31 January 2009

Clustered Events

I like the phrase shared culture to address what a lot of people call coincidence. People do a lot of things at the same time because they live in a society with lots of information arriving in their mailboxes (and inboxes) at the same time. The fact that people are group-oriented reinforces the tendency to arrive at the same conclusions at the same time. (Ever know a writer who insists that someone stole his idea for a hit novel or screenplay? Magazine editors would never make that mistake: they routinely open article proposals from a dozen writers using nearly identical text and ideas—in the same week.)

So, it's really not so unusual that a few years ago, The Sociologist's daughter headed for Thailand just a few weeks before my son went. (No contact about this among the young adults. No idle conversation among the parents. All tickets were purchased before we exchanged information.)

Shortly after the new year began, I noticed a sharp upturn in emailed invitations to connect with friends, colleagues, and relatives on Facebook. Goodness knows, I didn't act on those invitations, a fact that was no doubt predicted by my friends, colleagues, and relatives.

Also this month, I have received a cluster of LinkedIn notices. For those, I give the slightest nod: yes, permit the link. These social networking requests of late may represent (a) the expansion of network memberships, (b) renewed desire to connect with people during uncertain economic times, (c) free time on the hands of my colleagues who have lost their jobs but kept their Internet connections.

Along those economic lines, I also heard from two people this week about their landlines (telephones tethered to their homes). My sister was the first to mention it. She sent an email explaining that the landline number would no longer work. She canceled the service when she determined the annual savings of $900. As she exclaimed, "What have I been thinking?"

The second person took a first step and now prepares for a second step. She first called the phone company to cancel the long-distance option; that dropped the monthly bill by $30. But then she stared at the new bill and realized that of the $70 remaining, her Internet connection is only $19.95. So, she asked me, do I have to have a landline to have the Internet? No, but.... maybe with that company she does, or maybe the cost is low because of the paired service.

She is mulling. The only time she picks up the landline is when she hasn't been able to screen sales calls. So what if she has to change ISPs (Internet service providers) for a new service without a phone line? Well, she does have a convenience cost. We talked long enough to determine that her only email address is through the current ISP. So, that means a change in email, ideally to a web-based service like gmail or hotmail or yahoo so she never faces this particular dilemma again.

Two women I know, in one week, are reducing household costs by killing the landline. (They are from different generations, by the way.) Shared culture. Shared economic times.

© 2009 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

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