Tonawanda News

March 27, 2013

DUVALL: 'Wonder Years' has nothing on kids today

By Eric DuVall
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — A lot of my friends and family are having kids these days. And with the onset of winter now three months behind, the annual Facebook baby boom — the time of year when your news feed is overtaken by “We’re expecting!” posts and accompanying ultrasound pictures — is well under way.

I couldn’t help thinking how novel it is that Facebook, this thing no one had ever thought of a decade ago, now delivers some of life’s most important news to the masses.

It used to be a letter or baby shower invitation in the mail. Sometimes it was parlor gossip that told us someone was about to have another one. Then a telephone call. Then an email, text message. And now we just put it on blast on Facebook.

That got me to thinking: What will all these post-Facebook babies be born not knowing?

Well, for starters, they’ll never live in a world without social media. Their older siblings are probably not old enough to remember life before the Internet.

I don’t remember much of life before computers but I remember buying our first family computer when I was in middle school, a Gateway that came in the cow print box.

Those kids will never remember having to compete for telephone time with the rest of the family clan, paranoid your call was being met with a busy signal.

Now we’re paranoid when a call goes to voicemail. (”Was it something I said?” we wonder as we don’t bother to leave a message.)

They won’t remember when Internet usage was dependent on another one of those America Online CD-ROMs with 100 free hours of Internet time arriving in the mail.

Hell, by the time they are old enough to pay a bill these kids might not remember was mail was, absent an “e-” in front of it.

At the Passover sedar Monday I watch my cousin’s 18-month-old wobble around, then tap on a tablet with more skill than several adults in the room would have mustered. They don’t call it intuitive technology for nothing, I guess.

I remember typing papers in the school’s computer lab or library — the two rooms in my middle school that had computers — and using Claris Works to do it. 

The game du jour was Oregon Trail, during which players essentially sat there and stared at the screen as a wagon plunked along a dirt road, hoping the “Mary has typhoid!” dialogue box didn’t pop up. Mary always got typhoid, for reasons I’ll never know.

Oregon Trail’s big fun was “hunting” or clicking on lumbering buffalo to “shoot them” — and use about 2 pounds of the meat because hunting was the only fun thing to do so you did it about every 90 seconds, even though your wagon already was full.

I guess now I know how my parents felt when I watched “Wonder Years” and tried to imagine making dinner without a microwave, or a television with only three channels, as opposed to an opulent selection of 40.

Eric DuVall is the managing editor of the Tonawanda News. Contact him at eric.duvall@tonawanda-news.com.