I’m a pretty funny guy. Or more accurately, I try WAY too hard to be a pretty funny guy. A quick scroll through any of my social media pages reveals either a hilarious cavalcade of one-liners, badly Photoshopped pictures and homemade videos or a desperate, failed attempt at those things, depending on your comedic sensibilities.
Regardless, some people like what I do and what I share, and they show me by literally “liking” them on Facebook.
I’ve built quite a little following, to borrow Twitter terminology, of people who appreciate my posts, which is nice. Some are my closest companions. Some are old childhood friends. But many still are merely acquaintances or even people I’ve never formally met.
But there is, unfortunately, a dark underbelly to this showering of support (or at least for dramatic sake, there will be).
Recently, I was walking around campus and recognized a face in the crowd. It was one of those latter “friends” from the list above; we had met a few times in a classroom setting or at some campus event or whatever. Point is we definitely knew each other, and I’m not crazy.
This girl was, remarkably, one of the golden few who found me funny online and never failed to like a post. I returned the gesture whenever possible, which at times was rather difficult given this person’s oftentimes stupid, stupid posts, and I felt like a genuine kinship had grown between us. I was overwhelmingly OK with this person and her existence. I accepted her as a human being, and she accepted me. Or so I thought.
At our first met glance, this person was quite a ways away, and I warmed up to our inevitable interaction with a sweet half-smile. She seemed to respond with one of her own before looking down at the ground, and I knew without a doubt what was about to happen in just a few short steps: glorious acknowledgement.
I shifted my path closer to the middle lane of our foot traffic and looked away so I would catch her looking at me, rather than the other way around.
I casually yet dramatically whipped my head up, tossing my fun, sexy hair, and looked in her direction, fully expecting a big smile and a friendly “Hey,” maybe even with a little laugh tucked in at its tail if I was lucky.
At this point, I reached a minor panic. I’m a tall man with only two or three massive strides left in our greeting window, and she is now reaching into her pocket for her cell phone. So I do something I immediately regret.
I killed her.
Just playing. I quickly threw up my hand in a last ditch effort for some kind of connection. But I committed a body language cardinal sin: I didn’t commit to it. She saw my spastic hand flapping understandably as a cause for confusion and concern, and her face reflected it. As our bodies passed and backs finally faced one another, I did the only thing I could do. I blurted out “Hello” and walk-sprinted away. I’ll never know if she turned. I don’t want to know.
I’ve thought about this admittedly meaningless encounter ever since it happened. I’m no stranger to this kind of awkward non-interaction by any means, but this one stuck.
What does “friend” even mean anymore in the digital age? Are we just ghosts in the machine, doomed to float through lives and each other without ever making any lasting relationships or impressions on one another? Am I thinking about this far too much? Are you my friend? (Please be my friend.)
I don’t have the answers. What I do have is the image of an almost “friend” forever passing me by burned in my eyes and a new retweet from that same person on my news feed.