I consider Alice one of my best friends. I first met her in Savannah nearly 16 years ago when both of us were students in SCAD‘s Rising Star program. Both of us started at college there and both of us ended up taking slightly different paths. When we first met, we kept in touch that following school year not by phone, but through letter writing. The result was a collection of letters that still give a snapshot of how much fun it was trying to figure out where to go to school and what else was going on. Now, we just catch each other on Facebook while she’s getting her second masters at Florida State… Ah, the joy of Web 2.0.
When she first moved to Jacksonville after living up in Columbia, SC, I’d head on down and hang out for the weekend as a way to escape the rat race that was “try surviving in Savannah.” Considering that I now live in Birmingham and that drive isn’t as simple to get to Tallahassee (much less Jacksonville) it’s a lot to even think about driving (forget the cost of the trip in gas money); not to mention the fact it had become harder to catch up by phone. Enter Facebook.
Alice is one of several friends that I’ve been able to talk with on a somewhat regular basis online. I do use Twitter, still have my AIM account and I’ll even answer a Gmail message, but Facebook has become a really great tool (not counting my pending return to Skype). I’m a believer in Facebook making it easier to stay in touch with close friends and helping me become better friends with folks that may have just been acquaintances otherwise.
It may be a great way to make new friends for some, though I haven’t had that experience with it yet. I’ve found it most helpful now; I’ll say that while I know a great many people here in Birmingham, most of my closest friends still live outside of Alabama. The recent stress surrounding the future of The Terminal and the ongoing look at a return to the world of economic development has been eased by conversations online. It’s actually made me realize a lot of things about trust and friendship that I wasn’t quite sure about before. It’s great to have the web make the world smaller; it’s even more fun when it brings close friends into your living room when you need them most.
Things aren’t perfect though. We can save photos and pick out our favorite tunes, throw sheep and play games in a virtual room, but it still doesn’t replace the ability to see someone face to face. I won’t necessarily be able to look back at a set of screens with the same ability to remember that a stack of letters or actual adventures provide.
I still hope to see some of them soon, but the fact that I can still talk to them in some form is a great comforter. So we’ll probably finish that game of Scrabble online this week and start another one while talking about The Pixies. While it’s not a chance to hang out with her or Ed in Jacksonville, it’s close enough for now.