My Silicon Family

Grandma's Cake - By Naomi

I woke up this morning to find I had been emailed a picture of a cake. It was a very nice cake with lots of cream and strawberries on top. It was entitled “Grandma’s cake” and was sent from a blackberry – not a strawberry – by my daughter.

I am a member of a silicon family. My parents are in southern Spain working on their forty year sun tan, my daughter is in Wales exploring life post-university, my brother is hopping continents and could be anywhere and I am here in Turkey. We communicate in cyber space and conduct what is for us, a normal family life, online.

Thanks to a fast and reliable internet connection, Skype and various other little bits of software I spend many hours a week with my daughter. We chat online in the evenings whilst we’re watching TV, we video call each other and sometimes, whilst I am cooking, Naomi is sitting on the worktop next to me on the webcam. We miss the cuddles and when we meet physically we normally spend our time glued together like limpets, but most of the time we are continents apart and it is all perfectly normal to us.

My Father worked away when I was child, and my parents have been enjoying long periods abroad for twenty five years. The UK has not been my permanent home for many years and so we have adapted to a life like this. Via telephone and internet, Skype and Email we stay together, meeting in the neon traced spaces between spaces where cyber space exists.

As a result I probably spend more time actually communicating with my family than people who live in the same house all the time and only ever say “Pass the remote please.”

Living like this has changed us, in some ways for the better. We have learnt how to communicate in writing, we have learnt to really read what is on the screen in front of us (very few people actually do that!) and we have learnt to make an effort to understand and to not take things the wrong way.

On the downside we also take it for granted that we can immediately get in touch with each other and Naomi in particular takes instant communication completely for granted. She once made an international phone call on her mobile to ask where to park in St David’s because it was raining, thereby topping her previous personal best of making an international phone call for advice over what to choose on the takeaway menu.

My Dad who is responsible for my love of all things technical still keeps up with new advances even though he is in his seventies. He uses Skype but tends to ignore me on it unless he fancies a video chat because I type quickly, he types slowly and being virtually out talked is horrible for him and trying to keep up makes his fingers hurt. He dashes off frequent emails though, normally with links and massive pictures attached!

I had an email from him the other night, the gist of which was it’s been raining, we’re fine, here’s a link about moving dogs to Spain and don’t bother us this weekend the Rugby is on! I take the warning seriously, my parent’s, particularly my Mother’s life revolves around rugby and having a son who was capped for Wales is actually the crowning achievement in her life – and the thought that I was once an egg alongside the egg of a future outside half adds rather a warm glow to my own self esteem (you have to be Welsh to understand this!).

I know my village neighbours think I live a sad and isolated life far from the comfort of my family. They exist within a warm and physically present extended family and all would really suffer if they were removed from the supportive, identifying presence of their family.

Whilst Facebook and Twitter, mobile phones and email are hugely popular in Turkey they work in conjunction with a very close and tight knit family web that depends on living together and sharing space together. It is a good balance, that willingness to adopt the new coupled with a respect for the traditions of a close family life.

It wouldn’t work for me to live cheek by jowl with my extended family, my personal space is roughly the size of Belgium and I need quiet and solitude to hear myself think, but I can appreciate that loving closeness when I see it in other cultures and Turkish society is as close as it gets.

When I want uninterrupted quiet I just have to turn off those little programs that make me available to the world. If a Turkish person wants to be alone they normally have to leave the house, if not the town, to find solitude. I often see cars parked at the top of the pass into the valley and people just sitting and drinking in the view and being alone. However, before long they will have a mobile phone to their ear or be posting a picture to Facebook because none of us really want to be alone for too long!