Graduation was still fresh on our minds. New marriages were taking root, people were moving from one city to the other, and we were all staring up a ladders we were going to climb. In the midst of it all, we'd talk.
Calls happened on lunch breaks or drives home. Out of the blue on certain evenings, we'd ring one another and catch up for a half hour or so. We didn't text, we didn't email much, and we didn't snap pictures of dinner to broadcast.
"I grilled maybe the best steak of my life," you'd say to me. I could hear the sizzle in your voice. No Lo-Fi filter needed.
And then Facebook popped up. Followed by Instagram. Tapping out shorthand for what's going on quickly replaced longer conversations. Silence wasn't as awkward or as intimate when it happened in the confines of solitude rather than shared with each of us listening to the other through phone calls.
But it wasn't that text replaced voice or that images replaced story. It was that convenience replaced communication.
And it all happened when grad school programs began, once we'd figured out what it was we wanted to do and who it was we wanted to be now that we'd spent time in crappy jobs and crappy cities. Marriages grew (some ended). Circles of networks became more interconnected. Babies were born. Houses were bought and sold. Parents died. Weight was gained; hair was lost. Success and failure touched all of us and there never seemed to be a right time to call. Typing out feelings and news from the safe distance and connection of a laptop keeps me less vulnerable, less likely to offend, and less likely to be rejected. If it is distance I want, then these social networks surely provide it.
I still don't know what the right time is. After your third kid comes? When I notice you got that promotion? On your birthday, your anniversary, or your good bit of news about your team winning the big one? Should I interject into your regular everyday life when I have good news about the new company, the big break, the funny anecdote, or the amazing vacation?
Once upon a time, I didn't need a reason. And it's easy to blame Facebook or chalk this up as growing up and growing apart. But that's also lazy.
It's me. The tools haven't really changed (it's easier than ever across all these channels to get a hold of you any time I'd like). It's my understanding of connection, meaning, community, and friendship that have been artificially modified, coded and algorithm-ed as they've duped me into thinking that if we post a photo or news in 140-character bites every now and then, it's just like it's always been.
But it's never like it's always been. We each keep growing and changing, falling in and out of touch. I'll try and pick up the phone soon - to really call you. Not just to distract myself with feeds and games, keeping me connected from a distance to you and so many others.
I wonder: are all of us more connected and more lonely at the same time than ever before?
There's only one way to find out.