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Mar 11 / Brian

Closer: Marta & Randall

Welcome to the latest post in our Closer series — a look at how technology brings couples, family, and close friends closer. Randall and Marta are a couple living in Portland, OR. On any given day you can find Randall tinkering with robots, Marta learning to code, or the two of them planning a line of sardonic home decor.

Unbucket: How has technology brought you both together?

Randall: Without technology we never would have met! [Laughs] We met originally…it would have been Yahoo! wouldn’t it?

Marta: Yes, Yahoo! Chat.

Randall: Way back in the day! [Both laugh]

Marta: This was around the end of 2004. I was in the College of Pharmacy program at OSU. It was my freshman year and it was the first time on my own with a laptop and everything. My roommate and I would just hang out on random chat rooms and stuff, and one day I got a random message from Randy because he was back in the area from OIT in Klamath Falls and was just trying to find friends in the area. That’s when we started chatting.

Unbucket: What did he first say?

Marta: I think he just said something like, “Hey, wanna chat?” It was something really generic. [Both laugh] Our first three months were all chatting.

Unbucket: What did your friends think about the online-only relationship at the time?

Marta: For me, I actually didn’t tell anybody. When I was going to school, I didn’t have any close friends because I just went out on my own. It’s more about telling friends now, over the past two years, about how we met — and they all have the same reaction that I expected people to have back then, which is, “Holy crap, really?” [Both laugh] Yeah, I kept it all to myself, and reflecting on it now, I remember thinking at the time that if my mom knew about it, she would slap me! [Both laugh again]

Randall: Perceptions from my circle were markedly different as I had met my ex-wife on the internet on ICQ back in 1998 [laughs]. Not quite as shocking on my end!

Unbucket: When did you finally meet in person?

Marta: Our first meeting was January 2005. Interestingly, we never actually talked about meeting until the day of or the day before; it was just a spur of the moment, “Hey, do you want to go see a movie?”

Unbucket: So how does technology bring you closer now?

Marta: We’re pretty much on Google Chat talking to each other all day long. [Both laugh] Doesn’t matter where we’re at or what we’re doing, we’ll just message each other. We both kind of get to it as we can, since I’m at work all day, but there is this constant line of communication.

Randall: That’s definitely a biggie. Instant Messenger has been with us too even though it isn’t nearly as popular as it used to be. We haven’t really wandered over into the realm of using Facebook chat or anything.

Unbucket: Do you interact at all on Facebook?

Randall: We don’t really use public posts on Facebook as a direct communication medium. Things we post to Facebook are treated specifically to be shared with everyone.

Marta: We’ll make comments on each other posts or post something like, “Hey check out this funny thing I found.” It’s not a “Hey, I need to talk to you” type of thing.

Unbucket: What are your individual thoughts on privacy and technology?

Randall: My personal philosophy is that if I’m not comfortable with whatever it is I’m posting being known in public, it doesn’t go across the wire, period. If I’m putting it online, I make sure it’s something I’d be comfortable with anyone knowing!

Marta:I think we’re losing the ability to keep certain things a secret, which I think is good, because there is sort of this mindset of, “I can keep this and no one will know about it,” but you know, “I could tell this person, but no one will know about it.” We didn’t have ways to communicate with millions of people previously, and now, you can just in three seconds tell the entire planet your deep, dark secret.

Unbucket: You each have very different relationships with technology. How do you influence each other?

Marta: He is my only tech friend, the rest of my friends are in no way tech savvy. They can barely use their cell phones. My ability to know anything I know just baffles them. So all of my tech experience comes from things I’ve learned from Randy or things I’ve seen him do.

Randall: Because we’re together all the time, she gives me somewhat of an outsider’s point of view on technology, I get to see how she’s using it —

Marta: I’m his test bunny! [Both laugh] I know a little bit, but I don’t know as much as he does, so he’ll see how I use something and ask me questions about it and see what my thoughts are. I’ll ask questions about stuff that him and his ultra-tech mind don’t actually think about [laughs].

Randall: She gives me a really good gut check. When I’m checking out new products and whatnot that I’m all sorts of “gaga” over and think it’s amazing, I have her check it out to see if the feeling is relatable.

Unbucket: Marta, you’re now actually learning how to code. What inspired you?

Marta: I think it’s from watching all the stuff Randy does with code, seeing the results of it, and realizing it’s really fun making something do what you want it to do. He has showed me tons of resources and helps me figure things out.

Unbucket: Has this shared learning experience brought you closer?

Marta: We kind of have this inside joke because I’m so far behind him at the learning stage and there are all kinds of random ideas I have, like, “Hey! We could do this!” or, “We could do this!” And he’ll just be like, “Yeah, that already exists…” [Breaks out into laughter] It’s this inside joke of, “I just pitched someone Yelp!” and then I find it on the internet [continues laughing]. I think he likes to see my ideas though, because he always talks about how he remembers being at the stage I’m at and remembers having those sorts of ideas like, “I could do this!” or “I could do that!”

Randall: Watching her go through it, you get to discover all over again the potential of coding.

Unbucket: As a society, is technology bringing us closer or driving us apart?

Randall: I definitely have to say both. In a lot of ways it can be a distraction, but ultimately, it’s just another communication tool. It’s very much up to the individual to use it wisely. From a designer’s point of view, we have a responsibility to make sure our work encourages positive interaction.

Marta: I think it’s bringing people closer together, but I don’t think people realize it. There is so much negative attention because the average person doesn’t realize that everything they post on the internet is in fact public, so they’re having moments like, “Well that wasn’t for you to see!” or “That was just for these people!” or you know, “You can’t see this picture!” But in reality you can, because it’s on the internet. So it’s bringing everyone closer together, because everyone knows about all the good and bad, whatever it is that you’re putting out there. You need to make a choice of, “Do I want this out there?” or “Do I want to keep this to myself?” It’s bringing us together, but people need to pay attention to it and learn more about it to use it in a positive way.

Photo credit love: Timothy Grundvig