365: Friends #32, #111, #46 (with cameo from #31)
As mentioned yesterday, I’ve decided to try interacting on a more personal level with each of my 365 Facebook friends. Today was kind of a “cheat day,” dinner with three friends I see regularly, including one I lived with for most of the last six months. I’m not sure if I’m going to be writing about these interactions regularly, but this post at least keeps the option open.
I’m using the number order provided by Facebook, which I believe is the order in which they joined the website- interesting, because Ivy League grads are higher on the list, while folks who either didn’t go to college or graduated pre-Internet are on the bottom.
Dinner was nice, grilling in the backyard as the weather has been particularly pleasant of late and the mosquitoes haven’t fully committed to their major assault yet. It was interesting chatting about Facebook with these folks- we all established our online connections before we really got to know each other- in my case I can say I confirmed at least one of those requests before I even thought I wanted to get to know the person. All of us have “friends” online we don’t care deeply about- or even like- but somehow it feels easier and more polite to let the other person sever that connection with no hard feelings.
I can’t help but wonder if we’ll all be this close forever, or if in some distant future someone moves away, or has kids, or there’s a falling out and our relationships will revert to a database connection, a name in an old address book with some memories attached… something artificially kept alive where in decades past it would have died more organically.
Maybe that’s a bit grim. Nights like these are part of why I love New Orleans; good food and companionship with the unique sounds of the city around us; conversation transitioning between work and hobbies and Mardi Gras activities in a way that makes perfect sense, but could only really happen here. If I’m not writing more about the people involved, it’s because I already know them and like them, and our online relationships are wholly secondary to our in-person ones. Not extensions of those relationships exactly, just sort of requisite and ancillary. I can’t imagine not confirming any of these friendships online, even though it does lead to the awkward conversational, “yeah, I already read about that.”
#111 showed off his new DIY photo booth, which uses some very slick homebrew software to create a really pleasant user experience. In the background, I said hello to #31 but didn’t actually see her, so that doesn’t count. Funny that #31 & #32 are neighbors, though I guess it makes sense since I assume they were roommates when they both signed up.
It’s interesting about digital vs. physical that the photos we took are perfectly nice, and apparently will last 100 years, but I know I’ll end up scanning them- having moved 15 times in the last 10 years, the only print photos I’m really able to keep track of these days are framed.
I’m curious how much my fascination with the online “world” has to do with its pervasiveness in the face of this impermanence. If I were sure I’d wake up in the same place 1/10/25 years from now, would I be as assiduous about making, preserving, and exploring personal connections in the digital sphere? Hard to say. In Facebook conversation about this endeavor, #209 (who I’ve only met twice in person) brought to mind a book I hadn’t looked through in years, “Digital McLuhan: A Guide to the Information Millenium,” by Paul Levinson. In discussing McLuhan and attitudes about the “space age,” (which my generation did not experience but has been profoundly shaped by), Levinson references Freud- “…when we don our technologies, we ‘become a kind of prosthetic God.’” Internet access has the feel of intellectual omnipresence… as long as we don’t try to reconcile that experience with the everyday. Will trying to make “real” connections destroy that illusion? How bad a thing would that be? Or are we really moving towards a sort of homebrew mysticism? Does that support or offend spiritual faith?
So many questions to come out of a single pleasant dinner.