This is a recent Well blog in the New York Times about the considerable benefits of talking—really talking—about the world, problems, relationships, etc. instead of that time-worn favorite, the weather. Apparently, studies do show that people who spend more time involving themselves in substantive discussions are happier than those who spread themselves thinly over the lighter fare.
Somehow, I'm not surprised by this.
About four weeks ago I left the rather sour post on Facebook that I was thinking about "getting off." Within hours, I received a shower of responses from people I'd hardly heard from in months saying, "Awwww, but we'll miss you." And the truth of the matter is that, weirdly, I kind of felt the same way. But how could that be true?
I think there was that sense that I would miss them because—and I am speaking strictly for myself here—with every Facebook "friendship" I've invited or maintained, the motive was based on this rather romantic notion of recapturing the bond I once had with that person, or of exploring what that person represents to me from my own past. That is not superficial stuff. I think this is, in part, how we end up with friends who aren't really friends. For me the idea is not to show off an astronomical number of acquaintances, but to somehow gather up the last remaining shreds of my own personal story. Those people are like the photographs that I keep in boxes and rarely look at, but when I do look at them, I realize that I would have the hardest time throwing them away. They have a value because they represent something. Me.
The flip side is that there is rarely any meaningful discourse with these people (now, mere Snapshots of Themselves). There's just that idle chatter on the Wall which is the Opposite of what I feel and want. Can I be blunt here? I hate that stuff. I mean, I engage in it, but it wastes loads of time and I always feel empty and sad and dissatisfied.
I know the writer of the aforementioned blog, and the conductors of the study, weren't looking at Facebook as much as they were looking at spoken exchange, but I think their thesis and their findings explain why I find Facebook so dreadfully saddening. It's also why, when I want to "talk" to someone, I prefer the private-messaging feature or that dinosaur of technologies, email, which reminds me of the even more protozoan personal favorite, actual letter-writing.
But the best of all, is talking. Really talking. Which is why, I also wish, every time I am posting a blog, that we were all of us miraculously reunited over a glass of wine and an endless amount of free time to let ourselves and our recent stories unfold. What do we really think? How do we really feel? What hurts, lately? What feels good? Why? And when it was all over, we'd go home thinking how good it felt to be alive, to be really connected, and to have maybe the tiniest hint of why we are all here.
(On that note, thanks to Joselin Martin for her fabulous posts on Journey Not Destination about running, being an athlete, running with MS, and the sheer persistence most things worthwhile require. It's been a joy to read, deeply satisfying. Nothing small-talky about it.)