To Visit, To Browse, To ShareThursday, July 19, 2012
My youngest daughter calls up my wife many times during the day for “updates on her status”. “We are on the Number 10 bus,” “We just got off the bus,” “We had bacon and eggs for breakfast.” Sometimes when I answer the phone and I am informed I have heard myself say to my daughter (I do believe I am being unkind), “Why am I getting this relevant piece of information?”
Rosemary, my wife, asked me why it is that our daughter does this. I reflected on it. I told Rosemary that if she were to have a texting phone our daughter would send the relevant information via text. Our daughter is simply being social in a 21st century way.
It was some years ago while in Texas that I first heard the expression, “We had a visit.” It was not, “She visited me,” or “I visited him.” I found the expression very American and quite odd. But I soon associated the expression as a warm visit in which fried chicken with biscuits was served and dessert was home-made pecan pie. “We had us a good visit.”
This expression to visit began to deteriorate in my view with the advent of commercial web pages in which a driver behind a bus would read on an ad, “Visit us at http://www.vancouvergarbabe.com. A perfectly straight and commercial enterprise wanted to suggest that one could develop a fair amount of intimacy by paying a visit to a web page. My Blogger stats tell me how many page visits I get per day, week and month. To me the verb to visit has lost relevance.
The same has happened to browse. I can remember being in some old fashioned (and they are more so now than ever) bookstore. An employee might come up to me with, “May I help you or are you browsing?” It seemed like the interjection of browse made the communication less aggressive, less pushy. It seemed like to browse in a bookstore or on a Granville Island gift shop was a warm experience.
Now we have web browsers and it becomes a bit difficult to use that overly hackneyed expression “to curl up with a good book” as we might be browsing pornography on Microsoft Internet Explorer or reading our Kindle in an uncomfortable and cramped airline cabin seat.
Just like John Le Carré said, “Alec Guinness took Smiley away from me,” modern technology in the 21st century has taken away the personal experience from visit and browse. It does not stop there.
If I bring my Rosemary’s cat Casi-Casi from the foot of our bed next to me, my cat Plata stares at me and she tries to snuggle next to me. She wants to share my attention. She is jealous. After a while Casi-Casi, who is not aggressive, in a wonderful example of feline selflessness, jumps to the foot of the bed so that Plata can have it all.
Share, as in to share has gone the way of browse and visit. I can never forget that to share in Spanish is compartir and that it literally means to “break and share bread with”. Facebook offers us the experience of sharing links to funny YouTube videos or links to obituaries in the NY Times. I can acknowledge these links from my friend by clicking on a key “like”. And that’s it. There is no food, no bread changing hands. There is no eye contact or the warmth of a voice or the sound of my friend breathing.
I told Rosemary, that our daughter in calling her up repeated times with updates, is just exercising her right for the 21st century version of sharing. Enjoy.