Face Time

When the organizers of a recent panel discussion about Catholic twentysomethings and pop culture asked me to participate as a representative twentysomething, I had to remind them that I’m thirty-five. Close enough, they said: they could tolerate the approximation if I could.

I’m not sure they were right to be so tolerant. As it happens, I have a brother who’s twenty-five. I think it fair to say that he does less texting and Facebooking than most people his age, as I do less than most people mine. But he still does far more than I do, and seems to have a very different sense of how texting relates to other kinds of communication, and how social media relate to other media and other ways of socializing. The difference is not ideological or temperamental; it is, strictly speaking, generational—not so much a difference of opinion as one of habit and expectation.

People my age are young enough to have spent our whole adult lives with the Internet, which means that it’s become natural to us. But it’s second nature, not first, because we’re also old enough to remember, and to have used, typewriters and rotary telephones—and even to have written and received handwritten letters without any sense that we were engaging in a countercultural or antiquarian activity. Thirtysomethings belong to a bridge decade between the world of Facebook and the world before it. We can get away with leaning back toward the habits of our elders, to newspaper subscriptions and...

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About the Author

Matthew Boudway is an associate editor of Commonweal.