It’s coming to that time at university where everyone is leaving, either for the summer or in some cases for good. It certainly is a sad time and frequent farewells cause many of us to slump unsure of what the future holds for our friendships. Having already said goodbye to one house-mate, several course-mates and various friends I am no stranger to this situation but I cannot help but imagine how much worse this would have been in the past. In an ever increasingly connected world as soon as someone has left your doorstep all you have to do is grab your phone and there are any number of social networks and apps where you can find them again. Are goodbyes really the heartbreaking affair that everyone makes out? I personally think not.
I want to make it clear that I am not a heartless creature from the depths, I just think that we really don’t have it that bad. Close your eyes (metaphorically), picture yourself at university twenty years ago, now imagine that you’ve just said goodbye to all your friends and hopped on the train home. When is the next time you will be able to contact these people? What if someone does not return in September? How will you know if Jerry finally makes a move on Glenda this summer? All important questions that need answering but alas you must wait. In the past people had to call from a land-line or God forbid write a letter to stay in touch. None of this fancy shmancy instant messaging or video chats. Back in the “dark ages”, as historians call it, you couldn’t contact anyone at the push of a button (or touch of a screen). This lead to friendships that could stand the test of time and each farewell was an event. If you liked someone you had to put in the effort to know what they were doing and how they were getting on but that is not the world we live in today.
I feel like this increase in technology means that every goodbye is not as final as we like to think. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram mean that we have heavily saturated feeds that constantly keep us up to date on everyone’s lives. You may not directly contact most people but you will still have a constant stream of their daily life. At the moment I am writing this I could easily pop across to Facebook and see how any of my friends are doing. I have many people added on Facebook from primary and secondary school that I doubt I will ever meet in real life ever again but I still feel some connection to them. I can still see that “Jerry” has just gone to Spain on holiday or that “Glenda” has recently trekked 500km for charity without leaving my bedroom.
“But I only add my real friends on Facebook” I hear you cry. Bollocks, I say. If you can prove you only have your “real” friends on Facebook then pray teach me the way. I’m personally far to nosy to only keep a select number of friends. I love to snoop on old friends and enemies alike to see what they have accomplished since we parted ways. If you ask your parents who they were close friends with at university I can guarantee the number would be a fair few shy of your Facebook friend list.
In the past leaving university, or leaving school or even moving house could mean ending relationships with many people who you would never see again. This was even the case when I left primary school. Only since then have the wonders of social networks allowed me to rediscover old friends that I now see occasionally on my feed. This is nice. I enjoy seeing what people have got up to in their lives but it does leave this strange feeling that I’ve never really said a proper “goodbye” to any of them. Yes, I may never see them again, shake their hand, or share a beer but they are still there forever ingrained into my life. I do have the ability to stop this, one click and they can be gone but I find it hard to do this. Maybe it is just me but un-friending someone on Facebook feels like the final goodbye. After that I will no longer see them or know what they are doing ever again, unless I retrace my steps and then in an instant they can be back in my life.
It’s a complicated confusing topic and I wish it was simpler. When was the last time I said goodbye to someone and then completely cut ties with them. In this crazy connected world it feels like this is near impossible. Everybody is constantly posting, sharing and creating this pool of information about themselves that anyone can just dip into at any-time. Don’t get me wrong it is sad to see someone leave and not know how long until you will be reunited, it is sad to leave all your uni friends behind and it can be hard to say goodbye. I just feel that things use to be a lot simply when a farewell was the end.