The age of social media has given me new access to friends and I love it. My friend Mark got me started on Facebook about a year and a half ago. He told me about all the friends with whom he had reconnected. So, after a short tutorial, there I was — full into the obsession of Facebook. Within about two weeks, I had “friended” all the kids with whom I had gone to high school (our 20th reunion had been the year before so this was perfect timing — I graduated high school in ’86, you can quit calculating it now). After that, I started working on the college friends. They were a little harder to find. But, pretty soon I became “friends” with the college kids too.
It’s so strange. Some of these people I hadn’t spoken with in over twenty years — and I would bet that I have more contact with some of my “friends” now, then I did back then. But, whatever the case, the new age of social media led me back to them. There was Emily — we were the best of friends in college but had lost touch with each other. And there was Louann — she and I were on the tennis team together in college and inseparable our freshman year. If it weren’t for Facebook, we would have continued to only remember each other and wonder what had become of our lives.
Now, there are downsides to Facebook. Sometimes the people you really had no intention of bringing back into your life are regurgitated up like a bad burrito. (I am probably this person to some of you — it’s ok, I can live with that.) But, we can wish each other a happy birthday, or grieve a loss together, or just say “hi” — at the push of a button. Now, I’m sure this isn’t as personable as it should be (what would Amy Vanderbilt say about this new age etiquette?). But, it is better than not knowing, isn’t it?
There’s also Twitter, a recently discovered obsession. It isn’t nearly as intimate as Facebook, but equally time-consuming to be sure. Twitter has given me new friends — 140 characters at a time. They are, most would say, complete strangers. But the reality is that I have laughed, shared recipes, and grieved with these “complete strangers”. Wouldn’t you agree that makes us friends? It’s hard to imagine that out of the millions of people on Twitter, I found the ones I did — I’ve always had a knack at spotting the cool girls I guess. I reconnected with my love of reading and writing and sharing because of those strangers I met, 140 characters at a time. These are my friends.
My parents had lifelong friends. There was the Cozean’s, with whom they had gone to high school and remained friends through all the years. And the Strite’s, neighborhood friends they had never lost touch with — even during a variety of moves. My mother had Ms. Bratten from work — they were great friends for years. And then there was Twerp, my mother’s friend from high school that she always talked about and had kept in touch. My father had Mr. Harrelson, his friend from down the road. My parents shared phone calls, letters, cards, and the occasional in person visit with these people they met along their life journey. These were their friends — it didn’t matter how often they saw each other in person — the in person contact was just a bonus.
The new age of social media gives me the chance to share with friends, old and new. (Not to mention, I’ve weaseled my way into some of my oldest daughters “friends” list — parents, use what you can!) My eighty year old uncle is on Facebook as is my tennis coach from college — how often would I take the time to share with these people if the only option was for me to send a letter? I can remember when I was a kid, my grandmother would always tell me to write her a letter. I wrote very few.
So, the new age of social media may not be the most ideal way of keeping in touch with friends — but, it’s better than not being in touch at all. Except, of course, for the occasional embarrassing photo tag — which reminds me, time to go through some photos.