Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchap, WhatsApp.
It’s a full time job trying to maintain all the conversations I have going on. I struggle enough in a small group, face-to-face, with only one conversation happening at a time. Maintaining contact with tens of people across several mediums, well … It is exhausting. And it’s irrelevant.
My best friend Snapchat’s me at least 9 times a day.
Morning! Picture of her in bed.
Late for work! Picture of her in the car.
First coffee of the day! Picture of a coffee cup with her name on it.
Diet fail! Picture of a dozen cupcakes someone has brought in for a teammates birthday.
You get the idea.
Then she WhatsApp’s me:
“What are you doing! I miss you! Come home!”
Lot’s of sweet loving messages to remind me that she’s thinking of me. I write the same back. Verbal, virtual hugs since we are too far away to hug each other in person.
She updates Instagram several times a week, tagging me in photos as she uploads the view from one of the morning walks we used to do together, or “wish you were here” with a selfie of the her and the girls at our favourite restaurant.
It makes me feel included, and loved, and wanted, and I make sure to press the little love heart in appreciation. I look up pictures of london and tag her: #yournextholidaydestination.
Her Facebook is full of comments, stories, photos, private messages, upcoming events and each one I must study, like, and comment on, prove that I am update-to-date and interested in her life, still interested in our friendship.
We make and break Skype dates constantly, messaging each other:
“Sorry, stuck at work! Maybe tomorrow night?”
“Can’t! Having dinner out. Won’t be back until late.”
“I’m free Thursday night my time. That’ll be Thursday morning your time.”
“Oh no! I have a doctor’s appointment then. Can you do Friday?”
“Sorry, can’t. The girls and I are going to the theatre. Next week?”
“Ok, have fun! Miss you!! xxxx”
“Miss you! Love you! xxxxxxxxxxxxxx”
And while all this is going on, we are still snapchatting, liking each others photos, tagging each other in places, commenting on status updates. We are in constant communication.
Finally, I have enough of all the beeps and buzzes on my phone. The notifications appear continuously, a dripping tap I can’t seem to turn off. I pick up my Land Line Phone (what the ?!?! People still have those??) and I call her mobile. International calls to a mobile = Huge phone bill.
But I don’t care. I want to talk to her. I want to hear her voice. I want to hear full stories, not 140 character long summaries.
We talk for 2 hours, the second of which we constantly say “ok, mustn’t talk too much longer, costing a fortune.” But neither of us can stop talking, sharing, bonding.
I hear in full detail, perhaps too much detail, the current state of her relationship. I hear the hilarious story of when one of our other friends, while they all exited a bar at 3am last Saturday night, tripped in her heels and fell down in front of 6 firemen. This friend is muslim and doesn’t drink, only adding to her mortification at being thought of as some drunken strumpet as opposed to just being the clutz that she is.
I hear about the project she’s working on at work, about the horrible woman in the PR department who doesn’t like her and puts down all her ideas. I hear about what is making her happy at the moment, what she is sad about, is nervous about, looking forward to, worries about. I hear all her thoughts and feelings. We communicate.
More than all the other noises we chirp at each other 24/7, we finally communicate to each other and no social media app can replace that special feeling of saying into the ear of your dear friend “I love you” and hear their sweet voice say it back, hear the emotion, feel the words.
I like using social media. I like to see what a friend wore on her first date. I like to know where they are right now and what they are doing. I like to be able to contact them when I see something in a shop I’d think they’d like. I like being able to let my loved ones know that even though I’m not there, I’m always thinking of them. I like to know that they are thinking of me too, that I haven’t been forgotten.
But all those things are just little reminders of friendship. Check-ins. They are not a means by which you can maintain a friendship. To maintain it, you have to communicate. Properly communicate. Genuinely talk.
My advice: Close the application you’re typing into; starting dialling instead.
We devise astounding means of communication, but do we communicate with one another?
– Henry Miller