The Next Best Thing

I got my first computer in 1982. It was a cute little thing, a Texas Instruments machine. I used a cassette player as a hard drive. I wanted a computer so that I could take better care of my poetry; so that I could store it someplace safely for all time. But, I didn’t think it through; I didn’t have a printer, and most of the poetry was pretty bad. But it was my poetry and I had everything I’d written since the 7th grade.

I had three 2-inch binders full of poetry. I carried it from home to home, adding pages at every stop. I bought the over-priced little T.I. and insisted to everyone in my world that computers would revolutionize the world. One day there would be a computer in every home, at least in every writer’s home.

They scoffed.

It wasn’t a good time in my life to be investing in technology. In the course of two years, I moved from Brockton, to Weymouth, to Plymouth. I divorced and finally came to Virginia. The poetry in binders and on cassette survived, the machine, like my marriage, did not. But I still believed that there would one day be a computer in every home. It was the way of the future. I bought a Tandy.

I first went online at 300bps via my phone line—I could cook a whole meal while waiting for something to download. I frequented Bulletin Boards—hosted one even! I did Prodigy and AOL—set up with their individualized forums… groups… circles. Small forums where people with similar interests communicated…

300, 600, 1200, 2400, 36.6, 48.8, 56k. DSL, Cable…back to DSL. I did it all. I can build a computer out of spare parts—so can my kids. We were early in the personal computer revolution, I have always believed that a personal computer is just that: personal. Everyone here has had his or her own laptop for years.

I reluctantly joined Myspace, because Ian wanted to join—and I thought he should have some sort of adult supervision. It wasn’t long before it was a spamming-malware-filled mess. I stopped logging in when some man sent me a request saying he was trying to friend everyone named Mel Jones. He had 800-something friends all named Mel Jones. It was smarmy. I tried to log in recently and have no idea what my username or password is. I have no idea what email address I would have used.

My poetry is stored on my hard drive.

I moved to Facebook as soon as it was an option. Ah, a world without obnoxious games. No malware-laden posts. I expanded my circle of online friends and acquaintances.  I adapted to the ever-changing format. I was happy when the computer stopped telling me who I should leave messages for. That was kind of creepy. Soon after came the malware, games, and creepy people that demanded ever an increasing amount of personal online security settings.

I joined Google+ as soon as I was able. I like Google, I’ve always been a fan of Gmail, Google Docs, Calendar… everything integrated. I like it a lot. I have an Android phone—2 actually! It was a natural progression. It seemed the right thing to do.

After several invites, and being told to try again later… I gained membership. The several denials made it feel like it was some sort of exclusionary club. Someplace I had to be. It’s been hyped all over the news. Even the owner of Facebook is a member! I think he is scoping out the competition. And I think he should be worried, in a way the folks at Myspace weren’t smart enough to be.

Google+ is sleek. It allows me to post comments to this group of people, or that. I can send posts as an email to one circle or another… I can friend people I wouldn’t have added on facebook—because there are things I might not want them to read. You know, like it might not be too cool to friend your employer or employees. But with this new found freedom comes responsibility—I have to remember to define who will read what. I have to be a grown-up. There’s no like button, and I’m guessing there will be no dislike button either. No obnoxious games spamming my feed—not yet.  I am hoping that Google will steer clear of that sort of thing.

Myspace was (is?) for kids. Facebook for college students. I am hoping Google is going into this with their eyes wide-open and will continue to streamline their social media for grown ups. I like that it’s invitation only. I will be sad when that changes. I was sad when you didn’t need an .edu email for Facebook anymore…

So far, that’s been my experience there. I’m not ready to let go of Facebook, not ready to forget my password there. But I am ready to migrate to something cleaner. Google, please keep it sleek–streamlined and easy to use. Don’t make me have to slog through all the bullshit to discover one valuable thing. And users—friends–please, please, please keep your facebook fights and break-ups on Facebook. Keep your under-age drunkenness there. Your too-scantily-clad photos. Your pets with pages. If you want to come play with the grown-ups, in a place where italics is an option (yes! I saw a post with italics!), grow up! Or at least only share that nonsense with certain circles…

Right now Google+ is the next best thing. But it has the potential, the opportunity, to be the best thing, free from all the unwieldy, juvenile stuff that drove adults from Myspace to Facebook. Free from all the game and malware-spam that now plagues Facebook. Google+ has the experience of Myspace and Facebook to fall back on. If they’re smart, they will have matured through those experiences…

Scoff if you will, Google+ is social networking for grown people. So, do it, at least until there is a better choice. If you want an invite, let me know. But you have to promise you will use the circles.


Word count: 991


One thought on “The Next Best Thing

  1. As a fellow early computer adapter, reading this, as so often is the case, is like reading about my life. (except the poetry and assembling a computer from parts) I have not looked too deeply into the Google+ or the Branch out,because I have been more dilligent with the job search.

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