Dropping a Line from China

By Beacon Staff

Almost five years ago my friend went to China to study for a semester abroad. He never came back. So I had good reason to be shocked when he randomly called me the other day and said, “Hey man, what’s going on?” I asked him a similar question. In this digital age of instant communication, it’s rare to completely lose track of the whereabouts of a friend or family member. It’s actually relieving to know that it can still happen.

Patterson didn’t disappear, as far as he was concerned. He knew exactly where he was and felt he would clue others in as was necessary. Before his most recent call, he had written me an e-mail two years ago after my grandfather passed away and called three years ago when he was bored. It’s not as if he doesn’t have access to the Web – he runs an Internet-based creative design firm. Also, Skype is always a good option. It’s just that he got a hold of me when he was ready.

I am not on MySpace or Facebook, though I’m getting closer to giving in as the years go by. But the truth is, I don’t want people to know what I’m doing at all times nor do I want to know what they’re doing. It takes a lot of the excitement away from seeing them in person. Occasional e-mails and well-timed phone calls are my preference. Many people view my communication philosophy as archaic or downright insensitive. They wonder, why doesn’t he constantly keep me up to date regarding his daily routines? And I think, you’re really not missing out on much.

With Patterson using a similar approach to mine, albeit more dramatic, we really didn’t know much about each other’s lives when we talked. So when he called, I felt a genuine exhilaration that is all too rare in this technological age. It wasn’t the obligatory chat just to make sure we’re all up to date. We actually had a lot to talk about.

Though this is an extreme example of my more traditional approach to communication, I do feel that constantly staying in touch with out-of-town friends and family members – through Facebook, chatting, daily calling and more – can dampen the experience of actually seeing them. It spoils the concept of “catching up.” That said, I’m sure a Facebook account is in my future. Hopefully I don’t abuse it.

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