There once was a time, not so long ago, when we were forced to go out and meet new people and make new friends. A time when being in a big enough city (or, if not, making a minor relocation) was enough to get away from a bad breakup. I can barely remember this time, but I know it used to exist.
Social networking makes it so easy to stay in touch with those far away, which is a good thing. I have friends all over the US, from Buffalo New York, to Honolulu Hawaii (I know, lucky jerk). I’m thankful that thanks to technology I can keep in touch with them all. When I was a kid, I don’t remember my mom every talking about her friends from out of town, or taking weekend trips to “meet up with the girls.” But she wasn’t a homebody. To this day, she still meets weekly with her girlfriends for drinks, or cards, or movies, etc. How does she do it? Without my ever doting boyfriend, my nights would be lonelier than I like to think. Thanks to Facebook, text messaging, Instagram, email, Gchat, and Facetime I’m able to keep in touch with all my college friends, like we’re still sharing a six bedroom house in our tiny college town. I don’t feel the need to go out and meet new people. The women I work with are all nice enough, but I have no desire to go out to happy hour or to the Christmas party. I have a solid group of friends, why would I need more? Juggling relationships can be hard. It all sounds so cynical, is this the way we live now?
Just a few days ago, I recieved a text message from a former fling. We haven’t spoken in over a year, and we didn’t exactly end on good terms (what can I say, I get bored easily – it’s not a bad thing, it’s a sign of intelligence). Regardless, he asked me to meet up for drinks sometime thinking I lived in his town. I actually live two hours away, so it was easy to avoid the “well I’m in a serious relationship now, idiot” speech, but I couldn’t help but be flabbergasted. Are we getting just as lazy with forming romantic relationships asnwe are with friendships? It’s easier to scroll through a cell phone list of contacts and reach out to an ex (despite how it ended) than it is to get out there and meet someone new. Facebook makes it even easier now that we can check and see if someone is in a relationship or not before sending that text (my gentleman caller conveniently doesn’t have a Facebook account). Even Instagram has recently introduced an option for direct messaging.
This all leads me to another question, is it appropriate to keep these failed relationships (both romantic and friendships) available through technology? Thinking about it, a text message is quite personal. It’s a private conversation between two people. It’s sent directly, and it gives senders time to formulate thoughts before sending. It eliminates the risk of immediate embarassment and opens up an opportunity for more bold conversation. Should we be blocking exfriends and exlovers from contacting us this way? Like I mentioned earler, things like this never used to be an issue. Without these new forms of instant and direct conversation, a two hour gap in between people would be enough to keep an ex at bay.
It’s hard to say if these forms of e-communication are a blessing or a curse. I’ll take the ability to keep in touch with my lady soulmates (it feels like just yesterday we were still living under the same roof) if it means having to endure awkward conversation with old flames at the same time. As I type this, I’m sitting in an airport terminal surrounded by people ending their holiday travel. It looks like even with all these new ways of getting together without actually getting together aren’t a total deterrant for loved ones getting together in person and it’s heartwarming – even for my cold, electronic chatting, heart.