On most summer nights there are five or six laptop computers in my living room — accompanied by the lanky bodies of teenage boys. Boy in Black’s summer job is doing research for a physics professor, which means he gets paid to sit on on the couch and write computer programs on his laptop. My daughter does freelance work on her computer, I write on my computer, and my husband checks the stock market online. Mostly, everyone else looks up youtube clips, plays computer games, and checks email.
Yesterday, when we were all sitting around the living room, which is mostly what we do here in the summer, Shaggy Hair Boy reached for one of the laptop computers on the coffeetable and checked his email. “Hey, I got my roommate.” He’ll be heading to Snowstorm University in less than a month.
“Go to facebook,” Quick said.
Within minutes, the roommate’s profile was up on every computer screen in the room. We looked at photos of him — hanging out with his friends, rowing crew, or in his cap and gown at graduation. We read messages his friends had left on his wall. We looked at his list of favorite music, his favorite movies, his favorite television shows.
Later that evening, Shaggy Hair Boy said, “Hey, Roommate left a message on my wall.”
“Write him back,” said my daughter.
“What should I say to him?”
“Ask him where he’s from.”
“We know that — he’s from State Where They Grow Oranges.”
“Ask him what instrument he plays.”
“We know that — there’s a photo of him with a trumpet.”
“Ask him what music he likes.”
“We know that — here’s a list.”
Quick looked over at Shaggy Hair Boy. “Online social networking has really killed small talk, hasn’t it?”