I am an 80s child. I was born when footballers still had long hair and dirt across their face. Actually it was more rugby players and they still had short hair…but you know what I mean!
I grew up in an era when computers were intimidating and still represented bits and bytes on monochrome screens. There were no such things as cellphones and your phone was a fixed line home telephone with a cord and if you were advanced it had buttons instead of a dial. Every girl’s dream was to have a phone in your room, like in all those American TV shows we watched.
We shared music by illegally copying cassette tapes and recording the Top 40 on a Saturday by patiently waiting with your finger on the ‘record’ button while the DJ droned on over the song intro. A stereo player with a twin tape deck was a treasure, especially if it was portable! You could carry it around and listen to poor quality sound tracks wherever you felt like it…
Computer studies were reserved for the exceptionally talented students (all boys in our school) and was an after-school subject. Typing (on real typewriters) was for girls whose highest ambition was to become a secretary. As opposed to a nurse or a teacher. The first time I ever used a real life computer was in my first year of varsity and I did not even know where to switch it on. We had to write a programme on Cobol and I spent hours trying to figure out how to write an algorithm to draw lines. Computer studies were called Informatics and my text book was a glossy book filled with pictures of room sized servers and illustrations of how combinations of 00 and 11 represented letters and numbers.
I started my articles at an auditing firm in 1995 and was given a subsidy to buy a laptop. My first laptop computer cost the equivalent of 2 top-of-the-range iPads and had, wait for it, a colour screen. My whole audit team drooled over this state-of-the-art piece of technology, an IBM laptop with 8MB RAM. With this I could produce working papers on a programme using Lotus 1-2-3 and then print them out for review. Awesomeness.
The 90s were of course an era of unparalleled technological advances and by the time we all prepared for the onset of the Millennium bug (can you remember that?), most of us had access to emails, the world-wide-web and I had long since traded in my archaic laptop for a new one. I even owned a cellphone the size of a mini brick. With the birth of my second child in 2002 I was able to distribute the happy news from my hospital bed via a text message (SMS) to all my pre-selected contacts.
It took me a while to forage into the world of social networking. Initially, I used a few online photo libraries to share some photos of my kids with friends and family overseas, after spending hours uploading a few pictures and emailing the web page link.
I cannot actually remember what finally convinced me to open a Facebook account. Actually, I do. I was recently divorced and developed a crush on someone and he had recently opened a Facebook account. I spent hours creating a profile, finding a profile picture, adding applications to show the world (or my 30 odd friends at the time) what books I read, where I have travelled to in the world and what music I liked. What hooked me to Facebook, embarrassingly, was the ability to ‘stalk’ people anonymously. How I loved searching for old boyfriends, old school friends, checking out people’s profiles, pictures of their families.
Of course, eventually Facebook sort of lost some of its initial lustre (and they started introducing privacy settings…). And I guess I got a bit bored with looking at pictures of school friends I could not place. I still enjoy Facebook and still think it is quite amazing how you can connect with people all over the world, but nowadays I rarely spend any time looking at ‘friends you may know’ and have taken to disabling feeds from several friends because I am really not interested in their ramblings.
I have resisted opening several other social networking accounts, possibly because I spent enough time on Facebook already… I eventually opened a Linkedin account, more for professional reasons, and I have kept it quite business like and only really connected with business colleagues.
I have resisted the Twitter wave for a very long time. Party because I was intimidated by the hashtags and twitter handles and the like, but also partly because I could not imagine who I would want to follow. My stalking prowls are much more limited to people I actually know and I could not think of a single celebrity I loved that much that I would like to know what they had for breakfast or what their awe inspiring thought for the day was.
But of course, I eventually succumbed. For two reasons. Firstly, because I thought it would be another way to share this blog (it is called publisize). And secondly, in perfect character, because my teenage daughter opened a twitter account, and I wanted to know what she was up to. And the beauty was that I could check out her tweets without actually following her. (Incidentally, it transpired that she pretty much use twitter to follow a few celebrities and follow feeds of funny jokes and sayings).
Initially, I just followed a few Facebook friends, @EWNtraffic, and a few other feeds. The first time I got whipped into a frenzy was with the #FelixBaumgarter saga. I was watching the twitter feeds with heart-pounding excitement. How amazing was this. A front seat to the action as it is happening?
But last week, I got hooked. I have started checking my feeds, which now included a couple of news handles on a more regular basis. I do like to know what is happening in the world and it is quicker and easier than logging into News24.com or EWN.co.za. And on Valentine’s day I stumbled across this tweet.
Of course, I was shocked. This was our hero. I didn’t follow that much of the Olympics last year, but Oscar was one of the few athletes that I made an effort to watch. And what a beautiful story the paralympian who managed to compete in the able-bodied Olympics made.
Over the last week, more and more details emerged and the social media outcry has been unparalleled in South Africa. One journalist covering the bail hearing (@barrybateman) increased his twitter following from just over 7,000 followers to over 130,000 in days (including me of course). I was hooked. I followed the bail hearing with more vigour than the Royal Wedding. I checked my twitter feed all day long, in meetings, at work, in the car, while standing in shopping queues. You had to sift through lots of rubbish to get some factual reporting and opinions swayed like a pendulum, but we were all glued to twitter.
(By the way, in all the time I have been blogging, I have only twice seen posts from South African bloggers make Freshly Pressed, and both times were in the last week, about our fallen hero, Oscar and our self proclaimed hero, the Sugarman Rodriguez. Of course, I wouldn’t take that as a fact…)
Now that the hype about the bail hearing is over and the long wait to the trial has started, I have to admit that I am hooked to twitter. I still don’t tweet much and still don’t follow any celebrities (except for Jamie Oliver), but I finally get what it is all about.
So, I am putting my hands in the air, and am saying ‘Hello, twittersphere!’