On my list of Facebook friends, I have a person that I went to school with…. Let’s call him Barry. Barry was the grade above me in high school. We didn’t talk much but we both knew of each other. Over the past ten years since he graduated, we’ve commented a lot on each other’s statuses, sent a few private messages, liked various posts of one another and basically kept track of each other’s lives online. I knew that he had a lovely girlfriend, went camping on the weekends and worked in finance. He knew that I travelled a lot and found myself allergic to long term relationships. Basically, although we hadn’t actually seen each other in around 10 years, it was simply a busy schedule thing, a case of not being in the right place at the right time. One day, if we did meet up for a beer or coffee it would be great and we would regale each other with stories from the past and laugh at our misadventures. Or so I thought….
A few months ago, I was sitting at a café in the city, when I looked up and who did I see? Why good old Barry, crossing the road! Well, I looked up and gave him my biggest smile, surprised to finally run into my dear Facebook friend, and he….. He blanked me! I couldn’t believe it! Just looked at me and then looked away and kept on walking! Surely he knew from my pictures what I looked like? Maybe he was just preoccupied with some work business and didn’t really take in who I was?
To test my theory, the next week I went to the same café. Sure enough at roughly the same time, Barry started crossing at the pedestrian lights. As he came nearer to me he looked in my direction. Before he could look away I called out to him, “Barry is that really you?”
He shuffled awkwardly on his feet. “Oh Maddi… Hey how are you?”
So he DID know it was me! He knew it all along! And he blanked me – which is quite possibly the worst, nastiest, most insulting thing that one friend can inflict upon another. After my realisation I managed to clumsily wade through the next few minutes of conversation, which was punctuated by many ummms and uhhhs on Barry’s end. Finally, I put him out of his misery with the line, “well I better not take up all you’re lunch break, it was great to see you, and we should definitely catch up soon!”
I’d never felt phonier in my life and Barry, visibly relieved, practically ran away. Well I guess that’s friends off, I thought. I should probably just call it quits and delete Barry on Facebook after that incident.
Interestingly though, later that evening a private message popped up on my phone; it was from Barry. “Great to c u 2day,” it read. It then went on to talk about how well I looked and how he was glad I’m doing so good and laughed about people who went to our high school and what they were doing.
Hang on a second! Earlier today you couldn’t wait to be rid of me…. And in fact, only started talking to me because I acknowledged you, otherwise you would have pretended not to have seen me!
What is wrong with people today? We’re more networked that ever in the online world and yet we struggle to hold a conversation in real life. We can see everything that happens in a friend’s life, so we don’t bother to actually meet up with them and talk about it. For all the connectivity that social media brings, sometimes it’s the connection of a real life conversation that I crave the most.
After the incident with Barry, I’ve made it a point to start talking more with the people in my life. I call instead of sending a text. I meet up with someone instead of emailing them. I’ll go out and buy things instead of ordering them online. In just a short time I’ve found that many of my friendships have deepened. I visit my family more often. I’m more engaged with my local community; I regularly chat with my butcher and the girl at the coffee shop knows my name and order. My life feels more rounded, more whole.
I now feel sorry for the Barrys of the world, who limit their socialising predominantly to the online realm. As much as you can type away to someone online, it will never beat the feeling of engaging with a friend face to face. There is so much of life beyond the screen that people today fail to take advantage of. So get out there and live everybody!
Oh, and Barry, if you are going to live out your life online…. At least learn how to spell!
Image thanks to – http://static.freepik.com/free-photo/businessman-in-front-of-the-office_21307588.jpg