In the very old days, we talked on the phone. A lot. We fought with our parents and our siblings about phone privileges and even though we had just spent all day at school with our friends, we would need to talk to them for another two hours that evening ("Did you hear what Bobo did to Gigi??"). In the semi-old days, we e-mailed. We e-mailed about everything: the minutia of our day, those dumb but secretly enjoyable "all about me" surveys (I was never able to choose between hugs and kisses - I love them both!), amusing and not-so-amusing forwards, and Neiman Marcus cookie recipes (remember that one?). In the not-so-distant past, we MySpace'd. Remember MySpace? But that was just a place-saver for the real juggernaut, and the thing that would redefine friendships forever: Facebook. Yay! You're now friends with all your real friends, your used-to-be friends, your not really friends, and your "I couldn't pick you out of a line-up, but we went to high school together" friends.
Oh, there's also that other thing we do non-stop...texting. We used to text a little. Things like, "See ya at 6!" or "On my way!" Then we got smart phones and you can write a fucking novella on the things, so we replaced the brief text with, "I was at the mall today and saw Bobo from high school! I pretended not to see him at first, but it was unavoidable. He got fat! He's divorcing Gigi, and he works at the gas station! What a loser! LOL!" This would be followed-up by an equally lengthy reply and a couple of "OMG"s and more "LOL"s. Not long ago, this text would have merited a phone call.
OK, so this is where we are now. Facebook and texting. And e-mail, but e-mail has remained a constant, at least in my life (minus the forwards, thank God). And there's also Twitter and Google+ and other things I've never heard of, but let's focus on the big kahunas. How do these two things affect our real friendships? For example, I just had a birthday. How does one treat a friend's birthday in this new world? In the old days, it was always a phone call. Always. An e-mail was acceptable from a good, but not great, friend. Texting wasn't an option yet. Now, there are three ways to receive a birthday greeting from a friend: a phone call, text, or e-mail/IM (God forbid a dear friend *just* posts on your Facebook wall!). In my opinion, the phone call is #1, the standard by which all other forms of communication are measured, because it's so personal, so thoughtful, and so rare (unless it's your husband or mom, in my case). The phone call is even more special now because of our new aversion to talking on the phone. (I am guilty in this regard - I am not a huge phone-talker.) But is *just* a text acceptable?
I have had the gamut of experiences and there is obviously no right answer. Every friend and relationship is different. I typically follow the golden rule - I do what I would want others to do for me. But sometimes things get in the way, and 10 minutes before bed I say, "Crap! I forgot to call Gigi!" So I send her a text, which is better than a Facebook post (we've established that, right?!).
But I do believe that some of my friendships have suffered in this new world. I go for months without talking to some of my closest friends, simply because we can't be bothered to talk on the phone. I am not accusing, as I am also guilty of not picking up the phone. And worse, Facebook has eliminated the e-mail exchanges I used to have with some of my closest friends. We weren't great phone-talkers, but we would e-mail back and forth every month or so, keeping each other updated on important things in our lives. But we don't even do this anymore, let alone talk on the phone. Damn you, Facebook. (But thank goodness we know what Bobo had for dinner!)
I'm starting a movement! I'm calling us all out - let's use Facebook as a fun thing where we can share pictures, articles, and funny anecdotes, texting as a thing where we can send brief messages to inform our friends of our whereabouts, but let's pick up the phone when we have a funny story to share, or to wish our friend of 20 years a "Happy Birthday," or just to say, "Hi." Letter-writing isn't the long-lost art - it's now talking on the phone. I think I'll go Tweet that.