How many of you communicate via social media? Raise of hands please. Uh huh, uh huh. Quite a few. And how many of you would consider it your go-to means of communicating with the people in your social/business circles? You? Yep. And you? Mmhmm.
Feels great, doesn't it? Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Pinterest--all of those fabu connections. All those great convos. All that fun attention and socializing. I love it. Makes me feel so warm and fuzzy when people "Like" something I pin or do or say. And I really feel appreciated on my birthday when I get like 75 Happy Birthday posts from my peeps.
I should make it clear right now that none of these organizations have paid me or given me any gifts to endorse their services. Which is good. Because I'm kind of not. I mean, don't get me wrong; I think all of these websites have their place. My critique partners and I have a Facebook group in which we do all of our communicating. Also, we Gnomies have a thread that stretches years back where we do much of our chatting and scheduling. It works very well. And the rest of those social tools? Well, they boost me, entertain me, and help me put myself out there a bit as a writer.
(And it's a big but. Much bigger than my own)
I got a birthday card a while back from a gnomelette that I've known since we were wee lasses. Like, forever ago. We used to write stories together and comics together. We had mega-sleep-overs which ended in movies and ice cream and her mom's famous cooking. We've stayed in touch for years and recently became Facebook friends as well. Finally! Our friendship is real!
I noticed a really big difference between what I felt when I read her card and what I feel when I read her posts. Not that there's anything wrong with her posts. There isn't. She's the same gal either way.
Except--with the card, I am looking at her actual handwriting. And it it brings her back to me in a way that the precisely spaced black letters on my screen can't. Her handwriting is loopy and neat. It reminds me that she's an artist--although she's never pursued that. But the talent is there in spades. She's also a writer; a most excellent one. I know this because of those stories and comics we wrote together. She invented terrific characters with real emotions. My favorite was one she made up when we were 10 years old. He was the bad guy in our comic series. His name was "The Egypt Sissy." You can see my (10 year-old) version of what he looked like here, along with a few other characters that peopled our stories.
Gazing at my friend's handwriting reminds me that she was the one stable thing in my constantly changing existence. So even when she moved to Iceland and I moved to Germany we could count on each other still being there--through letters. We wrote, wove stories, illustrated them, traded experiences in our new countries, confessed unrequited love, dissed teachers who were with the Armed Forces school system solely to tour the world, and wondered if we'd ever grow into our teeth and feet. I even remember this little orange ice cream pop thing that I bought after we went and watched Zebra In My Kitchen together right before my family moved. (No for reals. It was an actual movie. And if you click that link above and view the trailer, the voice-over work alone will help you understand why it's never seen the light of day since the 1970's. It's like listening to a cheese grater.)
All of that literally starts roaming around in my psyche the minute I look at my pal's handwritten note. Online, I get her thoughts, and a dash of her personality--sometimes a big dash. But I don't get her. Same with other people. I get them right in that moment, but I don't get the whole them. And sometimes it takes several communications to truly understand what they are saying. Mostly because I can't see their face or their body language. I can't see them.
Sometimes I wonder if social media is corrupting our relationships: creating the illusion of more than there actually is, undermining intentions through miscommunications, short-circuiting our social skills. I kind of miss the olden days where we wrote and called and met up in person to plan things. Wonder what it will be like in another 10 years.