When goodbyes become perfunctory
Stuck in limbo, closure becomes a thing of the past
When I finished elementary school, I thought I was going through the biggest transition in my life. Moving away from my zoned middle school, where the majority of my childhood friends were attending, I was to tackle an entirely new environment- and group of people- alone. So, it was no wonder that I left the “graduation” celebration with tears in my eyes, Evanescence blasting through my ears, and feelings of nostalgia left in my heart. I dubbed my drink, Dr. Pepper a “melancholy” drink (having looked up the word the day before), and wondered if I would ever see my dear friends again.
As it so happens, I did, every day. Well, not them, in the flesh- but I saw their representations of themselves, their silly Picnik-edited selfies, their new friends, their complaints. When I (without the knowledge of my mom, because #rebel) got on Facebook, I found all of my elementary school friends and consequently kept a shadow form of contact with them.
Now, with social media becoming increasingly integrated into daily life, I find myself in a strange limbo with what used to be chance encounters, missed opportunities, past acquaintances. I’m allowed an intimacy with practical strangers that I never even had with my elementary school best friends — for example, Snapchat shows me private moments (what they ate for breakfast, what park they visited that day, which places they’re vacationing at, even -god forbid- the color of their bath bombs), while Facebook and Instagram record the anniversaries and events that I never have to check up on. Twitter lets me hide behind an anonymous mask that laughs at their political tweets, wonders at their subtweeting, and stalks their hot friends. However temporary our friendship was meant to be, the exposure I have to their daily lives means that there remains an uneasy tendril of connection.
Once upon a time, “H.A.G.S. and I hope we hang out soon!” in a yearbook was a placeholder for potential but unlikely contact. It was a tantalizing reminder of friendships that could’ve been, relationships that could’ve gone somewhere. It was something meant to be dug up 10 years later, mused over, maybe pursued with a “hey! How have you been?”
With the onslaught of social media comes the disappearance of closure. Unfollowing people you will never see again comes off as an affront; platitudes in the form of insincere compliments on Facebook take place over genuine interactions. It’s no wonder that more and more social media networks have been creating options to “discreetly” remove people from sight and hearing: you can follow someone on Twitter but have them muted, friend someone on Facebook and restrict them, and remove someone on Snapchat with no sign but a telltale missing “snapchat score.” Out of sight, out of mind, but still connected: a tentative connection hitting dead walls.
To say that it has been all bad would be a lie. Because of social media and its day-to-day updates, I have kept up with a far larger network of friends than I probably would have without it. I’ve saved connections and meaningful friends who update me on their backpack trip to Europe or their adventures in Asia. I have unassociated best friends to whom I can tell my pettiest drama.
This is not a lament for days before technology. It is a lament for the ability to drift apart peacefully.