Do you remember your first answering machine? I remember ours. It looked a lot like the one above, posted on Flickr by Target Man 2000. I say it was "ours" because we had ONE for the whole family. We only needed one, of course, because we all shared the same phone. But this answering machine was the key to FREEEEEEDOMMMM!
That's right - there was no more waiting at home by the phone for someone to check in - the machine would get it. The machine was the first thing we would check when we got home - or finished dinner- or came inside from playing outside (we used to do that).
When I got older and had my own place with my own phone that answering machine was my friend. It let me know if anyone (read "that special someone" - whoever that was at the time) was trying to reach me. It would tell me if I had any missed calls, and when I did get a special message, I could save it on that cassette tape for all of eternity - just to hear that wonderful voice over and over. Well, until I found another voice I liked better, but I digress.
That machine gave me control over my social life. If I just didn't feel like talking to someone, I could choose not to without being rude. And they did the same to me. In fact, after a while, I got where I would actually HOPE that some of my "friends" would not pick up so I could just leave them a quick message on their machines without having to have an entire conversation. Uncomfortable messages were often left on the answering machine - both to avoid the awkwardness of saying what needed to be said in person, and also so that the actual message could be "documented" and played back accurately later (it helped with the he said / she said disputes).
Your outgoing answering machine message was very important, and it told people a lot about you. New couples would celebrate their shared domiciliage by recording a message together. They were so cute.
So, anyway, I was reading this CNN Tech article by Mashable's Pete Cashmore, 10 Fascinating Facebook Facts and What they say about Us. Interestingly enough, people are using Facebook now to get the control over their social lives that we used to seek with our answering machines.
Facebook now allows us to maintain contact with people who annoy us - without actually having to talk to them. We check Facebook as obsessively as we used to check our answering machines. Parents keep track of who their kids' friends are on Facebook, now, instead of screening the answering machine.
Yes, Facebook is the new Answering Machine. I wonder what will replace Facebook?
Jennifer Pointer (e-mail) is in Tulsa, OK. She promotes a simple, a low-tech approach to effective online profile management, search engine optimization and social networking.