As I get older, I find my number of friends dwindling. This is no cry for help or attention. I have grown into this new state gracefully. Often, I am the one who shies away from social events or even text messages. I don’t harbor any ill will towards my friends, for the most part, and when I do see them I usually have a good time.Why would I commit this “social suicide?”
Well, maybe they’re just not cool anymore. In the present era, the fires of our friendships are continuously stoked by an endless stream of updates. Social media has allowed us unfiltered access to our friend’s lives and, in the process, removed that sense of mystery so integral to our perception of “cool.”
By checking these streams over and over throughout the day, we’re seeing all our friends, all of the time. Most people don’t want that. We like to see our friends for a few hours and part ways. The distance gives people things to talk about. I cannot count the number of times that someone begins to telling me about an event in their lives and all I can think is, “I’ve already read about it in your multi-tweet flood earlier today.” The desire to see each other is lessened due to the endless imaginary conversation we’re having with everyone we know.
Imagine a married couple on the rocks. They’ve been together for years. They started deeply in love but their time together has exposed cracks and flaws in each other’s surface. They bicker over increasingly petty things and, eventually, divorce over “irreconcilable differences.” The real reason? That sense of mystery has vanished. Time together will inevitably bring up those facets of our personality we suppress in social situations. Those that have vowed to love us ’til death soon cannot stand to be around us. Remove that (admittedly tenuous) commitment and dismissing friends on the slightest grounds becomes easy.
People often don’t use these sites to see what their friends are up to, however. They’re perceived as a digital soapbox, a place to spew your opinions about anything and everything to a captive audience. There’s little room for conversation. If someone disagrees with my opinion, I can simply delete their comment. They are stuck, forced to digest my thoughts, thanks to the lack of social graces usually applied to real world interactions. This can easily get frustrating. Before the presidential election, you could easily see this in action. People began posting uninformed opinions at an incredible pace. There was no debate, simply lots of people yelling at each other. I can name a lot of people I lost respect for around this time. There’s nothing cool about hammering your friends with your opinions.
I understand I might look like an asshole. I understand there are options to hide people on almost every network. What difference is there, however? If I’ve reached the point where I can’t bear to look at someone’s Facebook posts ever again, I probably don’t want to see them in person. They’ve lost their cool. I know too much about them. So, I disconnect. I don’t read about what’s going on with my friends. I don’t know their opinions on politics, broken down into 140 characters. I want to see them in person, to have a good conversation. There’s just something about a meeting over a cup of coffee that can’t be digitized, the body language and inside jokes shared with a knowing smile.
That “something” is the cool.