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Virtually Friends

September 5, 2011

When I was growing up, as I’m sure happens for most kids, my best friend in the world lived down the street.  We saw each other often for sledding, making cookies with my grandmother, unsolicited games that involved her older brothers and wooden toy guns, and bike races around the neighborhood. When we wanted to meet up we’d call the other on the phone and say, very succinctly, “half way”?  End of conversation.  Dial tone.  No other form of communication.

This meant that within minutes we’d leave our respective homes and head down the road to meet half way between.  Crazy how this simple, archaic even, form of contact said and did it all.  No texting on the way down the street.  No photos of the neighbor’s cat taken half way between half way uploaded onto Facebook.  No Tweets regarding my rendez-vous with this friend so that all other friends could have an update of my status.  When we wanted to see each other we did.  The only thing separating us was the few minute walk down to the guy with the pool’s mailbox.

I miss this face-to-face style of friendship.  Plain.  Easy.  Real.  There was nothing “virtual”  about it.

Yes, the world has changed in the not-to-be-mentioned number of years between now and when I was having sleepovers with down-the-road friends.  Let’s face it, everyone has their own lives and my friends no longer live that close. But I still crave the human-to-human contact that I used to have as a kid.

I’m the kind of person who would rather, at least, be updated about news via telephone conversation and not Facebook status.  And on the other hand, there are certain things that I’d much rather not be informed of at all, yet which are made public via  these forms of social media.  Some “friendships” aren’t even real ones; just additions to an online profile.  And really now, do we express complete friend-to-friend honesty when creating them?  Editing and photo shopping and word choice seem to be the tricks of the trade when crafting your online personality.  In my opinion, we have begun to be so tied to our smart phones and laptops that there isn’t always a “half way” in friendships.  I create me, you create you, and we learn about each other through pixels or characters or images.

It was in this analysis of virtual friends that I was so inspired when learning of the newest addition to Times Square: meeting bowls.  Conceptualized by a Spanish design firm, they apparently rock just a bit, but provide an artistic, yet tangible, space for friendship.  Instead of texting or chatting or Twittering, why not engage in some face-to-face conversation with old or new friends.  Exercise your vocal chords and give your fingertips a needed rest.

So, o.k., I’m not practicing what I preach because here I am, communicating in the virtual world.  But I’ll put a call out to my NYC friends:  half way, in the meeting bowl.

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