Wednesday, August 22, 2012

High-tech coping

When I was a child I had a recurring image of my future that scared and depressed me.

I pictured myself living alone in a high-rise apartment inside a large, impersonal city. Everyday I would get up, go to work in an office, then come home and watch TV until I fell asleep. That was all I would do until I died an anonymous, lonesome death.

I avoid writing about my personal life on here and won't go into the details, but I suffered a personal tragedy recently and really needed the support of my friends. Because I moved last year, most of my friends lived two states away.

Enter Facebook. I don't "cry wolf" with frequent self-pitying posts for my friends to see and when I shared my story, I was awash in supportive replies and direct chat messages from some people I haven't talked to in years. This lead to several phone calls which were extremely comforting and I did reasonably well.

I'm reminded of Tyler Cowen's debate with Roger Scruton titled The end of friendship: Do social media destroy human relationships? where Cowen argued that social media enhances human relationships.

For all that malarkey about the telephone driving people apart instead of bringing them together, I found technology made comfort from friends available to me beyond walking or driving range.

It's wrong to suggest that the telephone alone could have made this all possible. I got the bad news around 11 p.m. at night and it was too late to call anyone but my very closest friends. I was also able to reach a lot of people quickly, some of whom I haven't talked to in a long time. Some of the people who reached out to me were the last ones I expected to hear from and who I never would have thought to call.

Last year when I moved here I realized I was risking living a version of living my childhood fear, but social media has made that fear obsolete.

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