(Previously nonsensically titled “Friends” in 2013.)

Now, I know what you’re thinking – that I’ve imploded under the weight of hateful tirades often irrationally directed by a self-loathing maniac on a rampage. Now the laser pointer is directed at my friends attempting to land on the runway of life… or something. Well, start crossing off your answers on the multiple choice quiz now because you’re only partially right; I am a maniac. And I don’t even own a laser pointer.

From our earliest days on this planet, humans have worked best together. The only thing better than one human mind is a group of minds working on a project. From the Pyramids of Giza to the leaning Tower of Pisa, friends – from close to indirect – simply make shit happen. The implication being that, I would obviously be silly to junk my own friends on the internet and obviously, I like my friends so I wouldn’t anyway.

Preemptive backpedalling aside, as technology continues to advance we continue to harness significant benefits in terms of being able to stay connected with one another. In one of life’s many yin-yang situations, as much as people embrace this added connectivity, equally as many others are forcibly dragged kicking and screaming into it. Not everyone wants to be reachable by voice, video or text via hundreds of different methods each day. Unless you’re truly in a rural area, or simply in an area serviced by Tony Abbott’s National Broadband Network alternative, you are almost certainly Facebook-able, Snapchat-able, Instagram-able, International Roaming-able, Email-able or simply text-able; twenty-four hours a day.

maxresdefaultLet me sum up the broadband debates for you in 1901 terms: Copper vs. Carrier Pigeon = Fibre to the Home vs. Copper.

Simply put: integrating this connectivity into everyday life has been a learning experience for everyone. From the stupid kids hosting ‘public’ parties on Facebook that go ‘viral’, to a significant other that ‘accidentally’ sent a dirty message meant specifically for you, to all of your friends as well – being networked has had a significant learning curve. Socially awkward people continue to be made or broken on the internet to this very day, and everyday more and more people are getting addicted to the glow of their smartphones.

You could even be reading this on a smartphone right now, thinking you’re doing so just because “it’s convenient”. No, you’re probably just addicted like me. If you’re anything like me, you probably wake up and lean over to check your phone, being careful not to remove the charge cable yet because you still want an active device by the end of that business day. Throwing a flat iPhone 5 through a plate glass window isn’t just an act of frustration, it’s a harsh reality of owning that damn phone (really – never buy one).

Never mind how healthy your actual social life is, if you don’t learn to ‘construct’ a carefully thought-out and deliberate online identity these days, you’re basically a nobody. Anybody who’s anyone is connected online for better or worse. So what if you were at that party on the weekend? If you aren’t tagged in a photo of it, it didn’t happen and you weren’t actually there. Why? Because the people that actually weren’t there don’t know about it. Your Facebook profile is not just a place for closet stalkers to find out what you’re doing or how you look these days – it’s your second life. The internet is a public notice board in memoriam to the drunken mess you made of yourself over the weekend, and a place for the resulting or otherwise unrelated dramas to spin out of control.

Untitled-1No amount of careful vetting and crafting can stop a friend obtaining your wayward mobile phone.

Control freaks thrive in Photoshopping and meticulously vetting each image that gets added for general consumption to varying degrees. Personally, I could give a shit. I see the construction of a second life online as a way to share more about my actual interests, rather than the newest Grumpy Cat meme. That said, golden era’ quotes and pictures from a ‘The Simpsons’ meme page have been known to occasionally make their way to my own. The consequences of posting that content are a mixed bag I guess, but I don’t really care. I’m connected because I’m interested in what my friends are doing.

I’m sure aspiring psychologist’s worldwide are mulling over absurd internet interactions for their PHD’s right now. Let’s not get into anonymous online bickering as that’s a whole other can of worms I could care less about. On that psych evaluation note though, let’s delve a little deeper. What happens when you’ve established all of these different connections, but refuse to engage them? Back in the days before Telstra’s marketshare started eroding, if you didn’t have a home telephone connected it must have been like, “Well, I guess I’ll just write you a letter”, which would eventually arrive.

For all it’s bitching and infighting, the internet is also home to lots of great in-jokes. Like this one. I could barely share that on my shameful ADSL connection…

Snail mail is still a thing but my housemates barely check the letterbox as it is. Imagine a stack of mail, but just apply that to every single networked source of messages available to you. Being online but not engaged is much worse than simply ignoring snail mail. People expect instant or near instant gratification now. The passage of time experienced by someone watching their Inbox for a reply they’re never going to get is similar to that of watching paint dry. Similarly, ignoring mobile phone calls where it blatantly identifies the caller eventually becomes mental damage for the caller; and so on and so forth.

All very fascinating, but mostly irritating – and that’s a sad fact of communication now. Back in the 80s you would have just called back later or something. Some people take lack of engagement digitally as damage to friendships. That’s sadly one of the places where the boundaries of your first and second lives can interfere with each other. Everyone needs a break sometimes and as such I’m fine with not hearing from you in while. That’s all part of my Low Maintenance Friend™ initiative.

Staying connected can be a massive balancing act when you’re trying to negotiate your first life. As long as you remember me eventually. Right?.. Hello?..

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