This past week, my wife and I announced that we’re pregnant. We had our first ultrasound (for this baby, and for us), and got to hear our child’s heartbeat for a few precious seconds. We got to see it, sort of (I still can’t see much in our sonogram, lol), at only 10 weeks into the pregnancy. The nurse gave us a printout of the sonogram to take home and show to friends and family. We took a picture of that printout with our cellphones, and used it to share with our friends and family.
While we were still in the lobby of the doctor’s office, we both uploaded our photos straight to the Internet. Within minutes, the congratulations and excitement came pouring in from Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr – we also sent the photo directly to a few people via MMS, and those responses came in quickly, as well. By the time we were home from the appointment, pretty much all of our friends and family knew about our pregnancy and had seen our ultrasound photo. It was amazing.
I had a similar experience when I married Christina. Using Clearwire’s 4G network, a WiFi router, and 4 Nokia N82s mounted in the DT-22 tripod, I livecasted my wedding on the Internet, for all to see. I believe it was the first time anyone had done so, and Flixwagon told me later that over 10,000 people viewed the webpage – which featured 2 simultaneous video feeds throughout the big day.
Last night we went to Christina’s work Christmas party, and of course everyone asked about our new little announcement. One couple was amazed when Christina pulled out her phone and showed them the ultrasound. They said when they had their first child, you didn’t get a printout or a photo – you simply got to see it on the screen. Only those who were in the room at the time of the ultrasound would ever get to see it.
I’ve always said that technology should enrich and enable our real lives. As I’m preparing for my first kid to arrive, I see technology in a whole new light. My cell phone’s camera is so good that I can now use it as a portable scanner – making a high-quality digital reproduction of printed materials. I can then, with a few taps on the screen, instantly share that reproduction with my 2,400 friends across Facebook and Twitter. Even 5 years ago, sharing that image with all of those people would have taken far more – either sending it as an MMS individually to 2,400 friends, or waiting until I got home to transfer the file to my computer, and upload it from there.
Another friend was remarking about making the birth announcement of his second child recently. With the first kid, he had a printed list of their closest friends and family’s phone numbers, and he had a few people at the hospital whose job it was to call those people, individually, to let them know the birth details. With the second child, he was able to send one text message – it only took him a few seconds to type it out on his phone and send it to someone. That recipient then forwarded that message to others, and before you know it, the announcement was out.
In some circles, this prevalence of technology and the ease of sharing is seen as a risk, or a liability. The ability to instantly share information with thousands of people (and no easy way to undo that) is definitely something to consider thoughtfully. In the past, Christina’s requested me to be careful with specific details of our life and how those are shared online. As we’re bringing a kid into this world, that’s going to be an even bigger factor to consider. I’ll most likely start by pruning my ‘friends’ lists on various services, such as Flickr and Facebook (Twitter doesn’t really give you much of an option).
Currently, I don’t really bother sorting my contacts – it’s a very black-and-white affair, you either have access to my online persona or you don’t. Also, the people who do not have access are typically those who have abused it somehow – with few exceptions, you’re innocent until proven guilty, so to speak.
With great technology comes great responsibility to use that technology appropriately. However, great technology can also enrich and enable our real lives – making it better without getting in the way.