Let’s Get Deep
October 1, 2010
Hi. We barely knew each other decades ago, but I was wondering if you would like to be my new best friend? Oh. Well then how about just plain friends? Passing acquaintances? Gee, this is awkward. Let’s just dial it back to the most minimally engaged and superficial relationship possible. Click this link to Confirm Friend and I will never directly address you again.
Over the past year or so, I’ve received many Facebook friend requests from long past acquaintances and even total strangers. And nearly all came without any sort of message attached. Not even the most cursory pleasantries, like “Hey, man, I can’t believe how long it’s been… hope you’re doing well.” Just the familiar boilerplate. “Hi Aaron, John Smith wants to be friends with you on Facebook.”
One click to invite, one click to confirm. Done.
Is it just me, or is this two-click do-si-do not particularly friendly? It’s almost never followed by any kind of storied catching up. Instead, it becomes a means to inform me which alumni are playing FarmVille. To set the record straight, I’m neither a curmudgeon nor technophobe. I love how Facebook keeps me in touch with real friends. It helps me schedule happy hour meet ups, share pictures and issue occasional shouts out. What it can’t do is explain this strange compulsion to reunite without actually sharing.
In the Information Age, as our lives become increasingly cluttered with weak ties, I find myself craving more thoughtful interaction. On a recent visit, my parents brought me a big storage box that I’d left in their house. It was stuffed full with letters, all written in the pre-Internet Period. I couldn’t believe how many. I almost never send or receive them anymore. Going through them was an actual blast from the past. I think the next time I reach out to an old friend, I’ll support the foundering U.S. Postal Service. Unless, of course, he’s on Twitter.