In many ways, I’m jealous of teens today. The technology that exists would have made my life so much easier.
Growing up, I had to loan out a TTY (Text Telephone) to friends, rely on the 9 to 5, Monday through Friday, all-volunteer Relay – in which operators freely inserted themselves into conversations – or ask my parents to help me make phone calls. None of these options was good for a deaf teenager. Imagine complaining to a friend about that time of month, not knowing the Relay operator was male, or having a friend’s mother pick up the phone to hear a male voice saying, “I’m so depressed.” Yeah, that happened, and we’re still friends.
Televisions didn’t have captioning, and neither did movies. This meant that I missed out on a lot of pop culture, like the latest Saturday Night Live skit. But maybe it’s one reason why I’m such a voracious reader. And it justifies my love of TV and movies.
Now because of email, Internet Relay, captioned telephones, smartphones, and captions, I can be more self-sufficient. I also feel more like a contributing member of society who operates on a more level playing field, with an advantage: One benefit to relying on the written word is my ability to type like a demon without even trying.
There are still obstacles (online videos that aren’t captioned, for example), but thanks to social media, email, and the Internet, I’m able to keep up with news and trends just like anyone else. As a journalist, this is especially useful.
But there’s a downside to all this great technology. If social media had existed when I was younger, I wonder if it would have helped or made things worse. I look at my teenager navigating this new world — where she sees pictures on Instagram of friends and classmates doing things without her – and don’t envy the challenges that today’s teens face.
These days, it seems there are more ways to feel bullied, hurt, and excluded, and on a public scale no less. As Uncle Ben says in Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.” We obeyed the social media restrictions, not letting our daughter register for accounts until she was 13. We follow and monitor her, and will continue to teach her proper and respectful behavior. We can only do our part and hope others will do the same.
In the meantime, I’m thankful that I have no embarrassing tweets, posts, or (online) pictures from those awkward years. Although the friend’s mother answering my phone call would have made a great tweet!