I used to look with awe at people who were alive in the early 1900s. Just to think of all the changes they had seen in their lifetimes was mind-boggling. Airplanes, radio, TV, electric lights everywhere in the country, all the things I took for granted. I imagine that’s how young people think of me — somebody who was alive when the internet began. I go back to personal letters written by hand, to typewritten manuscripts, to copying machines the size of Volkswagens. Most remarkably, I go back to the day when your friends were people you had met in person. People you saw in the flesh, so to speak. Now I have friends all over the world that I’ve never laid eyes on, and we became friends through the internet.
Take Suzanne Beecher, for example. I would never have known her if I hadn’t stumbled on her DearReader.com site, and now she’s one of my dearest friends. Online and in the flesh. And the poet Bonny Conway. She lives all the way up in Ohio, but we’re good friends because of the internet. Then there’s Thomas Frotscher in Berlin who promises me a coffee and an intro to his two cats if I’m ever in his city. I owe that friendship to the internet too. And writers like MC Coolidge, who wrote a newspaper article back in the fall that was so great that I had to send her an email to compliment her. Now she’s planning to come to a book signing I’m doing Saturday at Circle Books. We’ll meet in person then, but we’re already friends. (By the way, if you’re going to be in Sarasota Saturday, come by Circle Books on St. Armand’s from 1:00-3:00 p.m. and say Hi.)
If I had to choose between being an old-timer who went from horse-and-buggy days to jet travel or being an old-timer who went from the mail to internet, I think I’d take the latter. I’m sure it was a great advantage to be able to make the trip in hours rather than days to visit relatives and friends, but the internet makes it possible to travel in seconds. Best of all it that the internet expands your circle of friends to take in the entire world. Now that’s progress!