I’m always connected, it is the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning while I make my coffee and one of the last when I go to sleep before reading.
I always try to meet my friends in person. I’m lucky enough to have more or less most of them here in Hackney. We can bump into each others sometimes, even in the street or at the gym, like in the 90s in my home town.
My Italian friends are suffering the distance that forces me to use social media to keep those friendships alive. Initially I had a lot of fun chatting online. I remember I had a friend I used to talk with him on MSN. Our conversations were also intense and beautiful. Until I realized our friendship did not exist in real life.
A few months ago I ended a relationship with a friend that I know since 15 years in real life. The discussion between us was really violent. We ended up our friendship without even a real phone call. Among whatsapp, facebook and gmail we exchanged terrible messages we would not even had the ability to pull out. There was the video in between, words flowed fast, although it was hurting we kept sparing. Notification of her message on whatsapp or e-mail in the inbox caused me panic and anxiety. The whole situation ended up with the mutual “block” on all possible digital contacts.
Our friendship revolved around experiences over substance: festivals, parties, and the desire to turn bad decisions into good stories kept us pretty tight but our friendship was always one Snapchat away from oblivion. In the last few years for normal reasons like living in two different European cities, online relationship was save us in corner to forget each other.
Now after months of silence and after having digested the detachment, I can analyze with clearly the end of this relationship. I can admit that our friendship was probably already over, but the “digital proximity” had allowed us to keep it alive. Maintaining relationships online through messaging removes the negative barriers of social interaction, speeds up intimacy, and makes us all think we’re closer to one another, but in actual fact, it strips away emotional attachment.
In the past, perhaps without whatsapp and facebook we would have lost each other but it would have seemed natural or we would have had a fight live or by phone.
Disappearing from the online life of the other, is best known as ghosting.Ghosting—the act of ending a relationship by ignoring someone’s attempts at communication, or blocking them on social media—has gained a deservedly shitty. It is above all a cruel and cowardly move.
When you hit the un-friend button as an adult—even though it’s a petty, juvenile act—you’re cementing the end of a friendship that you don’t have time to mend in real life. Things just… go on, which is what has happened in my case.
Ghosting hasn’t left me feeling liberated or brought me closure, though. Instead, I’m left in a state of digital limbo. For me, ghosting seemed to be the appropriate method of ending a friendship that existed entirely through the online approval of photo “likes” and chats on messenger.
The fact that you can just disappear, only underlines how superficial some relationship are today. Ghosting friends is indicative of the brittle nature of the bonds of association which keep our generation constantly connected; we can swap people in and out of our lives like profile pictures, especially when we don’t have to hold ourselves accountable to them in real life.
Equally strange is the presence of true friends that have been part of your life deeply for year. Now they are just shared photos or like on facebook. Ghosts of a recent past that revived in a sort of reality, updating you about their summer holidays.
This story, however, made me reflect on the depth of my friendships, on the quality of them. It is not enough chatting. This experience was useful to confirm what I always thought; friendships need time. Time to spend together. With friends you must have real conversations, travel together. You have to live them! I realized how much important is physical contact in my life. As terrona I touch people even when I talk. Exchanging emoticons and messages it really bores me. I prefer a glass of wine and a real conversation.
And if I have a problem I prefer to say “fuck you” in your face or at least by telephone … and be willing to take one back. This false dynamic and aseptic way to say goodbye with a single click, trying to put everything under the carpet it’s just so sad … but maybe I’m just too 90s.
Illustrazione: Renato Moriconi “Telefono descompuesto“