Unfriending the Lost

My timehop tells me that on this day last year I tweeted about coffee. Two years ago it was unseasonably warm. 8 years ago I posted some pop punk lyrics as my Facebook status. But on this day in my personal history she and I did not talk. Today happens to be a safe day to open Timehop.

The older generations always warn you about your electronic footprint. The trail you leave on servers across the world of things you like and dislike and love maybe from afar. Your darkest secrets and moments you can’t remember. We’re so used to documenting every moment though, we don’t listen. We speak in 140 characters and see the world through filters and fish-eye lenses. But it works for us. Tumblr is a coffee house for our Millenial Beatnik poetry. We know how to turn ourselves into moneymaking personal brands. We are all small scale Kardashians with a couple hundred people keeping up with us.

But in the midst of all the Gen X warnings of “that won’t help you get employed” or “what if your grandmother sees that?” They always seem to gloss over the most important cautionary tale: there are some things we just want to forget.

It seemed like she found it easy to let me go. As easy as hitting “unfriend”.

She and I became such fast friends we immediately couldn’t remember our lives without one another. We were soul sisters. Like minded and similarly driven. Day after day we were constantly texting and tweeting and reblogging each other. When we were together our feeds fell silent because, well, who else were we going to talk to anyway? Tweeting her was a habit. Texting her was like my heartbeat, I didn’t have to think about it. It just happened. It took me months, probably more months than we were actually friends, for me to break that habit. To untrain myself from sending her every thought and fear I had. I wondered if it was just as hard for her or if it was easy. It seemed like she found it easy to let me go. As easy as hitting “unfriend”.

She literally unfriended me. One morning I woke up and we just didn’t talk that day. Or the next. I finally reached out and she said she needed space. We weren’t even dating but we were breaking up. I never found out why she made that decision. I take all the blame for whatever happened. And I’m reminded every time I check my Timehop of how wonderful our bond was for those few fleeting months. I wonder if it stings for her too.

With him it’s different because he didn’t unfriend me. We lost touch after he graduated and we lost even more touch after I graduated but for the couple of years he was in my orbit he had a profound effect on me. When I found out he died, via Facebook, it felt like my heart had stopped. I was far away and couldn’t attend the funeral but through a group message was able to contribute a short piece on what he meant to me. Even though we were all over, his friends were able to come together in one place, one message thread. It stings every time I see the three, four, six year reminder of this conversation and that song exchange. It hurts every time I get an email asking me to congratulate him on his work anniversary or when I see he followed someone on Twitter that I also follow. I battle with myself every couple of months, cursor hovering over the X. The X that will stop the reminders. But I ultimately can’t bring myself to lose him as a connection. The reminders may hurt but the memories don’t. And maybe his work anniversary will hurt less over time.

Social media allows us to remain connected to people that have left our lives in one way or another. Your electronic footprint allows you to live on in memoriam on someone’s wall even if you have deleted them from yours. A real, tangible friendship or relationship may end but the cyber one lives on allowing a voyeurism that can sting and reopen old wounds. But it’s a sting that reminds us these relationships, these friendships, these connections were real. And someday, maybe, I will have the courage to unfriend those I have lost. For now, I believe there is more courage in not.