The last three "goodbye" parties I've been invited to I haven't been able to go to.
I wanted to go, but it didn't work out.
Actually, I can't really think of the last "goodbye" party I went to.
I have a friend doing peace work in Palestine that emailed me a few weeks ago. I have friends in South Africa that I tweet with. I have friends in Boston, Denver, New York, Phoenix and Kansas City that I talk on the phone occasionally with.
And those are just my friends that live someplace else. And those friends are totally unrelated to my work.
Now that we have email, cell phones, AIM, Skype, Facebook and Twitter it has become even harder to understand when we are separate or when we are together. Like friends who are dating it's hard to know how to define our relationships.
I now use the same technology that I use to communicate with my South African friends as I do to communicate with people who live 15 minutes away.
And we never say "goodbye."
150 years ago, if a family member moved from Kansas to California, it was highly likely that you would never see them again (and probable that they wouldn't survive the trip, anyway).
Today, I don't even go to the going away party because-- honestly-- what will really be changing? We'll still text. We'll still email. I'll get-- not just Christmas updates-- but hourly updates from my friends on Twitter and Facebook.
150 years ago I wouldn't know if you were dead or alive. Today I'll know what you had for breakfast.
Same distance. Totally different relationship.
I actually spent less time talking with my sister the first year she moved to LA with her family. We were used to talking on the phone, and when she moved 15 minutes away it felt weird to call her.
Have you ever noticed that as your social circles change and shift people tend to get hurt? You move to another city and lose touch with friends. You didn't mean to...it just happened.
But if you wanted to keep in touch you could have. You could have texted, called, emailed, skyped, Facebooked, or DM'd me on Twitter or AIM'd, visited, or-- heaven forbid-- written a letter. Yet you did none of those things.
And I just wanted to let you know that really hurt me.
And that adds a lot of social pressure to maintain an ever-increasing Rolodex of people you were actually pretty good friends with for a certain period of time. Not that you can't still hold an affection for those people...but that affection will probably not be backed up by any concrete action.
And maybe that's okay.
What is the role of goobyes in a uber-transient and uber-connected society? What is the role of goodbyes in a world where goodbyes are no longer geographically necessary but still physcologically necessary? And what happens to our capacity to make new friends locally when our current social wattage is being used up by people from our pasts or who live in other parts of the world?
Maybe we should have more ruthless evaluations of our own social capacity, where we say "goodbye" to some old friends and to a very, very select few we say "We're still going to talk, even if it's once a year." Or maybe we should stop having goodbye parties and start having "our relationships are going to change and that's okay" parties.
Doesn't mean we can't still be friends.
At least on facebook.
Posted on Tue, August 11, 2009