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After my last post I was reminded of something a friend said, or rather posted on her Facebook page:

Yesterday I was grateful for a community that has developed on social media, as I realize that I have come to care about people I may never meet in person.

Some of that flies in the face of what I had posted last time, yet I could make those same exact comments. I find real friends or connections are truly hard to come by, but not just in the social media world. Real friendships are hard to come by in the physical world as well, or at least in my experience. It is not an issue of knowing  people. I could count hundreds. But who can you truly share life with? Can you be who you are without reservation? How many friendships are just shallow versus the real stuff?

Social media, and mobile technology can inhibit such things, but at the same time can enhance them as well. We have the ability to “stay in touch” far more than we ever could. We can make friendships through online means, and these friendships would have never existed otherwise. Of course we can get “taken for a ride” with online relationships…and nothing like that would happen in real life, right? But this means seemingly meaningless status updates are important because someone is reading them and caring about your life. You can do this in person with friends at work, outside of work, with your family, or whoever, but now you can do it instantly with all of them. Saves a lot of talking.

I got a haircut yesterday at Lou’s barber shop. Here is what I think is one of the true pictures of yesteryear left. We can talk of the mom n’ pops going under, the big box stores buying out the little guys, yet the Lou’s barber shops of the world still survive. I wonder for how long, but maybe they will always be around. His job has changed little over the years, and a haircut is still relatively cheap ($8 although you give him $10). He does have a nice new little flatscreen TV on the counter, which is usually on a John Wayne movie. You can see John Wayne and a lot of other memorabilia from over the years.

On this particular day, Lou told me the building we were in was once an old IGA grocery store. Then he wheeled me around and said “You see that house right there?” pointing next door.
“Yep.”
“That’s where I started the barber shop and then was able to get this spot.”
“When was that?”
“1956.”
“You’ve been cutting hair here that long?”
“Yep.”
“I guess you’ve seen it all right from here.”
“Oh yeah, lots of changes. I’m 86 now.”

I find all of this pretty fascinating. In my mind, the thought of working somewhere, and living somewhere that long a time just doesn’t exist. I’ve already moved and changed jobs more before hitting 40 than he has in a lifetime. I am already a product of mobility. I doubt Lou knows anything about computers. His old cash register is cash only. Not like anyone cares. I doubt he has 500 friends on Facebook, and if I questioned him he probably wouldn’t know what it is. This shop is like stepping back in time. The reality is also that little mom n’ pop barber shops may still exist for old geezers (of whom I may as well add myself) but there probably won’t be another Lou to run a shop for 60 years.

When you leave Lou’s and tell him to take it easy, you re-enter the socially mobile world. It is a much different world than when Lou started that barber shop. But that is inevitable. We could have made that claim decades ago. No matter what, whether in Lou’s heyday or ours, we will always seek out connections, no matter the method or technology. Nothing will ever replace person-to-person contact, but now we can do that in many more ways through video chats, emails, or even online games. We re-define friendships and community, and anyway we can connect we are welcomed to.

One thing Lou wouldn’t know anything about is Foursquare, where you can personally rate the places you are or the businesses you use. Ironically, someone did such for Lou’s barbershop:

“Best haircut in town.”

I would agree.

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Working with high school students on a daily basis constantly reminds me that no matter what attempts I make, I am always behind with what is going on. The phrases I use, allusions I make, and stories I tell are like a foreign language to them. I haven’t even hit 40 yet…well, not quite yet anyway, and already I feel disoriented as if I have just awoken from cryogenic sleep. I don’t think it will ever happen. The cryogenics I mean, not the 40 part. I’m not really sure what they would do with me after I thawed anyway. What would be your first question? “Hey, is there still KFC?”

In my new bachelorhood, I find comfort in having dinner every night with Scott Pelley as he brings me the CBS Evening News. I’m really a dinosaur to admit that this is still where I get my news every day. Of course I look at Google news during the day to see what is going on, but every night I look forward to the old-fashioned evening news. I watch it the same way my grandparents watched Cronkite. When Cronkite signed off every night he would say “And that’s the way it was,” and people believed since Walter was telling you this, that was the way it was. No one in the news business will ever top that again. When Walter tearfully announced the JFK assassination, rejoiced at the moon landing, or ducked bullets in Vietnam, everyone was there along with him. Walter came to their living room to tell them about what was going on. Some of the CBS correspondents are dinosaurs too- a number of them I’ve been watching since a kid in the 80’s.

If anyone watches a CBS news report now, it is probably through Youtube on a laptop, or through a tweet in their pocket. Everything is mobile and people want everything in the palm of their hand, so libraries and everybody else try to keep up. I still can’t figure out what to do with the CSS to get a webpage to look right on a phone. Students use their phones all the time, and our school has the common courtesy to confiscate them if they are even spotted. We are given little yellow envelopes and students pick them up at the end of the day. Some teachers even challenge each other to see who can collect more. So much for progress.

Yet there is no turning back. Mobile is here to stay, and it will keep changing. Texting a question to a librarian, looking up research on a database, using Twitter to submit a quiz, or opening an e-book on your phone are all possible examples. For some reason, people like to tell the rest of the world where they are and what they’re doing just this second. No idea why anyone cares about such things. But it’s a reality we need to jump into this silly mobile game and let our presence be known.

I wonder if this phenomenon is based on fear people have of not being connected every second of the day. Perhaps since things change so fast, they are afraid of not being up on what is happening. Of course in emergency and crisis situations, it is the mobile world which can communicate information the fastest, and have the potential to save lives. But in everyday life, people expect this instant connecting, perhaps so they feel they belong to a community since the traditional sense of community has mostly disappeared.

My phone still flips. It is a pay-as-you-go cheap phone I add minutes to every now and then. Whenever I check it now and then, I realize it’s dead and wonder how long it’s been like that. Yet no one tried to call me on it. Rarely is there a message on the old land-line phone either, especially now that the political season is over. I guess I’m missing something here. Very few emailers on a daily basis; a Facebook message now and then, yet if someone tries to reach me that is how they usually do it. I’m not sure how things have passed me by like this. I have a neighbor of whom every time I see her she is either talking on the phone or texting. Sometimes I want to just ask what it’s for, what’s so important, but that would be weird, kind of like living next to me.

Well, I don’t know how this contributes to the mobile discussions in class, but this is all I’ve got. Somehow we need to tailor our services to people where they are and give them resources on whatever trinket they are using. We are people on the move, even if it seems we just go in circles.

I missed the CBS Evening News tonight. Maybe I can watch it on my flipping phone. Hope no one tries to call.

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