Thanksgiving is about a lot of things. It can be about food or football or even about preparing for Christmas shopping. Many would call these details auxiliary to or even distracting from the true meaning of the holiday: for loved ones to gather and be thankful for all that they have. For some, this means traveling home to see your family. For many young people, this also provides an opportunity to meet up with old high school friends.
Of my high school friends, I went the furthest away when I left for college. They were able to visit each other pretty easily, and the fact that everyone besides me was on Facebook meant they were staying in better touch regardless of their proximity. I couldn’t justify spending money on plane tickets home for such a short period of time (especially since I’d be coming right back for winter break in a few weeks anyway), so I stayed at school for the Thanksgivings of both my freshman and sophomore years. I really enjoyed being on an all-but-vacant campus and getting together with the random assortment of students still there to enjoy a kind of makeshift Thanksgiving, but it didn’t really occur to me what I was missing at home. In missing those Thanksgivings at home, I had cemented myself as not just absent from the day-to-day digital lives of my friends, but also from the special-occasion, going home lives as well. This may be a bit of an exaggeration, but the fact that I felt left out remains the same. I’m no longer in regular contact with anyone I knew in high school.
This is on my mind because I am going home for Thanksgiving this year. I took extra time off of work after the weekend, mostly in order to get cheaper tickets, but I really don’t know what I’m going to do with all of that time. Maybe people will be in town? I don’t even know if I’d really recognize them at this point — they might feel more like strangers than old friends. In the time since I left high school, I have drifted apart from every single person I used to know.
It started out slowly — I actually made attempts to stay in contact with people my freshman year, and would always make plans to see people when I came home — but as time went by, I made fewer and fewer attempts to stay in touch until I wasn’t even letting people know when I was home. I didn’t so much let this happen as I did encouraged it openly — I’ve always valued that all things (including friendships) must one day come to an end. I feel it makes me value the friendships I have all the more, and allows the memories of old friendships to pick up the amber glow that only happens when we remember things that we can’t get back. I’m happy to let things go.
My girlfriend is the exact opposite. She stays in contact with everybody, as evidenced by her list of Facebook friends, which is whole orders of magnitudes longer than the average person. She likes to take photographs and videos, hoping to record her memories so they can be revisited freely. She devotes a lot of time to talking to distant friends on the phone, and is always able to come up with plans when she visits home. We talk a lot about the virtues of our respective philosophies, and while I don’t think I could ever adopt her attitude, there are certain ways that she does things that are starting to make a lot more sense to me.
This is also on my mind because I’ve very recently made contact with two people I hadn’t spoken to in years, both courtesy of this blog. I think if someone had told me that starting this blog might allow old friends to contact me a la Facebook, I probably wouldn’t ever have done it. This isn’t to say that I’m unhappy to have heard from these people, just that it kind of weirds me out to participate in something that even remotely resembles social networking. I thought I was getting a neat wooden horse of cathartic over-disclosure, but it was secretly stuffed full of opportunities for people to find and follow me. The thing is, I don’t actually mind it now that it’s happened. Because I came to blogging for nonsocial reasons, and because I’m largely reaping nonsocial benefits (at least in the social-networking sense), I don’t mind that there just happen to be social network aspects to it.
What I like most about blogging is that it allows me to express and explore thoughts and ideas. I get a lot of mileage out of just doing this for myself, but I also like that my friends can read and respond to these thoughts. It’s occasionally masturbatory, but I’m not forcing anyone to read it, and it’s all to work towards a stated goal, so I’m okay with it. The point is, I’m using this space to explore some thoughts that mean a great deal to me. If that’s all Facebook was, I wouldn’t mind it, but Facebook is more about small talk; knowing what people are doing rather than what they’re thinking and feeling. I’ve heard people say that Facebook’s superficiality — its digitizing of small-talk — allow people to cut to the good stuff in real life. Maybe that would be true if people were only in Facebook contact with the small number of friends they want to skip small talk with, but my impression is that it really just allows people to have many many more superficial reactions than if they weren’t on Facebook at all.
It’s my aversion to small talk (if I have to explain my job or living situation to one more person, I think I might go postal) that makes me reluctant to catch up with old friends. I know if I meet up with people this weekend, the majority of our conversations will be devoted to simply describing our day-to-day lives, which, no offense to your day-to-day life, is boring as hell. It’s not even that it’s boring (I’m sure I’d be kind of interested), but that it’s simply not what I want to spend my time thinking about. It’s not until you get through all that crap that you can start to talk about something interesting, and that can be hard even with people you know really well. Unfortunately, small talk is a necessary evil, and I’m going to have to deal with it if I want to talk to people while I’m home. I almost wish that stuff about Facebook cutting out the chit-chat was true.
Actually, no I don’t. For all my talk about the evils of small-talk and the profound thoughts I am free to explore here, you know what I actually devote my time to talking about? Soulja Boy and why I’m intimidated in comics shops. If I’m going to get over my poseurphobia, I have to stop pretending like my stupid subjects of conversation are better than anyone else’s stupid subjects of conversation. Everybody hates small talk, but that’s better than one person really enjoying the conversation while the other person is bored to death. I’ve got to get in there and participate like everybody else. Now I’ve just got to figure out if anyone will be around in the first place.