Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Disconnected



I watched two couples sitting directly across from me at different tables while dining out in Aix. The first was quite young, very hip. Each held their Blackberry in hand and texted away while waiting for their food to come, at times giggling separately over some funny exchange they were having. The other couple, perhaps in their forties with a young baby in a stroller at their side, sat staring off in to space, the man with a slight lift to his chin as if to say that he was literally above it all, the woman slightly slumped and gazing at a far away point on the cobblestones. "They must be fighting, "I thought to myself. But no, I realized as the meal progressed, that was just how they behaved together as when they did speak they were quite amiable. Two couples, both together and yet completely disconnected. 

Is it just a symptom of our current culture? To be connected virtually en permanence (and by that I mean cell phones, the internet, the whole shebang) as well in the life where we live and breathe. We are carrying around two worlds on our shoulders and even Atlas would have had to struggle under the weight. 

How many blogs do we follow? How many comments do we leave? How do I feel about the activity or lack of it on my own blog? These are certainly questions that I never thought about until a year ago and as I actually have the luxury of time at this phase in my life they are not usually pressing ones. But I wonder for others, are choices made? It is certainly simpler, more accessible to keep up our online friendships. I am frequently delightfully surprised by the generosity of spirit that I see on blogs, including on my own. Is it becoming easier for us, in this day and age, to open ourselves up to people that aren't actually there in front of us? Not that my sentiments aren't genuine in the virtual world (far from it) but I do rush the process of getting to know someone (assumptions abound and I have found myself guilty of making them as well). I can run leaping with open arms in a manner that would be impossible in face to face time.

Conversely, I feel that the traditional idea of friendship is pulling back on itself, like the exposed belly of a snail that has been touched by a pinkie finger. Granted that could just be my age. In France, couples in their forties tend to get together only with other couples who have children the same age, which seems less about friendship and more a communal baby-sitting. Again, a matter of convenience. I have come to see that what can pass for friendship today is at times an extended, more sociable form of acquaintance. 

If you give of yourself, you give freely but it currently seems that often, not always, the receiver of those affections, efforts, what have you, no longer feels the need or impetus to return said energy even in the smallest way. It is now socially acceptable just to take and I can't help but think it is linked to the same disconnection mentioned earlier. Tightly wrapped, each in our own bubble. Do we value each other less now? And the importance of shared experience? I know that personally, my interactions as of late have left me disappointed and yet have increased my need to feel liked (my own juggernaut). Remi and I have had some good conversations about all of this and what we actually need from relationships at this point in our lives. Less is more and quality is the divider of the equation.

Does it just come down to time, finally? This shift? One of the many reasons that I cancelled my Facebook account was that I was tired of living off of the scraps of friend's lives. Anecdotes do not a friendship make in my book. I see repeatedly on blogs throughout the internet that people feel like they are desperate for more time but where has their time gone? Is it just due to additional work hours? I am asking genuinely (so no attacking please), from the point of view of someone who has admitted to having time because I see that in France people do actually have free time but not necessarily the desire to share it. Either way, this vacuum has to have an effect on the definition or even the possibility of true friendships. Has technology filled the gap? Are we creating a virtual experience that is impossibly more appealing than reality?

I know that I am asking many questions but I have a few more: do you feel that you have as many close friends as you used to? Are you spending as much "face time" with them? For those of you that have teenage children, do you see them connecting with their peers and constructing lasting relationships? 

My Mom was having trouble with her phone the other day and despite repeated attempts, we soon understood that conversation that day would be impossible. She could hear me but I could not hear her and so I was left to tell her that I love her before saying, "Good-bye" in the void. She sent me an email a few minutes later, a quick reply to say that she loves me too.


27 comments:

  1. Hello Heather:
    Quite uncannily,we can identify readily with so many of the observations on life in general and friendship in particular that you pose here. Our view would be that 'disconnection'is the order of the day for most people in most situations as if it is the escape to an isolated world is more valuable than responding directly with the gamut of social interaction that makes up daily life.

    We firmly believe that friendships, relationships and even acquaintances to a degree have to be worked on in order to thrive. Whether that is by leaving comments for virtual friends,making an effort to meet and share time with people, showing an interest, keeping in touch etc. etc.without these social interactions one is left feeling less valued and, hence, less valuable.

    We have found,however, that many friendships can be a product of a time or circumstance and do not necessarily last beyond that. Situations change and friendships do not always survive.

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  2. Heather, you pose some thoughtful questions, and some that I have asked inside myself also. Bottom line, I think the shift we are seeing and experiencing is not an unhealthy one...friendships made online, although not face to face, ARE friendships. And the retreat to very selective physical/social interaction with others may just be a return to a our ancient way of surviving happily in our own space, and being delighted when we can actually see a friend's face - in person!

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  3. OH MY right on target!Iam with you every step of the way on this topic!My husband and I stopped for an ice cream on Saturday eve.It was terrible the ice cream but beside that I was sitting next to a father with two kids that had just been to a soccer game.Dad checking his phone really doing nothing cause I peeked!When instead he should have been chatting with his boys about the game , ice cream etc!I also saw this happen on Bart where a woman and her small child were sitting.Mom on her phone, daughter trying so hard to get Mom's attention!I thought to myself how sad!Scary to think how these kids today will turn out!My biggest grip is they donot know they are being rude when conducting say a bank transaction with a teller.
    I have very few friends at this time in my life.Perhaps, because as you say they werenot true friends.I cleaned house a few years ago.I found myself giving and giving and really very little in return.Almost fake friendship.As you stated when there are children involved people mingle together, but once the children have gone off it becomes a different scene!I could go on and on best stop now.
    xoxoxo

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  4. Heather I just spent ages writing a really long comment and just deleted it by accident, so frustrated am off to make a cup of tea, back soon!

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  5. Hello Heather;
    Quite a painful subject you touched. I agree that virtual friendships MAY BE friendships after all as we can find kindred spirits miles away but not around, and more and more often far away than near by.
    A sincere desire to see someone or to leave a comment should be effortless, if it calls for an effort or even a slight forcing then it's not a genuine one. If you really want to meet someone or to do something eventually you always find time to be there not only physically (and stare into space) but with your heart and soul to be fully engaged, otherwise it doesn't make any sense.
    Have you ever wondered about all those picture perfect Guest rooms, tablescaped dinner rooms or luxurious sitting areas meticulously designed with great taste and style, whom they are for?
    The Loneliness on the Net by Polish writer J.l .Wisniewski was published in 2001 and was quite popular.
    We probably are trying to live by Little Prince timeless values in heart but at the same time accept and adapt new reality and not to feel hurt by it.
    Though...It's probably a gloomy November weather...
    I'm for one always happy to meet you on your blog and send the best wishes from far away Toronto.

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  6. I think the internet and all this technology is like any new toy. Once the newness and thrill wears off, everyone will go back to the things that are ultimately sustainable and deeply nourishing, which are real friendships, made from shared experiences, shared history and mutual passions and respect.

    In the meantime, I'm so glad we have all this tech, which lets us connect with, learn from and enjoy strangers who we're likely to never meet in real life.

    As a journalist depending on magazine clients for my livelihood, the joy of writing a story and simply hitting "post" to see it published (rather than waiting two months or more) will probably always be a thrill. Which is one of the many things I love about blogging.

    But it's all about balance, which is why I'm going offline now and back to the 'real' world. Ok maybe not right now but definitely within the next 1/2 hour!!

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  7. Great topic and thanks for the extra email encouraging me to come and read. The kid thing adds such a crazy wrinkle to friendships; it is frustrating beyond belief. I have a dear friend that I enjoy so much -- she lives one mile away and has twin girls about one year younger. She's up at 8 and her girls nap 12 - 3 ; I'm up at 930, my girls nap 4 - 6. One mile! And we are totally hamstrung (?) by logistics.

    Funny, the main reason I started my blog was to feel connected. All my younger twin mom friends -- that's all they do. They blog. They arrange playdates via comments. They take pictures of their playdates and they blog about them. Seriously, for *3 years* I've turned a blind eye to it, hoping it was a silly fad, this blogging thing (I also declared that reality TV wouldn't last more than 4 years, ha ha, apparently I have zero idea of normal 'culture'). But every time we have a twin mom playdate, that's how they first connect, that is their ice breaker. "Hey, I saw that blog about the pumpkin patch, did you have fun?"

    Now, maybe I'm just old and crotchety, but, seriously, if you actually read the blog you will see that child A had fun and child B liked the hay better and mommy was happy there were no tinkling accidents. So why even bother asking? Right?

    So, as a blogless wonder, I'd wade into the twin playdate (and don't get me wrong; these women are my sisters, my life preserver, my sanity) and I'd say something like "hey, how's you dad doing?" And I'd get the answer "I blogged about it last week." Hmm. I often felt like they were offended I hadn't been following their blog. I should know better.

    I started up my little blog (and abandoned it heartily this past week with relatives in town ... ) and I'm not sure that it is connecting me more .... but!, it has reminded me how much I love to write.

    And, frankly, I also started my blog because my long-lost 1980s NYC BFF was blogging and she was always way cooler than me (and still is, in some ways, with her fancy french lifestyle and cultured people in her life who drink fine wine, discuss art and [I assume] are good at putting bodily fluids in the appropriate vessels) ... and what a lovely way for two people to, well, stay connected.

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  8. We have a thunder storm rolling in (Poor Ben is hiding under my desk) and so I am not going to risk losing a proper reply (Dash, I so feel for you and give you mega credit to even consider coming back but I would love to know what you think!). However, I would be remiss if I didn't at least give a very, very big THANK YOU to all of you who made it through that long, long post. I have much to chew on from all of your different or not so different points of view. I am so grateful for you all.

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  9. I apologise for my late reply, but no apologies needed for the length of your thoughtful and poignant blog. Technology has provided people with options, some of which are isolating and hamper interaction and genuine conversation. For the current generation, the art of conversation appears to be diminishing and their self- absorption, growing. I closed my Facebook account for the same reason as you. After being told that a Twitter account was a "must", I opened one to realise that the interactions one has are superficial. However blogging has provided me with the opportunity to connect with people who have similar interests, whom I would not otherwise have the opportunity to meet. As social animals, we need to be a part of a community, and with our busy lives, perhaps blogging provides us with an opportunity to connect with others at a time which is convenient to us…..it is 6.14 am and here I am talking to you! When people converse face to face, their eyes do not make contact when they are thinking………sometimes it is easier to ”expose ourselves” and give an opinion when looking at a computer screen. True friends are rare gifts to be treasured and nurtured. They may change as we change. Perhaps we have fewer friends and more acquaintances, as we get older because we require deeper or different relationships with our friends as we gain more life experiences.

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  10. Hello Heather - this is such a fascinating conversation that I will be back later to add to it. I have a project meeting in a few hours and have to get my head around that, so do not dare stray my thoughts too far on this topic or I shan't make it to the meeting! Till then, know that our friendship is much valued even if we have never met face to face. Instead, we have met soul to soul. Virginia xx

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  11. Isn't that true Virginia. Hit the nail right on the head, as usual. Sending you good energy for your project meeting, friend. The storm has passed without too much thunder after all. What incredible comments are here. Yes, I have been thinking so much lately about certain relationships being for certain phases of our lives as both Elizabeth and Jane and Lance have mentioned--I danced around that subject in my post "Traces", albeit uncomfortbaly. Jane and Lance and Nathalie both touch on the allure of escapism as a possibility as well. Julie, I don't know if things will every go back--do they ever? I think this will just be a part of our vocabulary now but I really do hope that we can stop using the term "blog friend". I thought it interesting that in your definition of a real friendship, only "shared experiences" did not apply to online communications and even that sometimes seems to not be the case. As Elizabeth also felt, how incredible is it that we can somehow, like sifting for gold, find like-minded souls on the other side of the planet, or even in a town next door because of this? It is wonderful beyond belief. Just as it is quality not quantity that counts, right Contessa? And if we reconnect with a dear, greatly appreciated once lost friend than that is just the icing on the cake, isn't it? Yes, we all do need to feel valued, Jane and Lance and perhaps Linda, virtual interactions will help at some point to turn the tide and make us appreciate all the more those that are near us. It doesn't seem to be the case just yet, but perhaps you are ahead of schedule!
    Oh my, I am heading off to sleep, what dreams I will have! Again, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this, I know that it is a personal subject. Bon nuit!

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  12. It is so ironic, Heather, that a friend and I were having a conversation this morning on this exact topic. We are both inclined to have fewer friends rather than lots of acquaintances. I believe friendships require nurturing and time. I sometimes carry this too far and so I have decided to join a group of women who lunch once a week just to have more social interaction. I am surprised at how pleasant an experience it is. Sometimes a mere bagatelle is alright too.

    As one of your readers said, friendships do change over time and some do not survive the test of time...nobody's fault, but perhaps the result of a change in circumstance. I know that when my husband died, many friends we had together disappeared. I had been told that would happen, so I was not surprised, but I must admit I was disappointed. Apparently for some, a friendship that involved couples no longer worked for them when I no longer was part of a couple.

    I no longer live near most of my old, dear friends, but I don't think that matters when you can keep in touch (I prefer phone calls) and catch up. A face-to-face is not necessary for a meaningful and satisfying friendship. For that same reason, I like blogs, and I think we can establish rewarding friendships through them because we pre-select topics and people who have similar interests.

    On the other hand, too much devotion to technology can isolate us from the people sitting right in front of us. A proper balance has to be found. That is why I am no longer interested in the chatter I see on facebook. I am not moving on to twitter or tumblir or any of the other new fads. I for one do not need, nor have time for, such superficial interaction.

    Well talk about chatter, I have certainly blathered on long enough. Thanks for the interesting topic and have a great day.

    Best...Victoria

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  13. Hello, friends of Heather's! I've never written a post before so please bear with me. I am also not a blogger or professional writer.
    I read several blogs and Lost in Arles is my very favorite. There are two reasons for this. I love the pictures and descriptions of Heather's' life and I have begun to feel like Heather is an unseen and "unmet" friend. I love Heather's honesty and openness and it hurts me to think that such a lovely woman is sometimes lonely or has been disappointed in friendships. Am I right, Heather? (decided to stop referring to you in the third person!)
    As I have read all of your posts, I wonder if the different locales we live in could have a bearing on how much face to face interaction we have
    with friends. I live in Texas and according to many people I've met, Texans are an especially friendly group. I'm not sure this observation is real--well, it IS real but I also wonder if Texans might be friendlier than most but not necessarily any more giving than most. A friendly hello is not the same as calling someone to meet for lunch, etc.
    Oh dear, I've gone on way too long and have more to say--but will stop for now. I don't want to be ostracized for the length of this post!
    Best wishes to all of you, Sally

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  14. You always write the most thought provoking posts and I love it, you’ve expressed something that has been on my mind a lot lately. Just the other night mister man and I were in a restaurant and beside us two ladies, one was trying to talk to the other but the other was busy on her iphone…WHY? You have a human being in front of you fighting a machine for some attention.

    I don’t like cell phones and don’t own one but I know they have their uses. I’m only on the computer for fun like now only when the mister isn’t around or a sleep in front of the TV. I live a unique life out in the country somewhat removed from people and with the husband gone on business a lot I only have Dylan dog and he isn’t always up for a chat. The computer has helped connect me to people I would have never otherwise had the opportunity to have met in day to day, face to face life. While I love my life and don’t mind being alone I do love being with people and our quaint little town brings people of all ages together.

    As for my close friends they’re spread far and wide in different countries and cities but they’re always there for me. I have few friends but who of us has more then a handful of close people in our lives? People who have come into our lives and touched them for more then a decade. While I prefer being with people face to face that isn’t always possible because of how I’ve chosen to live so for now I have my blog.

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  15. I like your post! I only skimmed the comments, so I might be repeating others' sentiments. Friendships are tricky!! I think I have always felt "needier" than most but as I've gotten older, I have adjusted my expectations. That and maybe I've gotten less needy, and more happy with my own company! As far as face time, most of my friends here have families, so I understand that that takes precedence. And though I don't talk often to friends who live far away, when I do see them (as I did on a trip in August), it's as wonderful as ever! I have to be careful not to let my ego make up stories; once I got very worked up over a friend who rarely called me and proceeded to have a one-way "argument" - not talking to her (I'll show her!!), and she was oblivious to the whole thing! I try to remember that everyone is busy (they're not ignoring me!) and that if I want more connections with people, I try to do the reaching out. I, for one, don't mind virtual connections! I like facebook to know what people are up to, and am so happy to e-mail/facebook friends if we are too busy to talk. I think connections are connections - in face or online! One person I wish I had more face time with is my sister, who lives in France; I will admit that in that case, technology just does not cut it. : (
    Le sigh.

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  16. I have just finished reading the new responses to your blog. This is a fabulous thought provoking post that has generated a wonderful responses, the length of which indicated the quality of your post Heather. It is always a pleasure to read your blog - you write so eloquently. Warm regards.

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  17. Thank you so much Elizabeth! I think that I have read these comments at least three times now and there is still so much to take in. I am a slow thinker but a fast writer, I guess. :)

    Victorian, I am quite used to hearing about friends disappearing after a divorce but I have to say that I was shocked to hear of how you were treated after your husband's passing. I am so sorry for your loss, your losses. People's behaviour just leaves me shaking my head. I think it is fantastic that you have joined a lunch group and I am grateful for the reminder that aquaintances can bring a lot of good too. And you most certainly were not blathering in my book, your point of view is so solid and your voice clear as a bell. Thank you.

    Sally, really? You made my day, my week with your comment! I have always heard that Texans have big hearts and you are living proof of that. And yes, to answer your question, I definitely have been deeply disappointed by some very important friendships in my life--we all go through that at some point or another-- but no, I am not lonely. I have a wonderful companion, a great dog, wonderful family and am happy spending time in my own company. I do think that you are absolutely right however about how differently people connect depending on where they live. Remi and I loved visiting when my folks were in San Diego because everyone was so incredibly open and friendly! The same is true in Bali. Here--and this is one giant generalization--people are much more reserved in the beginning but once they do open up it is usually to create a lasting friendship--but that can take years! I have also written about language being a factor too. I have had a harder time making real contacts with French women because my French wasn't always easy to understand, which required an effort on both parts. Again, thank you so much for saying hello--I hope that you will more often!

    Debra, yes, I really understand. And you are so right? How many of us do have more than a handful of dear ones in our lives? I am so grateful to have my Mom and Sister and Remi. As for other old friends, like you, they are far away and I am not often in contact with them but I know they are there. It goes along with what we have chosen. And it is certainly true that we have met the most incredible people through our blogs, haven't we? And far more of a mix of people than I ever did even while living in big cities like NYC or Paris!

    Sister, you are brilliant and what you had to say about your Ego stories--ouch! Yowza! I will be thinking about that one for awhile to come. And oh it is so true, you are too far away. I miss you so much. Hopefully, soon.

    Again, a huge thank you to everyone that shared their thoughts!

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  18. In my experience, friends seem to come and go based on where I am in life. I have a good friend who shares my passion for horses and is doing a similar juggle of work, husband and horse. My husband has a close friend who has remained like a brother for years -- they were college roommates and are now in their 60s. I envy that. I'm with you on the FB thing.

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  19. I have come to realize that we live in a very different world these days and communicate via different methods, mainly different technologies. My teenage boys text, iChat and Facebook their friends rather than pick up a phone or even get together in person. Their phones are in their hands at all times and are rarely out of touch from their friends. I have come to see this is quite the norm, especially for teenagers and young adults , and have acknowledged that this is the best way to communicate with them, when not in their presence. I don't love it, but it does keep things private, if you so wish and at least they are in touch at all times. Email seems to be yesterday's snail mail and only used to send files or documents. Without a doubt, our young people have an easier time expressing themselves by means of a keyboard rather than vocalizing their thoughts. Is this a problem, possibly, but if everyone is doing it this way....you just have to adapt, I guess.

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  20. Hello Heather,
    Saw you on La Femme d'Uncertain Age, loved the photo with the dog, thought I'd stop by. Yes, I have fewer friends these day...by choice. At my age I finally realize that I'm not running for homecoming queen, so I choose my friends with great care. I prefer to have a few close friends. But I do feel disconnected sometimes...
    I worry too, that young people do not know how to engage in person at all. A co-worker tells me that her daughter broke up with a boyfriend by texting him...how unfeeling and unkind. It's awfully easy to hide behind a keyboard!

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  21. Right. Back again. Project meeting went brilliantly ~ thank you for the positive thoughts! (So exciting to walk about on the new foundations of the house, as we discussed how the build was progressing. I love this part of the building process!)

    I brought up the topic of your ponderings last night at dinner, to see what my teenage children thought, as they have grown up in an age of all these electronic devices. I told them about your observations of the couple in the restaurant. They were horrified, but agreed that it is all too often true, they have seen the same thing. They then pointed out to my husband that he was currently checking his Blackberry as we were having this conversation. Haha~! (He put it away, shame-faced.) They thought the trouble was that electronic communication is too addictive, and that we haven't yet learnt to control the addiction.

    I don't know...you have raised so many interesting points Heather!

    I do think people are far more casual, and don't seem to place as much importance on manners or thoughtfulness as we used to. Eg, people are happy to break social engagements at the last minute, which seems to be becoming acceptable, as we all seem to have busier lives. But then, on the other hand, people are now a lot more honest and open, which is a great thing. So perhaps it is a pendulum effect, as social history generally is, where we lurch from one extreme to the other. At the same time as we are all getting busier and more dependent on electronic communication, there is also a return to hand made items, to home cooked meals, to veggie gardens in every balcony or back garden. Are the two connected? I suspect so.

    And as for friendships, I have always believed there are two kinds. The first are shared experience ones, where the friendship holds as long as there is common ground (like school, uni, work colleagues, etc.) The second are those friendships where one just connects, soul to soul, and which do not require the common experience to form a bond. And the funny thing is, one can make those friendships anywhere, but only when one isn't looking. They are the wonderful friendships which just pick up where they left off, even if it has been a year or more in between seeing each other, and which grow as we grow. While the first kind just drop in, and out, of our lives as we travel along on our different chapters.

    I would love to discuss this with you over a glass of excellent red wine and good bread because we could talk for hours on the topic, I suspect! But right now I need to go and cook fish with coriander pesto because there are more exams tomorrow in this studying house! Virginia xx

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  23. That's it, Virginia. I have been dancing around something in my head, trying to make the link between the types of friendships we made when we were very young, when we were still creating ourselves and our friends (at best) were a part of that process. So what kind of gammut is there for our adult friendships? Apparently a very wide one. At what level do we want to communicate and...is our online communication "real"? I know that I want those that are in my life to be honest, caring and respectful (I am not such a casual person in many ways and politeness is important to me). I want the connections that I have made online to be the same. And they are. And so that as is real as they need to be for me. If I have the opportunity to meet some of you one day, that would be amazing but if that doesn't happen, it certainly doesn't make our interactions less worthwhile.

    As several of you have said, being able to find others not only with similar interests but perhaps (and for me more importantly) a similar understanding is such a gift. And how true that they arrive when we aren't looking--I loved that. As for those that come and go, I am realizing that I need to not be so attached to them. They are what they are and as Victoria wisely mentioned a light friendship is important too. We all need our girlfriends to go out to lunch with--we don't need to remake the world every single day! :)

    Thank you to those of you who offered up a point of view on your teenagers--I was very curious and yes, their way of being also speaks of a fluidity that I am not sure we could have imagined. Although I do see a greater appreciation for the handmade, I do not see people being more honest and open at all. Actually, on a world level I think that honesty is often used as a catch-phrase for something else, as a bit of a cover-up but that is another loooong conversation!

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  24. Hi Heather,
    I absolutely love what you wrote. So thankful someone else, along with Contessa and some other readers agree. I am knee deep in technology - not by choice so much as accident. I'm naturally organized and fell into digital asset management. Anyhow, I'm 48 and remember a kinder, gentler and more polite generation without technology; not what I see today. I have no idea where it's going, but my gut tells me it will only get worse. Living in Southern California I worry constantly what will become of me when my parents are gone. I'm so close to them. I have friends and cousins, but as you say, I put out most of the effort to stay connected and can't really count on very many people to help me if I were sick or needed help. This makes me very sad. I experimented with Facebook in the very beginning and when I noticed my cousin, who is terrible about keeping in touch with me or my parents, had over 300 friends, I thought this is simply idiotic. There were a few other things that happened to make me delete my profile of course and I've never looked back. I think tweeting is also silly (again this is my point of view). I'm on Linkedin for career purposes, but have slowly selected to not get any updates for various group discussions. Blogging takes a lot of time so thank you for taking time. I don't think I could keep up a blog. I love and value your thoughts! Thank you for the bottom of my heart. I'm hoping others might learn from this entry (especially those with children) and step slowly away from their devises and concentrate on what really matters. Human face to face conversations.

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  25. I hope I'm not too late in replying to this post, Heather. I was reading it on the iPad, while out to lunch with my husband, and didn't want to try to sign in - it can be finicky.

    We usually can be seen at various local cafes enjoying breakfast or lunch, each with our own Kindle propped up. We love to read the same books, and discuss them, though we rarely get a chance to actually read while out together. Once a discussion starts, it doesn't end until we leave.

    So while the electronics are there, they mostly go into screensaver mode, as we chat. And I try to leave my phone in the car, or at home, as that removes all temptations to check e-mail, the news, etc.

    I've lost touch with most of my friends of the past, as we've nothing in common these days. As our children have grown up, we've moved on. My husband and sister are my best friends, and with school, work, etc, I don't have time for much more than that.

    I've also become dissatisfied with the superficial acquaintance thing - it really doesn't fulfill any particular need of mine. And I doubt it helps them much either.

    I have 'met' some wonderful people online, however, and some of those I've actually been lucky enough to meet in person. They've been there for me when I really needed them, and I feel blessed to know them.

    Victoria, my mom felt the same way after my father died. However, it turned out that the couples they were friends with were going through their own trials, (early-onset Alzheimer's, divorce, cancer, etc.) and hadn't meant to exclude my mom. You just never know.

    Finally, I must thank you, Heather, for asking such a great question, and for allowing comments on your blog. I enjoy reading the responses your readers leave. Lately, I've read several postings on other blogs, with no way to respond. It leaves one wondering why they bothered to ask?

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  26. Hi Heather, I really loved this post because I have been thinking a lot lately about real life friendships and virtual ones.

    Here is the thing, I am in an odd situation but by no means unique. As you know I live in a remote part of France, I do have friends here but they are all British expatriates and all in couples and although I value the friendships I have here, I do miss my friends who are now far, far away. In the past I have had friends in couples, single friends, divorced friends, friends with children, friends without, gay friends etc. Although I am part of a couple, I do miss the closeness of friends who know me very well, it is challenging getting close to people here and also meeting people who share similar interests. I think it would be almost impossible to live here as a single person and that worries me.

    I started blogging to keep connected with the outside world and to fill a cultural gap, that I felt was missing from my life here. What I had not bargained for was all the wonderful, supportive people I have met through the blogging process, some of whom I have now met and have gone from being valued virtual friends to valued real ones.

    I have loved reading all the thoughtful comments here and especially resonate with Jane and Lance's comment. Friendships like all relationships need to be worked on and we all need to feel valued and value others.

    That was a long cup of tea wasn't it!
    XXX

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  27. Sue and Lilly, thank you for your thoughts--it has been so interesting to hear so many different points of view. And I would just add that Lilly, so many people have those same fears, I would just try to reassure you that we are not as alone as we think we are...Sue, it is great to hear that you know that the friends that you have met online are there for you.

    Dash, I am so glad that you came back after your "tea"--I don't think that I would have had the will! You and I clearly have so much in common in our circumstances but also in our outlook. Every single thing that you had to say hit home with me. Like you, I previously had many different types of friends from all walks of life--I never even gave it a second thought. And yes, now that has narrowed greatly. I too miss the friends that know me inside and out (although at times I am, admittedly, relieved by the lack of emotional baggage).
    One way in that we differ is that I am not involved in the expat community, having only one couple of friends that are Anglophones. I have written a bit on the language barrier that exists for me in making close French friends despite that I speak rather well now. Do you feel that to be true as well?
    I started to write this comment and then stepped away to have lunch with Remi. Something that you wrote made an important click with me in the interim. It is that I had let some very real interests of mine go to sleep because I had no one to share them with (and little direct access--for in NYC I would just go and pursue them on my own if need be). And what a shame that is. But on the internet, through blogs, I am finding people who celebrate those interests--your blog is a perfect example of that. I swear when I first saw it that it was like a sort of homecoming. Just as was finding Jane and Lance for their graciousness, Virginia for her informed openness...I could go on! I am so incredibly grateful. Yet another reminder that it is a big world with some truly incredible people in it. True, we can't just pop over for a glass of wine at the end of the day but we can connect over our love of Hurrell or old houses, what have you.

    I am going to try focusing on all the rich connections that I do have in my life, rather than dwelling on those I do not...

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