I think of myself as a technologically erudite individual. I'm not frightened by words like list-serv, PDF or WAP; I have a Twitter account, a Linkedin profile, even a dormant Friendster account--because I'm retro like that. Nothing, however, makes me feel like more of a troglodyte than spending time with a teenager. Going home for visits means seeing my 15 and 13-year-old cousins, who--powered by a diet of Tootsie Rolls and MAC makeup--are whirling dervishes of electronic activity. Like Pigpen from the Peanuts comic strip, they are always surrounded by a cloud, although their cloud is made up of misspelled text messages, emo status updates, angry birds and nonsensical tweets. Sitting next to them at family dinner is like riding shotgun on a spaceship. If they told me they were telecommuting to an after school job at a FedEx Kinkos from the dining room table I'd have believed them. We have the same phone but I had no idea it was able to do so much ridiculous stuff. I think it also makes calls.
Hanging out with my friend Jim, who at 20 is 9 years younger than me, is a similar experience. He is constantly beeping, buzzing, ringing and clanging. When he approaches I always imagine Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins strapped into his one-man-band apparatus. Jim is like that, except all the noise comes from his Blackberry. (I can see Jim rolling his eyes now. Not at the crack about his noisiness but rather about my reference to a movie that doesn't star Britney Spears. "Never heard of it. Sounds super old. And gay.")
We're both very active on Facebook but in remarkably different ways. He'll stop mid-sentence, look down at his phone and grimace "Ugh, I have 38 new friend requests."
"Who are they?"
Jim has 3,000 FB friends. All shirtless boys. He also has about 2,000 photos of himself. All taken on hisMac against the backdrop of his bedroom. I have 600 friends, half of whom i havent talked to since kindergarten in the early 80s. Most of my status updates are pithy observations about paper jams in the office copier. Jim's Facebook is not my Facebook.
I find myself shaking my head and muttering "You and your Facebook" because somehow this generation gap turns me instantly into my parents. Jim gives me this face: :-/ to which I respond with that smirk of equal parts disapproval and bemusement (disapprusement?) that black ladies with glasses, and elementary school principals seem to have trademarked.
My mother, lucky for me, is both of these things, so when my phone starts convulsing in the middle of family dinners and I look at it, lol and tap out a response, I invariably look up to see her shaking her head. "You and your facepage," she says. And suddenly I don't feel so old.