DON’T LET CYBERSCHISM DELETE OLD FRIENDS
Something has happened to my 50-year-old friendship with three college buddies.
Sure, over the years we've kept in touch with one another, meeting occasionally at reunions, but mostly our friendship hangs on by the thread of old-fashioned phone calls. We'd commiserate when a college buddy we knew has died, like our life-long friend Larry, a writer living in Sonoma, California, who contracted MS in his mid fifties. We'd console one another when someone in our respective families fell ill, like my son-in-law who battled duodenal cancer valiantly until it beat him to a pulp, ending his life at 43. Or we'd congratulate each other on our respective entrepreneurial achievements, albeit with perhaps a tinge of envy, like when I became a vice president of the peacock network NBC and I was proud as a you know what. That pride was pretty hard from my old friends to stomach, but they handled it. And then each of us being entrepreneurs in own right would speculate on what went wrong with our products, like Billy's invention of the first "Hot Hand" basketball glove that dribbled for a while and made a few pro baskets until commissioner David Stern banned it from the NBA.
You see, we were all once very competitive in business school at Temple University and some of that spirit lingers on. Yet when one of our children reaches some milestone like a graduation or landing a great job, we're right there congratulating to the hilt.
It was nice. Sincere. Cozy. Our friendship filled a void. There was continuity in our lives. It was comforting. And it was there whenever we needed it. I'd just pick up the phone and call Glenn or Bill and we'd have a great time chatting, reminiscing, handicapping entries in the big races, or arguing over politics, sports, the stock market, you name it. It was fun.
Today that friendship is nothing what it used to be. Sadly it has fallen into disrepair, leading albeit sadly to neglect. Our once thriving friendship has fallen victim to an insidious social malady that is causing disconnect between older Americans. I call it cyberschism. There are those who email. And those who don't. And between those who a schism develops. And this cyberschism is crashing relationships among boomers who are facebookless, tweetless, textlessand un-linkedin, separating long-term college chums whose chumming preceded the pervasiveness of computers, social networks and that virtual dormitory of information, connections and linkages among foursquare e-friends.
Glenn has the worse case of cyberschism. He lives by himself in a computerless house that he grew up in on Winchester Avenue in Ventnor, NJ. He and his sister inherited it after their mother died a few years ago and then she died and he lives alone. He's a retired NYC parole officer. Probably the smartest of all my friends, he could have done anything he set his mind on, but he never set his mind more than handicapping horses at Belmont. And he never owned a computer. In fact, he hates computer jargon. He ridicules expressions like download.
Bill at least has an email address, but he seldom sends or reads emails. He had his son set it up for him, but he's just not interested. I think in the last 10 years I've received maybe two emails from him. For the most part he remains in my mailbox fast asleep. When I want to communicate with Bill, I have to use snailmail or call him. And lo and behold, he's recently started carrying a cell phone. What an advancement in his technological life. Yet here's a guy who owned one of the top advertising agencies in New York. He was always creative as can be and forever inventing things and coming up with clever ideas for ads and even products. Why he never adopted computers is beyond me.
Like many of you downloading this page, I can't imagine life without computers. And I'm someone who started his career as a journalist banging stories out on a Neanderthalic typewriter at The Philadelphia Inquirer. Then I became a speechwriter for ABC where I'd go through bottles and bottles of white out, before that wonderful, resourceful machine came miraculously into my life-the word processor. Today I practically live on my laptop. If you took it away from me, I'd probably have withdrawal symptoms that I'm sure would lead to isolation, a complete breakdown and eventually penury for how would I earn a living?
That's how necessary the computer has become to all of us, which is why I look at Bill and Glenn as tech-deprived dinosaurs; also Barry, who lives in Canada and from whom I seldom every receive an email. What is so sad about this is that their deprivation is slowly snuffing the life out of our friendship as they are cutting themselves off from its lifeblood-communications, which today have taken a different form. They just don't or won't accept the fact that communications for the most part have moved online, just as automobiles have replaced horse and buggies. Yet they have unilaterally elected to stay off line and they're galloping away from me on horseback .
So c'mon guys, get with it. Get online. Send me an email with some friendly attachments. Let's download and share some of those juicy tidbits from our memory banks. Let's save them now on our hard drives so we can search and open them whenever we want. Let's not let cyberschism delete what we once held so dearly-our friendship.