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Posted: November 18, 2010 7:22 p.m.

Life better lived offline

I'm joining the raggedy-looking corps arrayed on the fringes of society who claim the end is nigh.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is taking aim at e-mail by creating "a new messaging platform" (please explain) that has the potential to make e-mail obsolete. The 15-month-old project is driven by the fact that young adults and teens are increasingly eschewing e-mail in favor of texting, instant messaging and chats. The Associated Press story goes on to cite a 2009 survey from the Pew Internet and American Life Project that revealed text messaging has supplanted face-to-face interaction, e-mail, phone calls and instant messaging as the way teens stay in touch with each other.

We now know that teens rule the world. E-mail, claims Zuckerberg, is the wave of the past because it is primarily used by older adults. And weren’t we all so proud when we mastered e-mail? (My friends would say I’ve not quite mastered e-mail, but I blame it on a creaky old computer.) Older adults just don’t count. We’ve been put on the curb to await the garbage truck.

Popular author and screenwriter Nora Ephron has a new book, "I Remember Nothing," a title sure to attract legions of readers who share that experience. (Another book was "I Feel Bad about My Neck," also an experience shared by millions of a certain age.) Her screenwriting credits include "Sleepless in Seattle," "Julie and Julia" and "When Harry Met Sally." In the new book, she devotes a chapter to e-mail entitled "The Six Stages of E-Mail." They are Infatuation, Clarification, Confusion, Disenchantment, Accommodation and finally Death. They cover the initial rush of excitement at discovering a new way to communicate; the dawning realization of its uses, many rules and specific language; the befuddlement at the deluge of unsolicited advertising for things like Viagra; the overwhelming demand for response to dozens and dozens of entreaties; learning to just say "no," and finally "I’m over it." How many of those describe your experience?

I’m hopelessly un-cool when it comes to social networking. My network is comprised of living, breathing, talking people whose faces light me up, whose voices convey a million nuances, whose hugs say love and whose handshakes mean business. I can’t imagine the point or usefulness of Twittering unless there’s absolutely nothing going on between your ears. Who cares about your grocery list, the run in your tights or the hot babe you just spotted on your lunch hour? I don’t text because I like real words, not the shorthand that texting requires.

And I’ve absolutely refused to join Facebook, despite the fact that so many friends and family are members. They tell me it’s the best way to get news about subjects I care about such as parks, trails and green initiatives, and the best way to get your own business or organization’s message to the public.

I get that it’s the quickest way to keep up with family or friends you don’t see often. It took a week for me to hear about a niece’s engagement, but I’d have known immediately on Facebook. Privacy concerns make me suspicious although there are said to be adequate safeguards. In my book, there are never enough in this day and age.

Most of all I really don’t want anything else to keep me tied to a computer more than I have to be already. All I ask is that you smile and wave as you pass me by sitting on the curb.

Barbara Morgan is a resident of Covington with a background in newspaper journalism, state government and politics. Her column appears on Fridays.

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