Saturday, September 27, 2014

Facebook and Party Lines

Logan Utah
Dad was working on a masters degree at Utah State and our family of five kids and two adults lived in the married student housing.  It was quite Spartan, with a bathroom in each unit but a common shower in a different building, near where everybody kept their washing machines:  the Dexter ringer machines, not the modern laundry center.  The Quonset we lived in also had a fridge, a two-burner hotplate, and a kitchen sink.  Mom would bake bread and cook Sunday dinner in a big roaster pan.  I actually thought every day was an adventure.  Often I would walk to my first grade classroom at the old Adams School, crossing the USU campus on my way.  Every day was an adventure.

We had no telephone.  In fact, I don’t think there were more than three families in the complex who did have a phone.  (We also had no TV.  For entertainment we would occasionally go to a drive-in movie, taking our own popcorn, of course.) Later on, after Dad finished his masters and we had moved to Lewisville, Idaho, where Dad was the principal and taught the sixth grade, we did get a telephone.  It was a party line, so whenever anybody on the line was being called, everybody on the line knew it.  Our number signal was one long and two short rings.  Somebody else might have two longs or two shorts.  Socially connected people on the line would know who was being called by the ring pattern in their own phone.  (There was only one phone in each house.  Usually the phone was near the kitchen.)

Some of the more socially connected neighbors would quietly pick up the phone and listen in on the conversation.  We became adept at discerning a slight difference in the static on the line when somebody was eavesdropping.  Then we would say, “Myrtle, please hang up and stop listening.”  A private line was a luxury for the wealthy, few of whom I was personally acquainted with.   As the systems developed and take-home pay increased, however, we were finally able to have a “private line”.  You would think we had reached the highest social stratum.  Nobody could listen in any more.

Fast forward to the 21st Century and social networks.  Now everybody wants to be on Facebook, “friends” with present and former acquaintances and family members and businesses, spending too many hours “listening in” on the lives of each other.  Isn’t it ironic!  Where the desired status was once to get a private line so nobody could listen, now we post everything about our lives on public bulletin boards where the whole world can listen in, often without our own awareness of what is taking place.

This is called progress. Every cell phone conversation is open to the whole world, and is probably being listened to by some government computer. I, and thousands of others, write a blog that is posted in front of the whole world.  I actually had several thousand hits on one of my blog entries  Are you kidding me?  What did I say that was that interesting?  What a mixed up world we live in!  Since it is not going away, maybe we should be more discreet in what we post on those bulletin boards.  But that would be boring.  Ahhhhhh!

1LT Patterson, Saipan

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