Touch Of Technology
story: Kerri Regan photo: Michael Burke
BRIDGING THE DISTANCE THROUGH CYBERSPACE
Robby Burke scrambles up to the computer and deftly navigates his way to the Internet. The 6-year-old Redding boy can’t wait to show off his blossoming reading skills to his grandmother.
Soon, Rebecca Elliot’s face appears on the screen, and the 250 miles between them disappear. While some lament that rapidly evolving technology isolates people, Elliot is among the legions who say that social networking has enriched relationships with faraway loved ones. “It warms my heart when I answer my phone and hear my grandson ask, ‘Nana, can we have an IChat?’ ” says Elliot, who lives in San Jose.
Skype and iChat are among the technologies that allow people to have face-to-face interaction via their computer screens, seeing and hearing each other in real time. Within moments, youngsters can hop online and sing Christmas carols with a grandparent on the other side of the country, or show off what Santa left under the tree.
“Not only am I able to see Rob’s school papers and awards, he also read two stories to me from the book he is currently reading,” says Elliot, who also introduced her new husband to cousins in Israel with a few clicks of a mouse. “(Fifteen-year-old granddaughter) Kelsey showed me her knee brace shortly after it was put on her leg, and (12-year-old granddaughter) Annie keeps me updated on her musical accomplishments.”
Social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace are a way to stay connected by sharing thoughts, photographs, interesting links and videos. Members create their own online neighborhoods by adding “friends” who can see their personal profile updates. If someone posts a “status update” to say that he did well on a test or had a bad day, his Facebook friends can write bulletin board-style comments on his “wall” to give a virtual high-five or offer encouraging words.
Stacy Ulch, an Enterprise High School graduate who now lives in Utah with her husband and four children, keeps in touch with many North State family and friends through Facebook.
“The ability to post pictures moments after big events – birthdays, holidays and when I recently finished a marathon – has been so meaningful. Being able to share those moments as they are happening has helped family members feel like they are a part of these big events rather then being hundreds and hundred of miles apart,” Ulch says. “It helps me stay aware of their day to day happenings – the good, the bad, the boring and the exciting.”
One North State resident even kept her Facebook friends on the edge of their seats with straight-from-the-hospital news about her granddaughter’s birth, from the first signs of labor to the big announcement, complete with photos. She was recently able to share short video of that granddaughter’s first steps mere moments after they happened.
“The advantages of this kind of communication are tremendous and far-reaching,” Elliot says. “No longer does a grandparent have to miss out on a significant event in their grandchildren’s lives. Grandchildren can establish a closer bond to their grandparents when they visually communicate on a regular basis.”