The value of goodbyes and social media

Several months back, I watched a play “Awakening”, or 《贾宝玉》, and a scene that affected me quite a bit was when 贾宝玉 had to say goodbye to 棋官. 贾宝玉 hugged 棋官 from behind and uttered an emotional “保重”. I could feel the weight of that goodbye – how two friends could potentially live their own respective lives without seeing each other again after that goodbye. I could also feel the love contained in that goodbye – how a person wishes that life will treat him/ her kindly in the future. In the past, goodbye is a painful, emotional event and it is one of the hardest words to say. More importantly, people missed one another in a deep way after that because they did not know what the other was up to lately.

Today, with the advent of technology and the invention of social media, such as facebook, instagram and twitter, people continue to linger on in your lives in different forms even though you may not see them in person again in your life. Goodbye is just a word to facilitate the transition of a person’s role in your life from a physical friend to a virtual friend/ acquaintance. In fact, these transitions are not hard to make considering how we tend to add people on facebook when we still have in-person contact with them. Goodbye becomes easier and hence worthless. It is easier to keep in touch with friends because of these platforms but what is the value of such friendships? When friends are a mere whatsapp/ facebook message away, do you take the time to ask and find out what are the key events in their lives lately? How deeply can you miss someone whom you can reach out to so easily (even though you may or may not do so)?

On another note, the architecture of social media is such that it portrays people’s lives and thoughts as though they are news and friends browse through their own feed as if they are reading BBC headline news to kill time. News come quickly and lack depth. Real friendships ought to involve more depth. Furthermore, the profile page function makes it so easy to find out what the other person has been doing for the last 5/ 10 years with a click of the button. I always find it awkward when people learn more about me from my profile page than from me in person. Friendships ought to be more personal.

For me, the only time when goodbye was difficult was at the end of my exchange program in Hong Kong last year. I hugged my friends from different parts of the world and held them close. I uttered “take care” from the bottom of my heart and waved goodbye to them. The geographical distance separating us coupled with our lack of activity on social media really made the goodbyes heart-felt. However, in most cases, I do not feel so emotional about goodbyes because of social media and mobile communication. Most of the time, people, including my closest friends, just phased out of my life naturally without even saying goodbye. There is no need to be dramatic when communication is so convenient today.

I was born in 1991 and I confess that like most of my friends, I begin my day by browsing through my facebook news feed. However, sometimes when I miss my friends, I stop myself from contacting them because I want to miss them. I also stop myself from looking at their profile pages to know what they have been up to lately. I want communication to not come so easily so that whenever I talk to them, I listen attentively to what they say and I treasure the information that they tell me. For me, that is how I try to keep certain friendships sacred in this age infested by social media.

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