Ryan and the Technicolor Wardrobe
Short Stories and Essays

I remember bits and pieces of my last day of elementary school.  Unlike most kids’ last day of elementary school, mine was fairly melancholy since I was moving across the country in the middle of the school year opposed to graduating (or whatever the equivalent to graduating elementary school is).  All I really remember is saying goodbye to teachers and classmates I would never see or hear from again.  I know that one of my teachers wrote my new address on the chalkboard for my classmates to write down if anyone wanted to stay in contact with me.  While I was able to stay in contact with a couple of my friends from elementary school for a few months, I quickly found out that 6th graders don’t make for the most reliable of pen pals.  I had much better luck staying in touch with my best friend, Bruce, since his mom and my mom were also best friends, so we were afforded some time on the phone a couple of times a year or so when our moms would call each other.   About a year later, we were introduced to e-mail, which allowed us to talk more frequently.  Still, communication was sporadic since we couldn’t send or receive e-mails without tying up the phone lines.  It pained me that I didn’t have access to e-mail when I left elementary school to keep in touch with my friends.  I’ve always felt like technology came in to my life a step too late to help me keep in touch with people in different stages of life.

High school is an awkward time for most and it was no different for me.  I was particularly dorky and insecure so the many different aliases I created for myself when Instant Messaging probably comes as no surprise.  They are clearly a symbol of a younger me trying to figure myself out.  I wasn’t the only one that had strange online identity issues.  I had a classmate in high school that was so infatuated with a girl that he created an screen name that copied hers with an added “crazy about” before the screen name.  I found it strange then, and I think it would be considered as a form of harassment now, but he didn’t mean any harm and this was fairly new territory for all of us.  Our hi-jinks were simple and innocent.  While my friends might have created accounts to pretend they were other people, it was never to catfish anyone or to cause any real duress.  With this new technology and improved ways to connect to the internet, I figured that I would much better at keeping touch with people.

Not that I had a huge amount of friends in high school, but the attrition rate of losing touch with friends was still pretty high.  Even though I had moved only 70 miles north of where I went to high school, I lost myself in a new place with new people, leaving a lot of friendships behind.  I would end up getting a cell phone in the middle of my freshmen year, but that mostly helped me keep in touch with my people that I met on campus.  Texting wasn’t a standard option for most people and I only had a few phone numbers from people back in high school.  I would lose numbers every time I upgraded my phone, or my phone would make me delete numbers to add new ones, so I was losing touch with people in college year after year.

Facebook was introduced  to my college the year after I graduated and when it was finally introduced to the general public, I was in a serious relationship with a girl who despised social media.  She was a high school teacher and at inner city school, so a lot of her ire at social media was a product of her students going on MySpace or Facebook instead doing their homework.  At the time I had very little interest in social media, and even less interest in infuriating the girl I was dating, so I stayed away and lived life off the grid.  Once the relationship ended, I didn’t immediately start signing up for every single social media site out there, I actually stayed off the grid for another couple of years.  It wasn’t until I wanted to start a blog and perform that I finally took the plunge.

It was a little weird to join a site where most people I knew had been on it for years.  Before I could start hunting down friends, many of them had already found me.  It was a nice feeling that old friends and acquaintances were adding me within minutes of joining a site, but it was a little unsettling as well not exactly knowing how Facebook worked.  I had joined a good 5 years after most people had joined and most of the people that had found me were people I had lost contacted with.  What I found funny, is that most of these people who added me immediately, haven’t interacted with me at all since.  It reminds me of people signing a yearbook, where people you barely know are really excited to sign your yearbook, and then you don’t seem them again until the following year so they can sign your new yearbook.  It’s just a way to feel important or look impressive.

I’ve realized that I can’t handle juggling too many interactions and friendships at one time, and I would hate spending more than a handful of minutes a day replying to people.  It’s caused stress in some friendships, and there have even been some bridges burned.  It’s helped me realize that even if I had all this technology from the beginning, there’s a good chance that I would have kept in touch with roughly the same amount of people even if I was able to add everyone from my elementary school and beyond on Facebook.  It’s not that I don’t want to keep in contact with more people, it’s just a reality of growing older and having time commitments such as a full time job. As much as technology has changed, the amount of time in the day hasn’t, and I can only allocate so much for the people that are important in my life.  Until we have technology to slow down life, it’s just a reality that I’ll have to accept.

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