In the days before social networking
If you must know, I’m a Facebook junkie. I consider it my morning news, my afternoon conversation, and an easy way to stay sane so I don’t end up just talking to myself all day long. It also makes a great gossip column, not to mention a nearly effortless way of reconnecting with old friends and new acquaintances.
But with every simplicity in life comes some other form of inconvenience, and for all of the hours I spend on social networking, it only took me a minute to figure out the main downfall of this new-fangled way of interaction.
For all the communicating, it makes you actually miss people. Mostly, I miss the face-to-face conversation, the laughter, and the emotion that inspired friendship in the first place. Before the days of logging on to get the latest scoop or see a recent picture of a friend’s child, I used to meet my friends and chat over coffee while dishing the news and sharing a smile.
Now I brew myself a pot and hunker down with my laptop in the lonely comfort of my own kitchen table, enjoying the ease of it all but missing a few old-fashioned ways of pre-Facebook life…
Now, if I want someone to be my friend, I just ask them. A simple click on the “accept” button and instantly we are connected in an elite group in each other’s lives. But back in the day, if I wanted someone to be my friend, I had to actually talk to them, to ask about their day and care about their life. There was no button to click, no email notifications. Instead, a friendship was sealed with a handshake or a hug—an honest touch between two people without a pop-up window to be seen.
Conversely, if someone really drives me up a wall and back down again, or does something to hurt my feelings, now I have some simple way to remove them from my life. I simply delete them; a sly “unfriend” action that seems like the cowardly way of breaking up with a middle school boyfriend, when you wrote a note and folded it up and gave it to a friend to give to a friend who stuck it in his locker. No body has the guts to do even that much these days. Just a click and it’s over, which sounds cruel but would have made middle school a lot less difficult.
If someone is still a kind person but annoys you by posting or tweeting their every move all day long, you have an option of merely “hiding” everything they have to say. I personally don’t like to hear about how great your life is, how perfect your kids are, or how delicious your dinner was while I ate a bowl of cereal. But with hiding or unsubscribing, I have the virtual choice to put my fingers in my ears and sing la-la-la-la-la so I don’t even have to hear about it. Handy, yes, but back in the day if someone grated on your every last nerve you actually had to physically not be there or not listen which gave the person a pretty good hint of how they made you feel.
I’m not sure where all of this leaves us as a society. We are caught in a chasm between connection and disconnect, stuck in a space that has the chance of being beautiful or hypocritical. The word “friend” has taken on an entirely new meaning, especially since the comforting noun has morphed into a verb.
I for one, however, am not giving it up. I like seeing photos of my far off friend’s children, to hear the latest news, to know when to help friends in need.
But I miss the old ways, too, the real face-to-face or even phone-to-phone communication that is second fiddle to the instant news flash or someone pulling a school photo out of their wallet. Mostly, I miss the touch and the security of knowing that try as you may, you can’t fake a handshake or the look in someone’s eyes when they smile. Just like you can’t fake a smile when someone sticks their fingers in their ears. La-la-la-la-la.