“I just felt like it was too much trouble to have an extra name. You know, what do I do if I submit something to a magazine and… the rare event of getting a check back happens? I wanted it to be a special event not a problem.”
Steven or Stephen: Steven
Birthplace: Manhattan, N.Y.
Lives in: New York
Middle name: Carl
On Facebook: Yes
On LinkedIn: Yes
On Twitter: No
Runs a blog or personal site: Yes (through Blogger.com)
His story: They calculated. They computed. But this Steve Schmidt could not have fathomed how computers would be used for essential communication in a digital world he first started toying with the contraptions in high school in the late ’60s and early ’70s.
Before the dawn of the modern modalities associated with the digital age, his world was one of numbers. The first program he made figured out the co-efficients of numerical integration using higher-order polynomials.
“I guess [since] I wasn’t at an academic institution all through the ’80s, I wasn’t really aware of the Internet, so I never really thought of the computer as a communication instrument,” he says. “In the interest of math, I was always interested in doing various computations of one kind or another.”
For 25 years, Steve worked in the computer software industry as a programmer and systems analyst. At his last job, he served as a bioinformatics developer for a laboratory that specializes in molecular biology and genetics. He worked as a webmaster for two projects connected to the laboratory: one involving the human genome; the other, the genomes of grains.
It was through the second project that he became the top item on a “Steve Schmidt” Google search in 2002 after a multitude of links to genetic maps tied to different databases helped bolster his “Google juice.”
“It was just the nature of the project. We had a lot of links into our site and so that’s what elevates your Google rank,” Steve says. “At some point, I decided to Google myself and something we had put on our mailing list was at the top, so it was surprising but at least understandable.”
He did not truly get involved in social networking until after the death of his second wife, Jean, who passed away in May 31, 2007 from cancer. He took over her accounts on MySpace and Blogger that she created. At one point, Steve posted poems—a mutual love of theirs—to six different blogs through Blogger, publishing both under her user name and one he had previously created, Zetschka. The poet, who has had about 20 poems published, eventually dropped his second identity.
“I just felt like it was too much trouble to have an extra name,” Steve says. “You know, what do I do if I submit something to a magazine and… the rare event of getting a check back happens? I wanted it to be a special event not a problem.”
It turned out that Jean began her online identity sometime around 2004 while sitting in a chair, watching over her youngest son, Bobby, a young man who was born with a string of birth defects concerning his trachea and esophagus. At that time, Bobby was entirely dependent on a ventilator that they set up in his room. He passed away on March 21, 2009.
“Unfortunately, I have easy dates to remember,” he says. “People call them sadiversaries…. I just heard about it on Facebook the other week.”
After searching through some albums, Steve finds a photo from 2006 of Bobby hamming it up for the camera. “It was like incredible to try to get him to smile. Even though he was brain-damaged, he was a prankster,” Steve recalls. “I even said ‘OK, I’m putting the camera away now you can smile, and he smiled.’”
Steve joined Facebook in late 2008 as a way to reconnect with familiar faces. He regularly uses it as a vehicle to promote events associated with an area poetry collective that he has helped run throughout the years.
“Somebody [asked me] ‘Should I go on Facebook?’ It’s like, you know, you can promote a lot of things, but it’s also like an alien zombie that will suck out your brain, so I have no general advice for anybody,” he says. “It really depends on your level of discipline and how much time you have.”