During the unfolding tragedy in Wimberley, everyone I know has kept her smart phone nearby, constantly checking Facebook and emails for the latest word on our friends. We are all engulfed in grief.
Instant communication and access to information are so taken for granted today that it is hard to believe that the iPhone only made its debut in June 2007. My daughter and her husband bought the new gadgets immediately, and they had them constantly in hand all that summer. Lev was annoyed by their distraction, but I was fascinated. I had never figured out how to enter contacts or text on my cheap, chunky cell phone; and this looked simple.
Lev finally relented when we began preparing for an eastern Mediterranean cruise. My phone couldn’t handle international calls, so Lev told me to buy an iPhone in New York City before we flew to Istanbul. The day of our flight, he set off in one direction, and I headed for the Apple store. We planned to meet for lunch at a favorite midtown restaurant. Lev arrived after me, visibly ill, his temperature soaring. Instead of going to JFK, we went by ambulance to Roosevelt Hospital, where he was eventually diagnosed with pneumonia. During those hours in the emergency room, I learned to use my new phone. I called our travel agent to cancel all our arrangements. I finally reached my daughter with my very first text message as she waited in the afternoon carpool line.
I am showing my age when I marvel at the speed of change. We bought our first computer–the brand new Apple IIe–in 1983. It had 64k of memory. My son opened it up with a screwdriver to insert a second chip that doubled the memory to 128k. There was no hard drive. I wrote three months of youth Sunday School curriculum on that computer, mailing 13 floppy disks to the publisher in Nashville.
A few years later, two friends and I purchased new Macintosh computers, taught ourselves the software programs and started a desktop publishing company. I was slow to embrace the internet and email, though. I simply could not grasp the concept that one could instantly communicate with anyone anywhere via computer. Now, email is my main source of communication both for business and personal use. I was slow with social media, too, signing up for Facebook only when the oldest grandson said, “Gram, if you want to see my prom pictures, you’ll have to friend me on Facebook.” He and his contemporaries have left email and Facebook behind, embracing text messages and new social media such as Snapchat, Instagram and Pinterest. I can’t keep up, but I try. The world doesn’t stand still; and if we want to stay in touch, we need to conform to the communication preferences of the day.
One of my professional advisors recently offered an unsolicited evaluation of how I have handled widowhood: “I think your lack of fear when it came to technology was/is an asset for you…it has made travel, business, remaining connected to friends and other things so much easier for you because it was at your fingertips. I can imagine many women your age feel incredibly isolated when it is just the telephone and written word that connects them to the outside world.”
One friend felt increasingly isolated as email replaced mailed material for the civic organizations she participates in. She had never used a computer, but she bought an iPad and found someone to teach her how to use it. It has opened up a whole new world for her, connecting her to younger relatives who live elsewhere. When she is sleepless late at night, she writes emails. And when she wakes up late the next day, she has responses.
Last week, a Baylor journalism graduate living in Albuquerque told our Facebook group that she had a relative missing in the Wimberley flood. She had no idea that anyone from Corpus Christi was in the group. My personal Facebook page, with all the posts coming in from friends and local media, became her family’s chief source of information.
The Apostle Paul wrote the church in Rome: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” I notified friends of Lev’s death by text message. Afterwards, I poured out my grief on Facebook and Twitter. No matter where I was or what time it was, there was always someone out there for me. The virtual community doesn’t take the place of our physical, face-to-face community, and a tweet doesn’t offer the comfort of a hug, but it can be a lifeline for those who are alone.
Photos are of the Apple IIe, 1983, and the Macintosh SE, 1987.
What is your favorite means of communication?
Do you do any social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram?
How much time do you spend connecting with others via email and the internet?