Friday, July 20, 2012

What it means to stay in touch

It's easy to say, of course, that one will stay in touch. It's much harder to do.

On our end, the motivation is clear and relatively strong - having left a host of friendships and relationships behind, we are the far-flung ones, and in the relative absence of strong social networks and engagements in the here, our strong desire is both to communicate to people 'back home' (even though 'home' is kind of here), and to hear from home.

But on the other side, for those 'back home', that desire is not strong, nor is it in the front of the mind. For those we have left, life continues, and the everyday happenstances are shared and communicated with others, and our absence gets closed over, little by little, but very quickly. Perhaps only when a distinctive moment reminds you of the absence, "oh Seumas would have liked this", "oh Rachel would have said this", will the prompt come.

I want to disown the idea that I write this to guilt anybody, or in response to anything in particular. I'm just taking note of the phenomenon, and perhaps trying to raise your awareness. The internet is a tool that creates certain forms of communication, it bridges distance, and creates immediacy, but it also creates illusions of closeness and engagement. Particularly, the ability to 'post' can create the illusion of sufficiency. I have written, therefore I assume you have read. But that is not true, broadcasting is not conversation.

In our age, it's the intentionality of communication that is under a certain kind of threat. That one might communicate in order to communicate, rather than broadcast in order to share. That conversation might actually be for the other rather than for myself.

Of course, this whole post is ironically a form of broadcast, not conversation. But that is exactly why it is what it is, I want to broadcast this, because it's not for anything or anyone in particular. For that, you'll hear from me.


  1. I wonder if the idea of "staying in touch" is changing. In the past, it was more intentional communication--phone calls, emails, letters and so on. Now we live in the age of social media and it's more "ambient awareness" and less intentional missives. Some prefer one more than the other.

    As for me, I think about you guys often and love it when you pop up on my Twitter/Facebook feeds.

    1. I think that the fact they are different things escapes some people, and so people can think social media is a substitute for intentional communication. Sure, one might prefer social media, but that is going to change the nature of relationships. To 'share' something on social media is not sharing, its broadcasting, or depending on platform, narrowcasting. I'm just trying to articulate some of those effects of technology on relationships and communication