So Facebook has this nifty new feature where the "View Wall-to-Wall" used to sit. It's called "View Friendship" (take a moment to savor the unintentional poetry there).
Essentially it's a compendium of every interaction you've ever had with a Facebook contact-- every Wall post, every comment and "Like", every photo in which the two of you are tagged together. It seems to be a feature designed specifically to ellicit that sickeningly mushy "awww we've been through so much" wave of synthetic feeling that washes over you before (or without) realizing that online interaction is fleeting, inconsecuential and impersonal. Like posting a hilarious Youtube video on somebody's wall is equivalent to sharing a real-life giggle fit. Like commenting on a despondent status with a sympathetic smiley is the same as a real-life shoulder to cry on.
Indeed it would be really simple to dismiss all online interaction as nothing but typeface on a computer screen, or binary code, imitation of life. But as Rease and I sat at her Buenos Aires apartment scrolling through our Friendship Page, impishly giddy from the two bottles of cheap white wine we'd picked up and designated our own, it hit us-- or at least, it hit ME-- just how much it all meant. And how, for the great majority of our friendship, it was all we had.
I met Rease about four and a half years ago (which in itself is pretty mindblowing, to me). At the time I had pretty much adopted a Hostel in Buenos Aires as my residence as I sorted my papers out to enroll in school. Truth of the matter is, I didn't really know what I was doing. I wasn't sure why I was there, except I didn't want to go back home. I was essentially a lost soul, making fleeting friendships with random strangers from all sorts of nationalities. The kind of deep friendships you form when you meet other people who are also traveling-- strong bonds over drinks at some local bar, heartfelt goodbyes and a promise to keep in touch that would dissolve into just another hastily scribbled e-mail address in my scrapbook.
Now, Rease remembers our first actual interaction with a lot more detail than I do. All I can remember is sitting around in the Hostel living room (as I often did) and eventually starting a conversation with these two American girls. One (Rease) spoke to me about The Magnetic Fields, the other (Rachel) was a Pearl Jam fan (I distinctly remember asking her "You're a Yield person, right? You look like a Yield person"). Now, it's a wonder we even made it that far into that conversation, since apparently I was a petulant dickhead and interrupted Rease's attempt to communicate in Spanish with an exasperated "Okay, are we gonna do this in English or Spanish?". Again, I don't remember this episode very clearly but I know myself enough to know I was probably not trying to be a dick. Like every other time I've ended up making an ass out of myself, it's entirely unintentional.
I moved out of that Hostel a couple days later, not really expecting to ever see Rease or Rachel again. Before I left I gave them the URL to my blog-- a sporadically-updated mess of a Livejournal I've had for almost seven years that's mutated into a more presentable WordPress site. And thank goodness I did, because for a long time that site was our sole interaction-- Rease and Rachel would leave comments on random entries whenever they cared to know what was going on in my life.
Then along came Facebook, with its straightforward, user-friendly and hyper invasive access to every aspect of somebody's life. Suddenly the "Friendship" seemed a lot more real, a lot more tangible, a lot more... convenient. A random comment every once in a while turned into the occasional Wall post. A "poke". A picture comment. And eventually, a good three years later, a message in my Inbox proclaiming their return to Buenos Aires. Through the magic of Facebook we arranged Hostel reservations, coordinated times and places to meet. And through Facebook we said "goodbye" when they left to continue their adventure elsewhere.
That by itself was way more than I ever thought our friendship would yield, because, again, I was pretty certain I wouldn't see either of these girls again. But earlier this year I received a message from Rease telling me she's thinking of moving to Buenos Aires. That's all fine and good, except, you know, SHE'D BE MOVING TO BUENOS AIRES.
One thing you have to understand about Buenos Aires... it's a seductive mistress. Given the proper weather, you could easily spend a few days here on vacation and convince yourself it's the place to be. And you make these fantasies of spending your days living the porteño life in this enormous, beautiful metropolis which captures equal parts Paris and New York City. But then you set up residence here, and you find yourself in a torrentuous sea of people and places and HAZARDS, all around-- a tumultuous mess of political turmoil, civil unrest and bad manners. And then the beautiful Athens of South America you fell in love with reveals its face as a gap-toothed, buggley-eyed whore.
I know this. I've lived here for five years. I was able to soldier through the little pests and nuances of this city because I deeply love the things that are GOOD about it. But would this deeply-opinionated girl who doesn't eat red meat be able to withstand all the nastiness that comes with living in one of the biggest cities in South America? Also, have I mentioned she doesn't eat red meat?
But I played along. I helped her with a couple things. I looked into a few others. But only when she was physically manifested in front of me did I really believe she was going through with it. And there she stood. And here she stands now, nearly five months later, soldiering through, taking the good with the bad. In these few months she's become one of my closest friends; a fellow expat who knows the joys and pains of living far from home, a friend to hang out with on a failed weekend, a knowing ear to whine to when things don't go my way, and a seemingly eternal source of amusement for her idiosyncratic quirks.
So you can scoff at the concept of social networks. I know lots of people who do. But I know what I've gained from them to be much more valuable than the feeling of superiority you get when you smugly proclaim "oh, I don't do Facebook". I wouldn't trade it for anything.
|2006, in the hostel where we met with Ellen and some random Catamarcans.|
|2009, at Parque de la Costa theme park in Tigre with Rachel.|
|2010, celebrating Argentina's win over Mexico in the World Cup.|