My philosophy is that we are all on a journey together. We walk different paths. Sometimes the paths are close to each other and we walk some distance together before the paths diverge. Other times the paths continue on together for what seems like a long time. While walking these paths we make friends with our fellow walkers. They become life time companions. Others diverge, people we once knew that move on to other things maybe even a few we lose touch with. Some walkers on these paths reach the goal before others and they exit through the gift shop, picking up their celestial commemorative photos on the way. Some enjoy the walk so much that they buy another ticket and the path of life for them begins again.
Three things happened this weekend that kind of reminded me of how fluid friends are. The first was my parents. They are both in their seventies. My mum’s phone kept ringing throughout my stay in Liverpool. It was either this person or that person. When the phone wasn’t ringing, it would be a neighbour popping down the road for a quick chat or a friend just passing to say hello. I realised I no longer have this experience. I have not had this experience since 2006 and even then it was waning.
The second occurred because of a breakdown in communication. My paranoia rose and in the short space of a moment I went from a feeling of fondness to a feeling of slight betrayal about that person. The feelings of slight betrayal grew into a feeling of loneliness, because yes, even after 2 years in the midlands, I am still to foster new friendships to the same levels of those friends I left behind in Liverpool and Yorkshire. But the next thing to happen made those feelings feel selfish and insignificant
The third thing that happened was I had a message through Facebook from someone off the course I was on at Barnsley UCB. The message told me that another one of my friends, , had died suddenly in their sleep. He was 26. This kind of knocked me for six and today I conversed with the friend who messaged me about how quickly we all drifted apart.
I believe that Facebook (and for that matter, the internet) gives us a false feeling of connection. We meet many people through our lives. Each person influences us in some fashion and we develop our own personality from the sum of the people we interact with, both those we get along with and those we don’t. I won’t dwell on those we don’t get along with. In fact I’ll just say “Life is too short for grudges no matter what a person has done”. I think that’s the core of what some bloke said two thousand years ago. But they nailed him to a tree and I don’t fancy that fate so I won’t dwell as I said.
Sure the internet has helped us touch others we might never meet and, conversely, it has helped us to keep touching the same and those we may be never able to touch again because of geographical constraints. Like this blog. You, my dear reader, you I have touched many times.
In polite company I might be arrested I have reached out over the web waves and through your screen, there I reach through the glass of your monitor and caress the back of your mind with tenderness, showing my appreciation and love for you all in my own special way. We click. We share our experiences. We share the path together for some time.
Crucially the point is how well do you know people. Apart from your closer family and friends, when was the last time you met that person on your Facebook? Have you even met them? When did they last touch you?
Did you tell the police? When was the last time you were in the same town or geographical region as them? Did you even look them up? Would you look them up? Even if it was just for a five minute hello and catch up? What would you do if they stopped posting on Facebook, Twitter or Livejournal? Would you contact them to check they were alright?
I did an experiment this year. Back in the early noughties I was a prominent presence in the Thirty something chat rooms on Freeserve. People loved to chat with me. I loved to chat with people. Sadly, for personal reasons, I had to stop going into the chat rooms. Within 9 months I had a letter from one of the people who regularly visited the chatrooms. I wasn’t particularly close to them but they wrote to show their concern at not seeing me online for so long. This year I stopped liking and posting on Facebook. Nobody messaged me. Nobody enquired about my health. Ok granted, a good deal of people on my Facebook know people I know and no doubt I suspect they thought if anything was wrong they would know through them. In away, Steve’s death reinforced this fact. I would probably never have known had it not been for another friend pointing out the announcement on Facebook. Have we really all drifted apart? Or is it just my feeling of isolation that brings this to me?
So I now ask you to look again at your Facebook, Twitter and LJ accounts and friends lists. If there is someone on there who has truly touched you in some way or other
tell the police, and you haven’t heard from them for a while, message them. Let them know you think of them still. Don’t delete them. Don’t ignore them and hope they message you. And I’m not saying just like a post of theirs or comment vacuously on some posting of theirs. Make an effort. Email them. Message them directly. Say hi. Ask them how they are. Ask them a question. Tell them I told you to do it. Who knows, maybe I’ll get some messages too. The people we meet on our journey along life’s paths are gifts and guides to us. Cherish each and every person you meet. Listen to them. Talk to them. Share your message so they too can touch and impart a piece of you onto others. Without getting arrested.