Social media lets you hold onto people who you’ve left behind.
They move, or you move, and in the old days, there were two options. Well, three. One, you never saw or spoke to them again, if you were casually friends. Two, you made a few calls or visits, maybe, and then, fell out of touch–forever. Or, rarely, you kept up with them, and they with you, by spending time, and or money. Long distance was no joke. You might have twenty, forty, fifty dollar conversations with your vanished friend. This wasn’t something done casually. Spending that money represented a kind of hunger, a real connection, for each other.
Long distance got cheaper and cheaper and cheaper, and was finally free bundled in with whatever internet product you paid for, the internet bloomed, social media happened; skype and facetime happened, and it became effortless to maintain a slender connection to everyone with whom you have ever had the slightest feelings for.
Ex girlfriends. People you did workshops with in the 90s. High-school friends and high-school enemies, college friends, work friends, writing friends. All those little tendrils of contact wrap you in the illusion of friendship and community, or rather, give you that community, minus the fleshy component, of faces and food and drink and touching and smelling each other.
Make a few hundred such friends, and scatter them to the winds, and you have a party that never ends. Kind of cerebral and sedate, as people open magical doors from jobs and houses thousands of miles away, jot a note on a scrap of paper, stick it to the wall and then disappear again. But the notes keep piling up. Some of the notes are nothing, newspaper clippings, restaurant receipts, form letters, come-ons for causes, jokes and recipes and pointers to things for which there are no convenient concrete metaphors. (Magic keyholes through which one can glimpse kittens falling off of vanitys? Mix tapes? TV guide pages?)
It’s not that great a party. Every now and then, you meet someone new, someone says, “you would like this person,” and you friend them, because why not?
Robots will want to hook up with you at this party, and you learn to ignore them. And rarely real people too, who you learn to ignore too, if you’re married, or not interested, or both.
Still. It’s a party.
My problem is that I’d rather go to the world’s shittiest party than do pretty much anything else.
So I upped my social media blocking game, to twenty three hours a day, seven days a week. I use the program Freedom on all my devices. The lingering remnants of a lifetime of friendships torn away, I find I am mostly alone in my city now, with a handful of people I’m close to. My kids recede away into their teenage lives.
A friend of mine from Woodstock tells me I need to do meetups. I have a few local friends, from a meetup I used to do…
I know a barrista, at my cafe, and I talk to him some.
Eventually, I guess, I get so lonely I make new friends in meatspace?
We will see how that works.