The other day, a young lady I was speaking with shared what she described as the numbing, humbling and painful awareness of her loss of a vitally important relationship. Not that the other person had gone away, but she realized they had lost “that” special place in their friends’ life. Going from #1, to somewhere down the line. Not to another human being; to another person, but to Social Media.
As I reflected on what they were saying, I realized that Social Media, (let’s call it S & M) can be the kind of friend I, or you, or this young lady can never be. S & M can do what I can’t. It is always there. Any time. Anywhere. It has the capability of never having any human emotional or intellectual needs of its own to cry over or fight about. It never gets angry. Or jealous. Or makes a mistake. Never does it need reassuring. It has no needs. It is never lonely, or sad, or depressed. It has the unrivaled ability to always be positive, uplifting, inspiring, and unconditionally loving.
People can use it to hurt me, but I can take care of that by a simple click of the “unfriend” button. I can just ‘block’ the parts that don’t tell me what I want to hear. And S & M doesn’t mind. I can develop the most special of ‘friends’ there.
S & M is like a digital dog, always happy to see me, regardless of how long I have been gone. Totally forgiving of my absence, never having to be fed, always striving to and anticipating ways to better meet my needs in real time and while I am gone. (Through algorithms, “Oh, you like to be scratched there, got it, how’s this?”).
How did she know she had lost her place with her friend? It is clear. The first thing that their friend now does, in the morning is check in with S & M. It used to be her. It is the last thing their friend does at night. It used to be her. Their friend never fails at showing up for their dates with S & M. More and more they do fail to show up for their dates. “I forgot,” or “got busy’” or “I’m tired, I’m sleepy,” she is told.
During the day, when their friend has a break, S & M is who they check in with first. It used to be her. When the two of them are together their talk is quite often interrupted by S & M. A break in their conversation? Immediately their partner reaches for their phone. When questioned or confronted the friend totally denies any of these things are true.
She said “It feels as if I have lost them to alcoholism, or drugs, or another person. I am not sure what to do now. For so long I have been in denial about what is real. If I want to know anything important or unique or special that is going on with him, I will find out on S & M first, along with all of his other followers.”
As she continued to speak, I thought, “I can totally relate to that loss.” The same thing has happened to me. I was also left to wonder how my relationship with S & M may have a similar effect on those I suggest are more important than S & M. For a while at least, that question, that awareness, and my answer, has changed me.
So now, anyone can get a digital dog. It can do things a normal dog cannot do, and it can do things human beings need to have happen for them in ways no human can. I wonder what the implications are and what the ultimate results will be.
For this young lady, and for me, I can tell you what the ultimate results are and have been. Ironically, a distancing. A knowing that I just can’t compete. A sadness. A loneliness. S & M just smiles, dings and whistles and calls to me.