the first time.
When I was in NY, I downloaded it for her and we sat at the dining room table “practicing.” (“Mom, since I’m sitting right here, I’m going to hang up now. Don’t worry–you’ll still be able to see my face.”) Now that I’m back in SF, we tried the real thing for the first time.
Here’s how it started:
“Mom,” I said. “We’re on video chat…you don’t have to type anymore…you know, because, we’re speaking.”
“I know..but you’re volume was low, oh, well, nevermind I get it now. I just wanted to type it!”
Why exactly this makes my heart swell, I’m not sure. Maybe because as human beings, we want to record historical moments. If the historical moment is the inception of a new mode of communicaton — do we talk about in our new language, or our old one?
There are going to be a lot of hybrids between new and old as the world grows more and more digital. The burden is on us to draw meaning, rather than confusion, from the ambiguity.