I recently found out about a friend’s untimely death via Facebook. He was 39 years old. Would I say we were best friends? No. Would I say we were connected in a way that transcended phone calls and in-person visits? Yes.
But the loss I felt and am still dealing with right now is far more profound than the loss of some random person’s “Like.” Part of it is my relationship with Melly Gomez. One of those connections that defied general guidelines of friendship. We had a connection. A bond. Madonna. For more than 15 years.
But the saddest realization for me right now is this: with social media, I am comforted by the mere fact that someone still exists; that every now and then I am alerted to an update, a family trip, an “ah ha!” moment or a request for support. The fact that he or she is still a “friend” of mine online is enough for me to feel ok about our connection.
I have almost 2,100 connections on Facebook. The reality is, I probably have a very vague idea of what’s gone on in this last year with 10%; I probably have a general idea of the current status of 5%; and I would say I have a text message/phone call/visit relationship with about 1%.
Yet, I seem to be comforted by knowing that all 2,100 friends are still online – are still accessible – are still connected.
Then I lose someone who I truly cared about that seemed far more than just a “like." I always felt very connected to Melly. But we were Facebook friends who regularly commented on each other’s posts. The last time we emailed each other was probably 2 years ago. We texted 4 years ago. We talked on the phone 6 years ago. I saw him 10 years ago.
The fact is…the comfort I felt just being connected to him does not make up for the loss I feel now that he is gone. I don’t feel like I said all the things I wanted to say. My last vision of his face is not in person but from a posted picture. The last time I heard his laugh was not on the phone or across the table but written as LOL.
The reality is, at least for me, that my connections mean something. So why do I not have more meaningful connections? Social media makes it easy for us to have connections that make us feel comforted because at least we ARE connected. But the reality is…if I were to die today, I would hope that everyone who is important to me has already said the things that they wanted to say…and that they have heard me say the things I wanted to say.
The worst thing in the world would be for someone I love to only have a post or a “like" or a retweet from which to determine my love and friendship.
I have said this for years and I will continue to say it – social media might connect us as networks but it disconnects us as human beings. Pick up the phone, send an email, organize a gathering. Tell the people you love that you love them face-to-face. Send a card. Give them something personal that only relates to the two of you. Give someone you love a hug – hold them tight for more than 10 Mississippis.
Life is short. My goal right now is this: When I die, I want you to remember me SAYING to you and SHOWING you: “I love you, I care about you, you mean the world to me.”