The last couple of months it so happened that we attended a number of special life events. A number of special birthday parties, such as my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday, and various funerals. All were very different: in size, the way the events were organised, and because of the relationship we have or had with the people for whom we came.
And while the main purpose of these events are to celebrate the life or mourn over the loss of a loved one or a couple of friends or family members, they also provide a chance to catch up with old acquaintances. With those we have lost sight of, or we don’t see anymore. And it always feels very special to have this chance to reconnect, to feel the bond once felt, look back on a shared past and recall the stories of the years gone by. Unplanned reunions which can even lead to a revitalisation of the friendship, or at least an appointment to meet for coffee or a pint or two (as we do in Scotland).
What especially struck me the last couple of times, is how much we seem to know about each other, even though we haven’t seen each other for a long time. How, through a close connection via social media, we can, if we choose to, be aware and almost feel part of the main events in each other’s lives. While exchanging updates, it occurred to me, that we know if someone has changed jobs, where they have been on holiday, why they had been hospitalised, whether they changed career, or gave birth to a beautiful daughter or son.
Often the pictures and comments we share on social media speak for themselves and allow us, to some extent, have the feeling that we stay part of each life, even if we don’t see each other. It makes it, at least for me, sometimes even difficult to know exactly when I have seen someone for the last time. Through the updates on Facebook and an occasional short interaction, the time seems so much shorter than it actually has been.
Already knowing this information changes the conversation. When we meet, we have already congratulated, sympathised or acknowledged the important moments in our lives and caught up on each other adventures, so we have a chance to get a little deeper, and focus on the thoughts and feelings about our recent choices – details we don’t always share with a wider audience. Or of course, discus completely different matters, such as politics or sport. Or it can lead to the more awkward situation where you realise there isn’t much left to discuss or share.
Especially for us, combining work and travel, and knowing lots of people we care for who live all scattered around the globe, I appreciate the incredible number of possibilities to stay connected with such a large group of people, even though we don’t see each other face to face. As someone who has travelled and lived abroad in times before the internet, I know what a difference this easy access to connect, and stay connected, with all those you know and get to know, can make.
Of course, I agree that not being permanently connected to social media is a luxury to cherish. As much as I would agree that not being able to virtually stay in touch anymore would be an impoverishment.
And while I cherish the fact I can read your posts that make me laugh or cry or give
me a feeling of sharing happiness, meeting some you again these last couple of months also made me realise that there’s nothing better than meeting in real life.
It was great to see you all, and as useful as social media might be, I wish there would be more time in our daily lives to make it happen more often, and be less dependent on the internet to know what you are all up to.