Modern familyWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | email@example.com
I’m not a huge science fiction fan, but I have just enough geek in me to appreciate the more mainstream sci-fi offerings like “The Jetsons,” “Back to the Future,” “Lost” and a good “Twilight Zone” marathon. I grew up daydreaming right along with the rest of my kind about the possibility of futuristic concepts transcending the land of make believe and finding their way into reality. How incredible would flying cars, teleportation and videophones be? Apparently, not as incredible as you would think.
I may or may not have dozed off just prior to the phone ringing about 9:30 one recent night. In the exhausting pre-Christmas crunch of school parties, gift wrapping and last-minute purchasing, it is sometimes hard to tell where the day ends and the sleep begins. The transition just happens so fast.
It was my brother on the phone calling from Las Vegas. He wanted me to get on my computer right away and set up an account for something called ooVoo so that I could have a teleconference with my parents and all of my siblings. After some reluctance to change gears in the midst of my day’s first attempt at relaxation, I halfheartedly signed on. I figured something important must have been going down.
Shortly, my parents two miles away, my sister in Michigan, my brother in New York, my brother in Las Vegas and I were each staring at a computer screen filled with all of our live, up-to-the-minute selves. One would think that the realization of science fiction come to life for the most basic consumer segment would be enough to pull me out of my holiday-frenzy-induced stupor. However, as soon as I realized that my 31-year-old brother’s series of hallway somersaults and my dad’s somehow turning himself and my mom into a vomiting cat avatar were the only new family developments to come to light during the “emergency” family teleconference, I decided to return to bed.
Who would have thought it? Had someone shown up in 1984 with a screen that would have allowed me to interface in real time with several other members of my family, I probably never would have left the room again. I’m sure whoever was on the other end would have agreed that we should just keep staring at the greatest invention in the history of the world for the rest of our lives. And, yet, 25-years later I instead had the luxury of greeting it with a half-asleep “Oh, that’s nice.”
Family communication has been modernized and the change is here to stay. What started out as a sad withdrawal of family contact due to the loss of interest in old-fashioned letter writing, has turned into close family contact the likes of which we never even imagined. Not only are Skype, ooVoo and similar services keeping us in closer, real-time contact with those closest to us, but personal websites, blogs and social networking sites are also keeping us closer to extended family that may have otherwise drifted away altogether.
Relatives I would usually only see once or twice a year, if that, now give me (along with 150 or so of their other closest friends) daily updates about who they are and what they’re doing with their lives. People I otherwise would have shared only great-grandparents with are discussing current events with me across the miles on a regular basis. The beautiful voices and faces of people I once shared a home with are now only a few clicks away no matter our physical distance.
One of the few drawbacks I have found is the elder generation’s loss of their role as information master. Family news from my mom, once the keeper of all current family knowledge, is now followed by a half-annoyed “but I suppose you already know that from Facebook.” Um, yes.
Facebook I have down, but family meetings via teleconference will take some getting used to. Perhaps if the next one results in the announcement of a wedding or a baby on the horizon, I will be more apt to embrace the new technology. No matter how modern the form of communication, a sister wants to hear what a sister wants to hear.
Shannon and her husband Michael are raising three children in Sylvania. Follow her blog online at http://www.WhatsWithWomen.com/ and e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.