He said he was going through some papers in his mother’s house and found it, a postcard I had sent him years before when I still lived in New York. It was the Empire State Building and a brief greeting scribbled on the back- how I was working (or not) and sending good thoughts to a friend in Italy. He scanned it and sent the image to me saying- “Remember when people used to actually sent messages with pen and paper?” As I looked at the image, the sepia-toned memory was quickly replaced by the buzz of my phone announcing another post on Instagram and it made me wonder, what really has changed. While we used to send letters we now send emails and postcards have become Facebook or Instagram posts. We seem to be exchanging one devil for another constantly shedding the shell of the old for the perceived new. As Virginia Heffernan writes in her brilliant “Magic and Loss” we seem to be heralding back to a Victorian age where children are to be seen and not heard. indeed, she suggests that now we produce children only to produce images to spawn more likes and shares, their images frozen in electronic amber. People now scale construction sites and buildings to post images from these heights, now known as rooftopping possibly giving up their lives for a like. Yet if we lose our life in this pursuit our digital legacy will live on. Our digital artifacts will outlive us and one day might be museum pieces, like stereoscope or view-master slides holding us all captive in an electronic eternity.
A friend of mine used to work for an elderly woman who lived on New York’s upper east side. She was from a family that had money and had a staff of servants including a maid named Mavis. My friend told me that whenever the woman wanted Mavis to do anything the request always ended “Immediately Mavis…”
That has become a family joke and I think of that when I watch my children interact with today’s media. Everything is available almost instantly in what I like to think of as the “immediate generation”. Now I am not the most patient person in the world- in fact I think waiting is a virtue and patience is a miracle but I understand that things take time. What will happen when this generation comes of age and begins to be confronted with a waiting game? Will they know how to handle it? And what about the lack of constant input, are we training a generation that will not be able to deal with the still silence of the soul or will they run from it to the immediate now of constant distraction.