Telephone Party Line The First Social Media

Social media is not a new concept.

In the land before time the telephone party line was the suburban go to for up to date information.

Facebook and Google+ pale in comparison to the speed information traveled on the telephone party line. Edward Snowden is a rank amateur in blowing the lid off secrets. Eavesdropping  left no history and the only form of parental control was getting caught in the act.

We shared a phone line with several other people, but it only rang if the call was for our residence. Our phone was located in a center hall between bedrooms and far away from the kitchen and any area where parents were likely to be. Adjacent to the phone alcove was a linen closet close enough for the telephone cord to reach and adequate for hiding an eleven year old girl.

The eleven year old girl was not supposed to use the phone without permission and making prank calls resulted in swift, harsh punishment. Parents taking care of outside chores  presented the opportunity for prime time prank calling and the girl was never one to pass up an opportunity.

Out and out eavesdropping required a bit more finesse but the information gleaned from these covert missions made the risky venture worth it. If there were too many eavesdroppers the participants could not hear each other and one of them would say “people must be listening in because I can’t hear a word you are saying”. The lesser experienced eavesdroppers would hang up creating  audible clicks and the more experienced eleven year old girl would continue her mission.

Two of our party line participants were women of dubious virtue who did not mind sharing their lascivious inclinations with one another and  an eleven year covert operative.  “Curiosity is the very basis of education and if you tell me that curiosity killed the cat, I say only the cat died nobly. ” Arnold Edinborough. The cat did not die, but the eleven year old girl learned how to use the dictionary.

The party line was  user friendly social media. You didn’t have to “friend” or “follow” a person and good luck with attempting to “block” a user. One  assumed information was “public”.

Nostalgia is over-rated. It was not a kinder, gentler time, but the information highway was a lot easier to navigate.

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