Virtually friends

It used to require real effort to stay in touch with friends before the Internet.  Phone calls required you to talk (or at least, respond); meeting up requiredyou to be present; letters and postcards required finding a paper and a pen and a flat surface and scribbling.

And there was a limit to those interactions. You could only talk so long till your voice gave way or your phone bills took off into outer space, you could only (properly) interact with so many people when meeting them, you could only write so much before your fingers cramped and begged for mercy.

And those limits in turn limited the number of people you could interact with on a regular, and meaningful, basis.

But now, now it’s so easy to keep in touch.  Click a couple of buttons and update everybody on your life and follow somebody’s life.  Discuss new hairstyles, coo over babies, oooh over skiing video, keep tabs on each other’s movements and opinions, never miss out on the major life-events.  It’s all so easy, so quick.  And you think you’re in touch, you’re involved, you’re connected.

But as I send out yet another quick congratulation, I realise that for the most part, this is what most of my interactions have come down to – quick bursts of short messages that seek the path of least effort.  I realise that I’ve become so used to receiving nearly all the information about my friends via status updates that I haven’t spoken to them or written to them at length in aeons.  I realise that just because I ‘see’ them regularly on some social network, I’ve forgotten the fact that it’s been years since we actually met in person – even while living in the same city.  And worse, have not made the effort to do so, simply because it’s so much easier just to IM them.

Which is why I keep finding myself startled to learn that they’re getting married, that they’ve moved to another country, that they’ve stopped eating mangoes.   And it’s only when I learn of such events from mutual friends that I am again reminded that not everybody lives their lives out publicly.

And I realise it’s time to depend less on announcements and begin to communicate more often.

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