My wife said, "I guess all media is social media." Her voice came to me, as it often does, from behind the open lid of her laptop computer. Like so many of us, particularly those who live in our house, we tend to begin and end our days in front of a screen. There's all that news on which we feed. All those notes, tweets, messages and instametagrams, they won't read themselves. All those cat videos need to be considered and cataloged with the hours already compiled and discerned. There is so much media to be digested and then regurgitated in outward streams to keep the cycle moving. It's a full-time preoccupation.
There was a time, way back when we were young marrieds, and my wife and I would sit down in front of the television with our dinner to give ourselves the maximum amount of input for later dissemination. If we hadn't watched Must-See-TV that week, our conversations with others would suffer enormously. Keeping up with Ross and Rachel was a chore, but one we took on gladly. Around this time, I began to subscribe to Entertainment Weekly, which allowed me Cliff's Notes on pop culture that was starting to edge away from me. I was no longer living in the center of the demographic that would allow me to appear hip simply because I was standing where the media stream was aimed. I learned about Miley Cyrus, but I never cared about her. I cared a little about Lindsay Lohan, but I couldn't fully understand how she got to be so darn important. It was right about this time that Al Gore invented the Internet. Now my wife and I were compelled to find out more about people and things that millions of others were discovering and would most certainly be chatting about on the next trip to the water cooler.
I never worked anywhere there was a water cooler. And when our son came along, we moved our little family dinners back to the kitchen, where we could share pleasant, unemojied conversation so as to aid our digestion. We did a very nice job, I think, keeping social media and media of whatever other sorts out of those bonding moments. Then our son grew up and we all got smart phones, and tablets and laptop computers and now when we sit down in front of the television there are times when the three of us are juggling two different devices in addition to the communal screen to which we have all consented to pay attention. There is so much information and so very little time to gobble it all up.
It makes me think about those screen-free weeks that we used to try and participate in when my son was in elementary school. Little did he know that his parents were sneaking a peek at Jon Stewart after he went to sleep. A sad existence, but so full of amusement and distraction. We look up from our screens now and then to make sure the others got our text to watch the link on YouTube. Then back we go into the mire. Happy in our overstimulated blizzard.