Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Modern marvels

Two interesting, seemingly unrelated events occurred today. Noel talked to Jim Parsons, the actor who plays Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory. And my dad joined Twitter.

Sheldon has become quite a famous television character in the show's two seasons, at least among a certain community. Although he's portrayed as simply a particularly obsessive and socially tone-deaf scientist, people on the autistic spectrum (and their families) have become convinced that the character has Asperger's syndrome. I certainly see the diagnosis. The way Sheldon interrogates anyone who brings him Chinese food to make sure they got everything exactly right, or the way he tries to explain the possibilities of a potential friendship using a flow chart -- it all seems eerily familiar.

Sheldon, like Archer, is most comfortable with numbers and computers rather than people. On the other hand, my father has always been quite social. But he's a savvy adopter of technology, as well. I'm not sure what led him to create a Twitter persona -- media coverage? Facebook? -- but there he was this morning, sending me a follow request.

I wonder if he'll be a listener, or whether he'll join in with his own status updates. Who wouldn't enjoy seeing what their dad is up to several times a day?

Twitter skeptics -- and technophobes in general -- tend to decry the ascendency of mediated communication over face-to-face interaction. But when you move away from your family and friends, practically all your communication is mediated. As older generations start to adopt social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter, they're finding that these are ways to have more contact with the people you care about, not less.

For people like Sheldon, the mediation is essential; people are bewildering bundles of chaos without some filter to increase the signal and cut the noise. But even for the most socially adept among us, these tools can aggregate our loci of concern and allow us to stay connected with more people, more often.

1 comment:

Adam Villani said...

That's pretty funny... for some reason I've never watched that show.