Friday, March 2, 2012

The People I Used to Know

Sometimes when I write I imagine all the people I used to know. Every now and then an old friend will send me a response about one of my posts via Facebook, or sometimes they'll simply tag the "like" button. It's a strange sensation to be sitting in my house at my computer and to be reading a passing comment from someone I haven't seen or spoken to in years.

The sphere of electronic friendship has become too big to accommodate individual attention. If you were to set out to write a brief note to every one of your Facebook friends and acquaintances it would probably be summer time before you'd finish the job. And so we leave it to brief, one or two sentence remarks and the tagging of a "like" button to communicate our well wishes across time and space.

Royalty-free Vector Art: Phonecall
image credit
But since my capacity to re-enter the lives of past friends is so limited, it sometimes feels like a kind of game to imagine the people I used to know moving around in their lives. When I see their name or Facebook profile flash across my screen I like to think of them driving to work in their car or making dinner for their family. It's like telling a story to myself about a not-quite-stranger and filling in the details with my imagination. In my mind these past friends are always leading happy lives. I imagine them saying nice things to their spouse, letting their kids eat donuts for breakfast sometimes, reading a good book on the subway or waving hello to their neighbors as they drive past. Of course I know deep down that everyone's life is hard in all the usual and unusual ways, but framing other people's lives with imaginary contentment feels like a kind of well wishing that I can send them from afar. We can't write letters and make phone calls to everyone, but when we think of them we can make those thoughts happy, positive, and hope the people we used to know are finding what they're looking for. It's the least we can do.


  1. That's why I don't rip on facebook. Because at the end of the day it's like one big city that houses all of my friends, old work partners, and family stretched across the globe. And I can share all of the small ephemera that creates intimacy: Doctor Who pictures, links to coats I want, videos that remind me of high school, etc. It's helped me retain intimacy with people who would otherwise have been forgotten


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