When we consider the depth of the internet, we often foment shallow thoughts of the world compressing time and space as we become more distant from each other. We reach for tethers and tendrils and often come up with an empty grasp.
A friend of mine recently lamented it had been over 20 years since we had been in touch and I found his argument curious because we exchange lengthy emails at least once a week.
He was looking back on the old days when we’d get together in New York City for a healthy dinner when he was visiting from California.
My friend is now retired and his schedule doesn’t allow frequent coastal visits and my schedule is more densely packed with both petty and persnickety things that pull my time and tide into the narrow depths of my work.
When I mentioned we were in email contact at least weekly, he told me it wasn’t the same thing as sitting together, live and in person, at a restaurant.
I asked him if we would still be in contact without email.
He was quiet.
I asked him if we’d be on the phone together every week if we didn’t have email.
He remained quiet.
I wondered if we’d still know each other after being separated by two decades and 3,000 miles of compressed contexts without the internet to bind together our remaining tendrils?
I asked if we should accept the doable virtual friendship or do we reject technology and only accept physical separation and its decaying hope and cleaving yearning?
My friend admitted that, without the internet, we would have fallen out of touch long ago. He understood it was the virtual that now bound us — and without that ether keeping us close — we would no longer be friends.
How do you feel? Do we belong to each other only in person or can we keep a friendship virtually forever?