Oh I’m living on the edge of the world
Tryin’ to get a message through
I gotta make a connection, girl
Because I’m living on the edge of the world
Living on the edge of the world
Springsteen, Living on the edge of the world
Last night Jersey girl took the kids into Bethlehem to see the band The Beautiful Distortion play. I’ve mentioned the talented sisters Amy and Karen from this band before. They played with their bassist Jeremy at the Ice House benefit I wrote about here. I’d wanted to see the full band play but they weren’t gigging over the time I was in the US, so I missed out. I don’t mind admitting I was a little bummed that I was unable to be there last night.
Why am I telling you this?
Recently, I posted about how completely dependent this relationship is on the latest generation of digital technology. We only exist as a couple because of the leaps that have been made in digital communication over the last decade. Yesterday I got another reminder of just how far such leaps have taken us.
I’d had a few texts from Jersey letting me know how the gig was going, she’d also posted a pic or two on Instagram. That’s usually all I get when she is out and I’m stuck here. I was going to be skyping with her when she got home and while I was waiting I popped on to Facebook to check my notifications.
And right there, in my news feed, courtesy of a friend of Amy and Karen, was a live stream of the show. I was able, in my flat here in Melbourne, Australia to watch and hear part of the very show Jersey and the kids were at in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania – in real time.
In that instant, the vast distance between us shrank down to almost nothing. That’s the power of this digital plane upon which we now exist, the power to shrink the world whilst at the same time infinitely extending the potential for connection. The limitations imposed upon our social lives by our inability to communicate easily with people over our horizons simply no longer exists.
There was a time in humanity’s not so distant history when people from the next town over were viewed with deep suspicion and hostility. During the English Civil War just a little over 350 years ago, soldiers from one county had to be persuaded and cajoled into crossing into the next, which they often referred to as another country and which inhabitants thereof were all foreigners and quite possibly heathens.
The chief reason for this extreme form of xenophobia was the lack of effective communication over even relatively small distances. People simply didn’t know that much about their neighbours, even those who lived just ten or fifteen miles away.
Bringing people together, that is the great service modern digital communications have achieved. The internet has allowed people the opportunity to see that, ultimately, our differences are largely based in that fear of the unknown. A little context can shrink most cultural anxieties down to a manageable size.
As someone who fell in love with a ‘foreigner’ I’d never even met, I am an enthusiastic advocate of the modern innovations in electronic communication. That said, it all comes with its own set of problems. This mobile device enslavement that has entranced so many is a real and present concern. We need to exercise constant vigilance to ensure that the technology we think we own does not, in fact, own us.
Words and image are my own.