Facebook is great for reconnecting with people from your past, and shuddering at how fat they’ve become. (Until you remember how fat you’ve become.) But here’s the irony: you’re so in touch with everyone that you’re in touch with no one. With all those mundane updates from your friends—their shopping purchases, restaurant check-ins, Netflix reviews, relationship statuses, and awful political rants—why bother interacting with them? What is there to talk about, except what they’ve already posted on Facebook?
Look, we’re the final generation that will remember the world before the Internet eliminated the concept of distance. Your buddies and family members are available 24/7 on Skype and Gchat, right there on your screen, never out of digital reach. When you’re at work, you’re comforted by their simultaneous procrastination; when you have insomnia at some godforsaken hour, you’re comforted by their mutual lack of sleep, assuming they haven’t gone idle. Even if you don’t ping them for a quick convo, you could, and that’s what matters. So you feel connected, tethered. Their avatars are reassuring 48×48-pixel beacons of comfort as you stare into the unfathomable abyss of your disembodied electronic existence.
But do you actually know these people anymore? When is the last time you talked with them? Really talked? About life, the universe, and everything? Not just via instant messages and 140-character @replies and depraved sexting?
Even though we know every detail of our friends’ lives now, thanks to the “like” button and Foursquare, we know less about them. We have smartphones, but not smart phone conversations. It’s downright offensive to call people, because you’re wasting precious time they could use to play on the Internet. So here’s a much-needed primer for how to actually talk with the people closest to you:
1. Dial Their Number
Actually, just click on their name, because the only phone numbers you remember anymore are your parents’ and 911, both of which you should never call unless there is an emergency.
2. Say “Hello”
They will probably ask why you are calling, because it is such an uncommon gesture, typically reserved for when you’ve been arrested or someone has died. (Tumblr is more appropriate for death notices anyway.) Assure them everything is fine; you’d just like to “catch up,” which is something that people used to do, much like treating disease with leeches and sacrificing children to pagan deities.
3. Ask About Their Lives
This part of the conversation will be tricky. You already know what they had for breakfast that morning, and they know that you know what they had for breakfast this morning. (Don’t play coy, or you’ll insult your friend by appearing to not read his or her vital updates about breakfast.) Expect to hear “So, uh, what’s up with you?” countless times during the next few awkward minutes, and then: “Oh yeah, I guess I already asked that.”
4. Tell Them About Your Life
But omit the depressing part about how you feel alienated from everyone you’ve ever cared about; it’s just going to creep them out further.
5. Recognize When the Conversation Is Winding Down
You don’t want to extend a call beyond its natural endpoint, or else your bored/irritated friend will never answer the phone again. (And you might actually be in jail then.) The laughs will begin to get smaller, the gossip will begin to get less damning. Find a graceful exit—you have to meet someone for dinner, or your battery is low, or your bladder is about to rupture violently—and then say, “It’s been great chatting, talk soon!”
Except you won’t.