Home > Uncategorized > What does it mean to stay in touch with everyone?

What does it mean to stay in touch with everyone?

I backpacked around Europe the summer after I finished college.  On a tour of the catacombs in Rome, the tour guide stopped in a room full of skeletons to slowly and ponderously pronounce:

The early Christians came here not just to be with their dead but also to be with one another. Because as we Christians know, it’s not just the community of the living or the community of the dead, but one community, the community of God.

At that moment, the guy behind me snorted.  He was trying not to laugh, but he couldn’t contain it any longer.  I liked him immediately.  And we spent the next couple days together, exploring Rome.  He was a motorcycle biker from Australia.

I thought of that story today because my friend Clara Fernandez posted on Facebook about how much she enjoyed the sewer tour of Vienna.  And it occurred to me that if Facebook had existed in 1987 when I was in that catacomb, I would likely still be in touch with my biker friend–we’d be Facebook friends and would have kept in casual touch with one another’s lives all this time.  What does it mean to keep a link to everyone you ever had any kind of meaningful contact with?

Actually, it’s remarkable that I’m still in touch with Clara. She was a graduate student at Georgia Tech many years ago.  Thanks to Facebook, I know about her cool new job. And about her vacation with the cool sewer tour.  And I’ve been playing a casual game lately, Candy Crush Saga, which as I complete a level shows me Clara’s photo, because the score she got on that level is inevitably higher than mine.  So I have an odd sort of sense that we’re hanging out together.  I wonder if anyone who is a few levels behind me has a sense that they’re hanging out with me.

Still being in touch with Clara, even just to exchange quick updates, is a positive addition to my life.  Would still being in touch with my Australian biker friend be positive?  We have much less in common I’m sure.  But a connection to someone with a totally different life might be interesting.  Though I have tons of Facebook “friends” I don’t actually remember and some I never knew.  Is there a point at which the sum of it all is just too much? Does having too many trivial connections dilute the value of connections that could be more meaningful?

If we met in a catacomb in 1987, please do drop me an email!

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. June 24, 2013 at 11:41 pm

    Is it really “staying in touch”? I find that a lot of what I see/read on Facebook is closer to hearing about friends through the grapevine. “Hey, I heard that Joe got married and moved to Bali…”. The difference is that now it’s straight from the source and you can presumably respond. So rather, than staying in touch it’s more often like “staying up to date”. It’s one way.

    I recently finished reading a wonderful graphic “novel” (it’s more of a biography) called “Alan’s War” (http://graphicnovelreporter.com/content/alans-war-memories-gi-alan-cope-review). One of the things that struck me the most, was how important correspondence was back then – and the degree of effort people would put into keeping up with each other. I’m not going to moan about how people don’t write letters any more, but I’d be very interested to know how the notion of “staying in touch” has changed over time. What practices to people engage in? What sources do they refer to? Etc.

    • June 25, 2013 at 6:34 am

      I totally agree. And the complicated question is what is the value of that sort of trivial keeping up with someone.

  2. June 26, 2013 at 10:21 am

    A few years ago, I was sitting in a room across the Atlantic waiting for an orientation session for our pilgrimage group. A brother and sister are whispering and laughing. She apologizes, but they are pretty sure they know me from somewhere. They are from New Zealand and I’ve never been there. They have been to the US, but not to my state. We eventually give up trying to figure it out.

    Later, it turns out we know about a dozen people in common. One of them was a former coworker to the woman and someone I frequently interact with on lots of social media.

    So kind of the inverse: Social media has the potential of revealing strangers from across the globe are just 2nd degree connections.

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