I just spent some time paging through Facebook for the first time in a while and realized that there are all sorts of people there that I like a lot but no longer know very well. I’m not very good at keeping up with friends, actually. I’m bad at maintaining email correspondence (though I’m far far better at email than paper correspondence), and I’m not a phone person, so I almost never pick up the phone to call my friends unless there’s business to accomplish. All of this means that if you don’t live near enough to hang out with me in person, your blog posts don’t appear in my aggregator, or your Twitter posts in my Twitter timeline, I’ll have a hard time keeping up with your life. And it’s only my own fault, I know, but it’s true.
But before I beat myself up too much over being such a passive consumer of my friends’ lives, I think there’s something about keeping up with things like Twitter or Facebook (I really must make that part of my habit!) that mimics a face-to-face relationship in a way that email and phone conversations can’t. These things allow for a constant peripheral awareness of friends’ lives, piece by piece, moment by moment, which neither requires nor benefits from coherent summary. Each post reminds you of your friend’s existence. Like water dripping into a bucket, each new post replaces whatever measure of acquaintance had evaporated since the previous post.
The more I see my friends’ status updates, the more likely I am to write them an email or call them on the phone, too. So I guess passive consumption isn’t so bad as a starting place.