Or, how I blame social media's approach to friendship for my own failings
So painfully true. This could easily happen to me and yeah, now I'm going off to write a host of emails. Thanks
I’m sorry for your loss.
Social media is very good at keeping us in enough contact to give the illusion of connection while actually keeping us apart. It’s for acquaintances, not friends. In many ways LinkedIn is the most honest of these tools as it purely transactional.
Brilliantly written, as always. So sorry about your friend. Indeed, FB has lulled us in to a false sense of security. There is a really interesting documentary on a related topic about how someone died and it was entirely missed by all their friends for years - Dreams of a Life. Not an uplifting watch, but definitely thought-provoking. Thank you again for your wonderful writing and perceptiveness about the world.
How sad about your friend, but thanks for making me think about things.
Ten years ago, Facebook was a really good way of keeping in touch with my family in England. I've lived in Australia since I was 12, and have a bunch of cousins I'd never even met, and never been one for staying in touch with people from my childhood, so Facebook was a great way to reconnect and was actually helpful for us organising meet-ups when I finally came back to visit after 44 years.
Now we've drifted apart again. A bunch of the older relatives have died and I've learned too much about the political views of some of the cousins (and no doubt they've learned too much about mine). I've unfollowed or muted several of the most distasteful. And the ones I DO like don't seem to be around as much anymore.
I don't like Facebook anyway, as a concept, and could easily give it up like I have Twitter, but then I don't want to cut everybody off forever. The main thing I'm there for now are a couple of stringently moderated groups, one for local history and one for a favourite author, where we still have pleasant, informative discussions about shared interests.
It's not surprising that you didn't hear about your friend though. My wife uses Facebook a lot more than me, gets news there and communicates with more people. She IS my Facebook friend, and I promise I haven't muted her, but often she'll ask (in person) what I thought about something she shared and, every time, Facebook hasn't shown it to me.
Well Facebook goes to huge length to ensure that profiles that are not lucrative to them are staying out of your sight, so it is more than useless. I deleted my account last December after saying for many years that I would, and don't miss it (I was rarely there anyway and it was so much work to look for news of friends when I can just send them an email or a WhatsApp instead).
This is beautiful, Justin. One I’ll be thinking about as I go about my life
The algorithms did change and definitely not for the purpose of connecting more. All I see is ads and the same people (maybe people that orbit my life the least ironically) sharing inspirational quotes over and over.
But much like the other comment, connections could become lost even before social media. I think it’s perhaps just a sad inevitability of social networks.
In my 20s I worked in one of those dodgy media companies with a huge bunch of grads that all moved to the area for the possibility of a jumping stone. And my god how we partied hard and had the best office flings ha. I recently saw on LinkedIn a whole bunch of them congratulating one of us on a new promotion in a stable career. And I felt a pang of jealousy that the person had managed to have such a lasting impact or that they all somehow stayed in touch enough to care. Now I’m near 40 I perhaps should reevaluate how I connect and stay connected.
Thanks for another great (clichéd but true) thought provoking post.
15 years ago I moved back to the area I'd grew up in and bumped into someone I knew in the supermarket. I excitedly said hello then ran off as I was, as usual, in the middle of a manic work project. I was pleased to see him though and had him in the back of my mind as a "must reconnect properly". Then I moved abroad and about a year or so after that a friend told me he'd taken his life. Of course I felt wracked with guilt, a million pointless questions rattling round.
All that to say, pre social media it was possible to have these complicated moments. But I agree with everything you've written. I deleted my FB and started a new one just for local info and other use (making appointments at hairdressers, etc), but I'm realising people used to announce births, deaths & marriages in newspapers and we've all mindlessly and thoughtlessly let that go - yes there are the oversharers but what about the rest of us...?