About two weeks ago I deleted my entire Facebook friends list, and deactivated my account for the foreseeable future. On a whim, I decided to give Instagram the boot as well. I did this for a single, somewhat counter-intuitive reason; to improve my social life. I’ll explain.
I am experimenting with the notion that by eliminating access to my friends digitally, I’ll be more apt to spend time with them personally. This desire to share air instead of pixels started to grow after I realized how few local friends I actually have, and how rarely I spend time with them. Additionally, I realized that I’d much rather engage with my long distance friends over the phone than by read-only interactions online, such as hitting “like” on one of their posts. Even a back and forth comment banter fails to capture so much of the words between friends. Those little quirks, phrases, and accents, from actual conversation, are lost to memory all too easily in the face of text.
Following the death of his Sensei, one of my teachers told us he found comfort in the new stories coming forward. These were from other students, who had also trained under Masayuki Shimabukuro. Shima Sensei had touched so many lives, so deeply, that his very mannerisms had embedded in them. Phrases passed around the dojo were his verbatim, and his teacher’s before, and probably his teacher’s before. It’s wonderful to ponder such a continuation over time, especially when it has yielded a legacy of such deadly, but compassionate mentors. The kind men really need.
Take note when people give impressions of their friends, because their change of voice and manner, far from being crude imitation, are actually indicative of intimacy. The vehemency of a friend’s anecdote reveals the quality of their time spent together. The following laughter, a warm testament to the love. First there must be the sharing of air though, and hopefully some shared struggle too. Backpackers become close for a reason.
Facebook tends to becloud such intimacy, because you interact the same way with everyone on the platform; regardless of how well you know them. It struck me that many of the hundreds of friends on my list were people I had spent less than a full day with. Yet, right next to them on the feed, were the words of a man I’ve spent years training under, or another with whom I’ve walked a thousand miles. Something about that doesn’t sit well. I once heard a man say the same of the news. That once it took digital form, the prioritization demanded by limited pages was lost. On the web every story is now on its own front page. Yet all news is not equally important.
This year I’m endeavoring to get a better handle on who my “front page” friends are. Following my exodus from Facebook, they were remarkably easy to discern, and I have most of their phone numbers now. For a very special few, I even have addresses. Few things can honor a friendship like a hand written letter, and there was once a time when people could identify each other by their scription. This rarely enjoyed pleasure is probably lost by the fifth-grade now. For me, this made the shelter registers on the Appalachian Trail that much more lovely. TRUE would sign his name thus, often taking a full quarter of the page with his bold bubble font. Firebird’s letters were thin and elegant, her artistic flair residual between the lines. This medium by comparison, capturing the words as I type them; is rather sterile.
The modern age, while clean and streamlined, sometimes lacks too much character for my taste. When the characters themselves, are all lumped into a “feed,” well, it sends me stamp shopping. I hope this year involves more strange voices and boisterous hand-gestures; more laughter, and ink-stained hands. Be well my friends!