There I am, second-last day of vacation, scouring my deck and cleaning my deck chairs. I bought the chairs about eight years ago now. As I scoured them down, a flood of old memories came back — drinks drunk as planes soared in across the southern horizon, headed for the airport’s runways, conversations nattered until wee morning hours with faces that still bring a smile to mine, silent moments spent alone or with others, like one sunny perfect beautiful morning spent with a coffee and a flawless and strangely-quiet empty horizon before finding out a couple planes had earlier crashed into a building and changed America’s future.
It’s just a chair. A measley little chair I see out my window every day, and yet when I really crunch the memories as I scour it down from up-close, a world I’ve lived through in eight years come washing over me. It’s just a chair. Wow.
Imagine if everything had that kind of conjuring power? But then I log into Facebook.
A whirlwind of old faces I thought I’d moved past come popping up in my “present-tense” friends page. Who’s kidding who? They’re not my friends, and I’m not their friend. I’m an existential notch on the belt of their life — at best, and they’re lucky if they’re the same in mine.
We shared some times. Likely some laughs, probably some pains, and maybe more. But the only thing we all know is real is, that was then and this is now.
Yet we delude ourselves into thinking the past is more than prologue; that it’s more than then; it’s ongoing. And maybe, in this digital age, it is. Maybe it shouldn’t be.
Maybe it’s not wrong of me I don’t want my ex-lovers in my life, or those who’ve scorned, mocked or hurt me to be in my world today. Still, I often approve those friendship requests a part of me would rather decline. And why do I? Especially when I think it’s the modern equivalent of slowing down for a car wreck? Because a part of me remembers all that was good for a time.
In reality, though…
Hmm, why, yeah, sure, I remember the last time I saw you — in my rearview mirror as I sped away after the incredibly hurtful fight that ended our relationship. Of course you’re a “friend.” Step right back into my life, “friend.”
Or you, who never called me back, never reached out for get-togethers, never replied to my email or my attempts back then to be in your life, you’re such a “friend.” Glad to see you there, ever-present on my “friend” page, even though you’ve never, ever been there in flesh on the page of my actual life.
Sure, you’re all my friends. Let’s go ahead and kid ourselves. Honesty is SO the worst policy.
But for all its fakery and delusions, Facebook does give me social closeness with a network of friends who do use it as a means of better organizing their social lives. That’s an incredible benefit to my life, and I quite enjoy its usefulness in that context.
I just wish I didn’t have to contend with all the superfluous bullshit that comes from pretending friendships exist where ones so often don’t.
And much as it might seem I’ve completely closed the door on possibly changing that — via rekindling friendships or taking things into reality where they haven’t existed for a decade or more — that’s not the case. I’m open to having these people be players in my life again.
But I’m not the one who added them as friends.
They came to me. They befriended me. I accepted.
And then nothing.
See, if you want me to be a player in your life, the reality is, there’s a whole long time, and a lot of choppy water yet to pass under a bridge, that needs to be addressed. I’m not talking about some United Nations committee meeting that needs to transpire with signing of truces; I’m just saying a “So THAT happened!” conversation probably needs to take place, or else this is just more of the skirting-the-truth bullshit that seems overly abundant in today’s society.
All I really am to you, friend, is a name on a screen to indicate that, at one point in my life, I approved of you as a person. I’m not anything more, not unless you want to make an effort and see that happen.
Let’s everyone just get real and accept that becoming “friends” on some fucking social media site doesn’t mean the past really is the past. No, the past is just being really efficiently ignored because there’s literally a screen in front of it.
It’s funny. We’ve got more ways to connect, more ways to tap into “reality”, more ways to communicate than we’ve ever had before… And yet we’re saying all the same nothing we’ve always said. We’re just faking it better.
Maybe it should be called Fakebook.
It’s too bad, too. I always thought I had pretty awesome taste in people. It’s a shame these “reconnections” are all so falsely promising. It’s just some fleeting electronic encounter, more reason to wonder why everything changed, and more reason to accept that maybe some cliches are true, like never being able to go back.
Unfortunately, it seems like going forward is out of the question too. Limbo, however, is entirely in play.