There’s this video. It’s been around for a couple of years, and the words are taken from a great TED talk by Sherry Turkle called “Connected, but alone?”
It’s a great video, and you can find the whole talk here, but I don’t totally entirely agree with it for one single reason, which is one of my best friends. She’s not nearby right now which is annoying because I can’t have gym whinging sessions or spontaneous cake or watch her bizarre life first-hand, but it’s fine because she’s an amazing long-distance friend.
We met because she needed a SIM card. Prodigious fate already intending to signpost that we’d likely spend the majority of our friendship on either ends of a smartphone. We didn’t exactly instantly click, which I think is probably good because by the time I realised we were best friends, it was because I actually felt I knew her enough to know that we are ridiculously alike, while being fantastically different. I think on the surface no-one would match us up as friends, but who cares about those people anyway?
She’s at a distance now, as I say (a vastly varying difference. Somewhere between 200 and 4,500 miles at any given moment), but it doesn’t feel that way because even though I sometimes forget to go to her, she’s always on the other end of a phone. I think Sherry Turkle is right – we tailor our personality via text and social media to suit our audience, and we don’t share our real selves, and then we feel lonely because the person getting attention isn’t us – but that’s not the case with my friend. With her, I’m happy to be completely honest (even if that means calling her up in tears after storming out of the house during a fight over nothing) and I’m happy to do that because I completely believe that she doesn’t mind. I think if the world were falling down around her ears she still wouldn’t think I was a burden, and that’s a pretty huge thing.
We wouldn’t have the privilege of this friendship without technology. I couldn’t send her snapchats of my double chins, and she couldn’t share videos about nothing, and we couldn’t participate so fully in each others’ lives, be it from 4 miles or 4,000. So being part of the network probably does make me feel lonely – I definitely think about every single message, every tweet, and definitely every blog post, and I tailor them so that they may not really reflect a true image of me – but without the network I wouldn’t have the support of a wonderful best friend, and that’s just a compromise I’m willing to make every day.