No alarms and no surprises / The age of loneliness
Read an article on the facebook/social networking fad saying that the next generation won't know what it is to lose contact with their high school and university classmates. I strongly doubt it: facebook "friends" are not necessarily real life friends and connections, nor are both terms synonyms (yet, at least). And, of course, do we really want to keep those connections for the rest of our lives? I think not. I look at my facebook account: on the "friends list" I can find some people from high school and university, of course, but only those who are still somewhat close friends (even if some of those friendships are slowly fading away). The rest of them I can do without. I fail to understand the modern urge to stay connected to everyone who, at some random point in space and time, walked into our lives. People are supposed to come and go all the time. To leave our lives and fade into the mists of the unknown, so one day we won't remember them anymore and will stare with wonder at the old photo albums, asking ourselves how did those people turn out to be. Social networking killed that: we might not speak to them for years, but we do know that A married B and they have C and D children, while they're living on E city, with the jobs F and G. They had holidays in August, and we can see the pictures of them smiling in the beaches of H, and having mojitos at the pub I. Similarly, they'll know just the same about ourselves. I mean, do we all really need this? The answer is no: one day we're walking in some street and meet one of those people, some old classmate we haven't seen for real in a decade, say. What will we talk about, when we know everything already? Gone are the news, and with them, the surprise and the amazement of finding out that the shy A actually married the hottie B. Gone is also the old catchphrase "let's have a coffee one of these days and remember the old days, have my contact". There's no need to share a moment anymore - which is ironic, considering that social networking is all about sharing. There's no need to have a coffee with our long-lost classmate: even though we hadn't talked for years, we know everything we're supposed to know. Here lies the true nature of social networking, the hidden one, the Hyde-like visage that is so often and so conveniently ignored: while it promotes "connectivity" and "sharing" and "friendship", social networking erodes the real connectivity, the real sharing, the real friendship - thus replacing them for the void, for a cold, cheap illusion that provides no comfort. The age of social networking is upon us, and seems inevitable; but I won't be surprised if, somewhen in a distant future, it will be known as "the age of loneliness".