Tonight I write to bid a fond farewell to something dear. The something in question is us. For so long we’ve been together and shared so many things. Remember the time we played scrabble for hours, just the two of us arguing whether “behoove” is a word or not over a board full of letter tiles? Or how about the hot August afternoon when we walked to the public swimming pool and got caught in a thunderstorm. And there was the Christmas when we sat in the back room while the adults drank coffee and talked until midnight? Remember watching Saturday Night Live together, something we never got to do but on Christmas and New Years when we stayed up late? We have so many memories, so many moments the two of us shared.
I mourn the loss of these little moments, these slivers of time and tiny events. I mourn them because they’ve been wantonly murdered and replaced by a stand in, a doppelganger. The name of the interloper varies. Sometimes it’s IM, sometimes simply text, occasionally Twitter, and in its more formal moments it’s called Facebook. Please don’t think of me as a Luddite and don’t mistake my obituary as coming out against technology or social media. I keep two blogs, have a Twitter account, and maintain no less than two Facebook pages. What I’m mourning is the loss of the face to face, private, relationship between two people with all its depth and nuance. A tweet can’t sign and a Facebook account won’t whisper a secret, you’ll never stay up late comforting a friend via text message.
Over the Christmas holiday, while having a meal at a local restaurant, I noticed a group of friends out celebrating the season together. They sat around a table, half of the celebrants glued to their iPhones texting away while the season spun away from them. As I looked on I wondered what they were missing, what tiny moments came and went without leaving its gift of memory. What connections weren’t made? What could have transpired but didn’t for the sake of a glowing screen and the preference for electronic reality over flesh and blood.
My New Years wish for all my friends is that you find yourself stranded with a long-time acquaintance in some out-of-the-way place without internet and with zero bars of signal strength for every electronic communications device you possess. May you be blessed with dead batteries and no ear-buds for your MP3 player and iPod. May you be temporarily fogged or snowed in, stuck in a quiet, nearly deserted airport lounge together. May you talk for hours, discover new things, share reminiscences, and when you part, may you be much closer than any text or status update can convey.