On New Year’s Eve day my wife and I set up a joint Facebook profile so we could tell our friends, through status updates and pictures, what we were up to over there in Europe. Not rocket science, the whole process was really easy and once we had the name figured out and a picture uploaded, there was nothing more to it. And not to brag, but more from a place of amazement, within 24 hours we had more than a hundred friends.
I have been on the Facebook/Crackbook/Nosepick for almost a year now and in that time, my “group of friends” has grown to include public school, high school and real-life grownup friends. There are some acquaintances and even people who I didn’t particularly enjoy in my youth (and who didn’t enjoy me) despite my better judgment. There are family members, both of the younger and older generations, and my mother’s neighbour who I have never met, but who is queer and sometimes sends missives from my mom.
But this new thing, we hope, will be something a little different. Rather than keep a personal travel blog that I, nor my wife, have any desire to do, it will be one-liner status updates that will have to encapsulate how amazing London is, or what the food is like in Lucca. (It’s supposed to be the best in Tuscany, FYI.) It will also be an interesting social experiment and unintentional personal research into whether or not people really want to keep in touch, or whether they’re all about lip service.
When we moved away from Toronto the first time, all the way to the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia, there was no way to give 300 people a shout out all at the same time. It was with great thought and painstaking attention that emails and hard-copy letters were written to close friends and sometimes family. Then, like in the olden days, it was through word-of-mouth that everyone learned of our whereabouts and goings-on. Sending pictures (since we had yet to buy a digital camera) never happened. Our circle of people that we knew needed to rely on their imagination, wonder and knowledge of who we were in the world to put together their own picture of what our lives looked like, how we spent our days and what we might be doing at any given moment. With Facebook we don’t have to leave anything to chance.
To be honest I’m not sure that’s such a good thing. It seems like there is a level of expectation — that since there is this truly amazing social-networking tool we should be using it to stay in touch; that it will be like we never left and, as my wife says, like being at an endless cocktail party, regardless of physical locale. We will get updates on our friends haircuts and ask to see pictures and hear about what’s happening in our apartment we have sublet to friends through event announcements or status updates. Essentially we will have an endless window into what we are leaving behind. So I guess the question is how much are we actually leaving?
On New Year’s Eve my wife’s best friend threw a NYE/bon voyage party for us. There were great friends, good music, ample alcohol and I think a nice time was had by all. In particular there was a couple who we have been friends with for more than 15 years who were in attendance. And when we said goodbye there was an acknowledgment that we wouldn’t be seeing them for a year. The irony is though that, even though we live in the same city, sometimes a year goes by without seeing each other — work, children and other social commitments get in the way. So I wonder if this year it will feel different ’cause we are not in the country. But not because we are in each other’s day-to-day.
My guess is, with most of our friends being Facebook regulars and up on everyone’s everything, when we come home it may feel like we never left. And I guess the question is will that be a good thing? ‘Cause if we never left, why are we leaving?