Until 7:00 p.m. today, I’d planned to write about the velocity of connectivity that is so amazing but can also drive us to disconnect with our lives. The constant demands of our connections, our devices (as addicted as we are to them) that lure us away from the untethered world is a paradox. I had this kernel of an idea while reading the blog of a friend and colleague I greatly respect and his thoughts on “the diminishing returns of the overworked.” 

I live this paradox every day when I come home from work and try to ignore that buzzing blackberry so I can look in backpacks, play a game or two, read bedtime stories and sing lullabyes (forget dinner, I’ve usually missed dinner). Sometimes, fear and stress over what I’m not checking makes me not so great at ignoring it. I give myself plenty of grief about that all the time.

At 7:00 p.m., things changed.

That’s when my husband, checking his email on his Treo (sneaking a look while we were bringing the kids up to change into pj’s), saw a note from an old semester-abroad friend who had recently found him on Facebook. “Did you know that Jen Fialko died in 9/11?” was thrown casually into the email right before, “I think Christi is married and maybe in California.”  And then on to more updates on her life. 

You probably don’t need much explanation to guess Jen was one of his group of American friends while in Granada, Spain in Fall 1992. Those days before everyone had an email address, a wireless number they’d keep with them forever, a search engine resume  a social network profile or two.  Those days before constant connectivity and crackberry addictions and the ability, with little effort, to keep up with anyone for whom you had even a remote fondness.

Suddenly, the paradox of connectivity is lost in the amazement one can find out, nearly seven years later, that an out-of-touch friend is not out there living her life, but long since gone from it.  How is that possible to not know for so long, in this day and age of connectivity?

And, today, it’s really not.  Can you imagine what my high school neighbor or college-age babysitters would privately think if they heard this story? Even my younger cousins in their 20s?  They’d think, “HOW OLD ARE YOU?” 

What if I told them we had DOS-based email that had to be checked at the college library, that there was an actual printed freshman Facebook (aka Pigbook), that only Executive Assistants at my first post-college job had Internet access which had barely anything to look at anyway, that at my second job at a Fortune 500 company I was only one of two media relations people granted CompuServe accounts, that I had a CellularOne car phone courtesy of my parents that was only to be used in emergencies because wireless calls were an expensive luxury. There was no file sharing, applications (killer or otherwise), open source, texting, social networks, Web 2.0 or even Web 1.0 for that matter.

So, I’ll take the velocity, the connectivity, the ritual of communications and the accompanying comfort that my children will be better connected, better informed and more accessible as well. That their Jen Fialkos will be in their lives as they age and move on, if even in the periphery of them. Enough so that when those joyful and painful moments occur, they’ll know about them much sooner than seven years later. That they and their friends, and even us old fogies, won’t be lost in between our communications.

It’s never too late to celebrate and it’s never too late to mourn and say goodbye. If you’d like to remember a perfect stranger, brought back into my husband’s life by Facebook, email and connectivity, you can read more here


May 30, 2008. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.