Thursday, November 08, 2007

Transience, Technology, and Intimacy

I have lived in seven places as an adult, counting college and the country.

S has lived with me in five of those places.

B and I met in college, lived together in Washington after college, lived in the Bay Area at the same time. Her father lives in No Longer Red State Capital City, so she was one of the few people who visited us there, and we are often together in the country.

A few friends from college have lived in other places at the same time I have.

Mainly I have left a lot of people behind, or they have left me. Sometimes I think about all the people I once was close to. I can't decide whether I'm sad that we're no longer close, or happy we once were. Probably both.

K and I have not lived in the same place for twelve years.

In the last two days, K and I have exchanged 39 emails, three texts, and a phone call. We have discussed their visit this weekend, dinner reservations, running, her chipped tooth, whether I should keep blogging, my new job, and Amy Winehouse. In twelve years, we have rarely gone a week without some form of contact, unless one of us is out of range.

Local K and I will often text, email, phone, and see each other on the same day. I try to figure out, sometimes, why we do what when, but I can't, really. I just know at the moment which to do.

Eighteen months ago, I had no interest in texting, a sentiment I probably expressed in this very blog. In June, when we got a new phone contract, we got, I think, 300 texts monthly, apiece. I hope this is enough.

It used to be that only S, my parents, and the girls' sitters and schools had my cell phone number. Now everyone has it, and at least once a day one phone rings while I'm talking on the other.

I try to avoid the phone.

Texting is my new means of intimate connection. I text with S, M, my niece T, K, local K, J, C, and Lucy. That's pretty much my core. Except my sister. Her phone is very old. I am urging her to get a new phone. She finally got a new car, so there's hope.

The only effective way to reach T is by text. When I phone or email, I don't hear from her for days. If I text, my phone beeps in response within seconds. Nobody texts faster than T.

T is fourteen. She has 60 friends on Facebook, and counting. She sits on the living room floor, playing games with E, chatting with me, one iPod ear bud in her ear, texting pretty much constantly. She is the next generation. She lives her life at once in private (head bent over texts) and on display (meeting people on Facebook).

E has just discovered texting. She texts her dad and T. She wants to text me, but she's using my phone.

My favorite text of E's, sent to T: "Fighting. Mean M mean."

I wonder how my friendships with the people I've left would have fared without blogs and email. I know there are people I would never have become friends with without blogs and email (they know who they are).

I don't Flickr, Tumblr, Twitter, or Facebook. I have no interest in any of them. I don't want that level of display. But I blog, and eighteen months ago I had no interest in texting.

I used to read so many blogs. I used to read lots of blogs of people I didn't know. But eventually I ran out of time and interest, especially for blogs of people I didn't particularly like, but whose self-display engendered a sick fascination. My google reader now has seven blogs of people I know in real life, one blog of someone I have read forever and quite adore (a great writer), and one person I am slightly sickly fascinated by (a girl can't be perfect).

I seem to embrace new technologies for their potential to facilitate existing intimacies, once the technologies upon which I have relied become too open. This suggests that Facebook is not in my future, but I may be wrong. I may simply not understand yet, as I did not understand texting.

Though I think I still don't understand texting, I just do it.

In the country my cellphone doesn't work. I check my email every few days. When I want to find someone, I walk up the road, or I go down to the lake, or I sit on a stoop, and eventually they show up. We are all very predictable in the country. We know how to find each other.

I'm not making any generalizations. I'm just talking about me: a middle-aged, hopefully no longer transient mom, poised between technophile and technophobe.

1 comment:

Libby said...

actually, for me facebook does precisely this: "facilitate existing intimacies." I have no facebook friends who are only facebook friends (ie, I know them all some other way, though not always IRL), I don't do much on the public wall sort of stuff, but I do play games w/friends and leave private messages. So it works sort of like email w/o spam.

But that's just me. I can see your point, too. And I only text w/one person, and rarely use my cellphone.