I wrote back that I whole-heartedly agreed. While Facebook is quite amazing in terms of reconnecting us with people from our past, I question its utility day to day. I am delighted to be reconnected with high school friends -- many of whom were from outside the U.S. (our high school was primarily a boarding school and about one-third of my class were foreign students). In fact, our class has its own Facebook page in anticipation of our 50th reunion in 2013.
But I find that I rarely visit Facebook. I hate the games. I'm mortified that just because I click a "Like" button on a web page (such as the web page for the condo in Maui where Bob and I recently stayed), this information is instantly emblazoned on my Facebook page, flaunting my tastes to the (undoubtedly indifferent) world. I feel frustrated by the generic messages that close and dear friends leave there in lieu of more personal emails or letters or phone calls.
I'm truly repulsed by the latest Zuckerberg idea: the classification of Friends into "Close Friends" or "Acquaintances."
I came upon this abomination when trying to "Friend" a long-lost co-worker. I was asked to choose: which was she? Close Friend? Relative? Acquaintance? In frustration, I exited without making the Friend request. How could I even dare to think of classifying the people I know and love? Maybe I haven't seen my classmates Dora Emilia or Maria Teresa, who live in El Salvador, or Andrea, who lives in Washington state, for nearly 50 years, but there is a warmth when I read their greetings that would make me hesitate to relegate them to the ranks of Acquaintances. There is no one on my Facebook Friends list who doesn't conjure up happy memories and warm feelings, some more immediate than others, but all treasured nonetheless. They will never be classified.
But my communication peeves go beyond Facebook. I'm truly mystified by texting. I find it unwieldy. I find it scary -- especially when I see people texting when driving. I find it sad -- when I see a couple having dinner together and, instead of talking with each other, they're busy texting. Maybe they're writing private love notes. But more likely, they're texting others while they could be communicating with each other.
But commmunication styles and preferences have changed in recent years.
In a recent poll of young adults, the vast majority said that they preferred to communicate with their friends via texting rather than by talking on the phone. I can see that texting would be much more convenient than talking audibly in class. But not to hear a dear friend's voice? Maybe I'm hopelessly out of step. A former patient of mine, who now lives in Texas, vows to bring me kicking and screaming into the 21st century by texting me occasionally to say "hello." While I answer his texts with a minimum of grumbling since I really do like hearing from him, I do sigh with exasperation when I hear that "ping" on my cell phone.
In a story on NBC Nightly News recently, it was reported that the average American only gets a hand-addressed piece of personal mail once every seven weeks. Except for birthday and Christmas cards, I think I only received a hand-written piece of mail -- a note from my dear friend Mary Breiner -- once this year.
For all the satisfying immediacy of email, I miss the permanence of hand-written (or even typed) letters. I have a box of letters sent from people I love -- both living and long-dead.
From time to time, I go into the box and re-read some of them, feeling the love and connection all over again.
I hold letters from my mother when I was in college -- and remember how excited I was to get them and how she was able to express some feelings in writing that eluded her when we were together.
With my finger, I trace over the writing of a thank-you note from Aunt Molly, feeling comforted to hold something connected with her.
I re-discover, with delight, a letter from my beloved Sister Ramona, written on my high school graduation day, telling me everything she valued in me as a person and her support for my dreams for the future.
I treasure a letter from Elizabeth Swayne, my most demanding and most beloved college professor who became a close friend after I graduated. One letter, written during a time when I was experiencing a bout of depression and career doldrums, came from the soft heart of a woman who had expected and demanded so much of me. "Oh, I wish we could be together in person," she wrote. "I would love to hug you and reassure you and tell you just how special you are." And I hold it in my hands and bless the day I met her.
I find the first Valentine I ever received from a boy -- from my dearest college classmate Tim Schellhardt -- and all these years later, it still makes me smile and feel overwhelmed with gratitude at the gift of his loving friendship.
I find a wonderful letter from Barbe Schellhardt, Tim's wife of many years, who gave me the gift of some invaluable advice on the eve of my marriage to Bob and I quietly thank her once again.
I come across some letters from my friend Marie Traina, murdered when we were only 28, and am comforted by their ordinariness -- the gossip, the joking, the warmth so typical of our relationship -- and I enjoy a mini-visit with her again.
There are cards and letters from Bob, following the course of our 36-year-old relationship through the early days, courtship, marriage and the real work and pleasure of being soul mates -- and I feel incredible gratitude in our mutual love and commitment through the years.
And I come across a more recent addition to my memory box -- a printed out email from my brother, reassuring me after I had written to him expressing feelings of failure and frustration. He told me, in part, that I was truly gifted, though not always lucky, that he admired my talents and wished he were so blessed, and that he was truly proud to have me as a sister. My eyes filled with tears as I held the note from my brilliant, successful brother, knowing that his words were truly from the heart.
I keep these missives to read from time to time to replenish my spirit and reconnect with those I've lost and those still living whose love and friendship I treasure to this day.
What text could have such staying power?
Wait! The ping! Oh, no! Not a text!
Hmmm....it's a text from Mary Breiner. What??? She's texting??? No way. Mary is an even greater techno-phobe than I am! Wait...
She says a friend has driven her and her husband John from L.A. to Washington state to their daughter Katie's for a visit and now they're headed back home. She was thinking of me and would love to talk soon!
Wow. This is cool. I guess it's a pleasure to hear from anyone dear -- however they choose to communicate!