Twenty years ago, I would talk on the phone for hours. Twenty years ago, I wrote long and thoughtful letters. Twenty years ago, I went out with friends and family and we hiked, camped, danced, listened to music and strolled around Town Lake until dawn. I was involved and engaged… twenty years ago.
Then along came the internet and my first account when I was a beth@ because few people had email and I could be beth@ without many contending for the name. As each year ticked away, I gradually stopped writing, stopped dancing, and stopped listening to music. Today, I no longer see dawn at the end of a long night, but at the beginning of a long day. My letters are email quips, my music is downloaded. I catch up with my friends through Twitter or through Facebook or the occasional website. I don’t share much; I’m content with simply being a name connected to a few short adjectives or a family stereotype; people don’t know me. Today, it’s easier to reach me online than it is on the phone and in fact, it’s my preference. I don’t feel the need to speak. New friends no longer come from work or school or through other friends, but through online connections as a handle or an avatar. We try not to trade in too much that is “real” – first names are rare. A very human connection slips away.
I suppose that’s how things go as we bumble through this digital age. With all this connection there is a very real and palpable disconnection.
How is a particular person doing? I’ll check their status on Twitter like I check the weather. I dip in, read a sentence or two and flitter away to find another distraction.
This works for me until they disappear.
I sometimes wonder, “where is Lori?” I used to have the answer. Her blog lies dormant. Where she encouraged you to follow her on Twitter, there hasn’t been an update in a year. Photos that were updated daily haven’t changed. Google tells me she’s alive and well. Prodding one of her closer friend confirms the same – that she’s alive. She’s living off the internet grid. I can’t relate.
I wonder about people like Mado, Myles Brakken, Tamara Nivens, Corwin and Lillia. I don’t know their real names. I don’t know where they live. I’ve personally never met them. However, for brief moments in my life, they were important to me in some small way and despite the shared laughs and occasional heartaches, I will never know who they really were nor them me.
… and I bumble along. More connected. More disconnected.
I read about this very thing on another blog…called *digital death* or something. The fact that we grow so *close* to our avatar/type only friends that when they disappear there is an uncertainty and confusion that grief cannot support. In the real world there are the rituals of loss and the subsequent grieving in all its many forms. In fakeworld, there is just, well, nothingness. The writer talked, with a certain embarrassment, of not wanting to leave a legacy of his cyber world meanderings for his real family and friends to sort through. After all…its just fantasy, right? and who wants one’s fantasies to be judged, perhaps with ridicule, by one’s *real* life beneficiaries. Ah, ’tis a problem…perhaps Dad and I should spare you all this by appointing an official techie to come in and wipe our hard drives when we are *no longer in the real world*. (And hey…now I know why you never call!)