A while ago I engaged in a conversation with some people in technology regarding having friends via Facebook. The conversation was basically “do people really have 500+ friends or are they just trying to outdo others”.
While listening to some of the points and adding a few of my own I thought about my own friend list. People I work with. People I’ve worked with in the past. People I met at technical seminars and never saw again. People I went to high school with, some of who I see once in a while, and others I have seen less than five hours in total in the past 25 years and yet they still live in Wallingford.
The thought of all this crossed my mind today when I learned an old friend had died. His sister had posted his passing on Facebook. Were it not for that I might not have ever found out since he lives out of state. If nothing gets posted to the Record Journal obituaries and if I were not on Facebook I might not have ever known.
A couple of truths here – I last saw Elis at the 20th year reunion five years ago, but as it was back in high school, once in a while we engaged in a conversation. Now of course it was some wall posting / private messaging via Facebook but it was just as it was in high school – nice, passive conversations for the topic of the day. It was like the friendship we had back then hadn’t changed and picked right up where we left off; it was important to both of us to stay in touch, passively, and that is what we did. I am glad that we had a little chance to keep caught up via Facebook otherwise the 20th reunion would have been my last conversations with him.
Another truth is I had only recently made the friend request to Noreen (Elis’ sister) about two weeks ago when I spotted her page. I had thought about it and the whole “do people really have 500+ friends or are they just trying to outdo others” conversation as I was friendly with Noreen in high school but I mainly knew her from knowing Elis and I hadn’t seen her in 25 years. I decided to fall back to my old motto “I knew [PERSON], if I make the request and they accept that’s good enough for me” so I requested and she accepted. I am now glad I did.
So why is it we let so many of these friendships fall to the side and become regulated to “Facebook status updates?”
Well, I guess when you think about it, that’s all life really is.
When you work with people, you may chit chat about what is going on and what their or your kids are doing during coffee breaks, but most of us are not going to too many friend picnics from work. One or two perhaps but you might call many more friends and / or colleagues anyway.
Back in high school you have your daily friends you hung around with but I was on friendly, regular, speaking terms with most of my classmates and many of my old elementary school friends that were at Lyman Hall at the time. (Some of them are Facebook friends and I haven’t seen them in 35 years). When I do see them in real life, I almost immediately strike up a conversation that could last days when we might only have minutes to spare that day. It doesn’t make the conversation or the desire to reconnect any less important that we must hurry on our way; sometimes there are only so many hours in a day.
So we turn to Facebook. Facebook status updates are blanket, bulletin board, type chit chat of what’s going on (and yes sometimes it is mundane) for all to see when and if they stop by your page. But they are there and they are seen.
When I was growing up we used to leave a note on the kitchen table if no one was around to let people know where we were in case of an emergency (since I lived in the harsh, pre-cell phone world of record albums and VCRs). I often have called Facebook the big kitchen table of the internet where I could stop by to see what folks were doing.
I had maybe a dozen good friends in high school. The “help you bury a body / no questions asked” type of friends. I had four that I hung out with basically daily.
Life, and certain decisions, put you on different paths. Everyone owns a certain amount of “the blame” of not getting together, some more than others (in my cases I personally own the lion share) but some things are simply beyond anyone’s control. You have lifestyles that are different. Some people settled down and had kids early, others did not. Some still don’t. Some married. Some didn’t. They work cross town and you work far away. Some moved away. And so on.
But on Facebook I get to keep caught up. Tony’s new adventures in Florida or Sean’s latest hunting and fishing expedition where I might not be able to otherwise. Our parents used the telephone and I am sure that practice rankled our grandparents. I can hear my grandmother now: “Telephone. Hurmph! In my day, when I wanted to have a conversation with Mrs. Smith I walked over to her house and she would ask me in for coffee; this whole telephone thing is so impersonal.”
The internet is called “the World Wide Web” for a reason; it allows us to keep these threads attached between one another where life would otherwise maintain such a massive distance between us. We are probably closer to each other, albeit through simple status updates and postings to our Facebook walls, than any generation before us. I really do appreciate having “just that” if it is all I get to have.
So some may favor a phone call or a personal visit; I would if I had the time but I have so much on my plate. In favor of not losing touch entirely I default to something that may seem somewhat impersonal like status updates on my Facebook page. I am glad to have them lest I have nothing at all to keep me connected to all the people that touched my life in good ways and some not so good, but all shaped me to who I am today and who I will become tomorrow.
I was asked recently, on Facebook, if we were planning a 25th year reunion for Sheehan’s class of 87 by a number of old friends so I let them know I would find out. No one from the 20th year committee, up to that point, had given it much thought. With that email to them it was now on the radar and it will happen this November.
I wasn’t going to attend for some personal reasons. I was going to help with whatever the committee needed but I was going to decline my invitation. I am going to think about that a little more now.
I appreciate the ability to keep in touch with so many friends, new and old, far and wide, from something as simple as a status update on Facebook and by reading theirs.
So to all my Facebook friends: I requested a connection or accepted yours because I wanted to keep in touch over the long distances, different life choices and turning point decisions, and across the misunderstandings and the long gaps of absence.
Thank you for keeping in touch with me through your status updates and I hope I am able to keep you up to date with what is going on with me and my kids through my own updates as well.
All 728 of you (and all the others to come) I do really have 500+ friends and I am glad to call you one of them.