I was on a Ryanair flight which was flying from Nuremberg to London. Seated next to me was an old lady in her 70s and we started a small conversation about what we were doing in this small town in Germany. I told her I came to Germany to visit a German friend whom I met on my exchange programme 3 years ago. We went to Oktoberfest together and did some tourism in the Bavaria region.
When I asked about her, she said, “I was born here in Nuremberg. But many years ago when I was still a teenager, my family moved to Australia and I haven’t been back since then. Over the years, there were many times when I wanted to come back to see Nuremberg and my friends who were still living here but I have not found the right opportunity to do so. This year, my daughter bought me the air ticket to Europe so I am finally back here again.”
I asked her how she felt when she saw her old friends again. She said, “I am happy to see my friends again. But many of my friends are already dead. You see, we have not really kept in touch ever since I left Nuremberg…”
A polite silence descended upon us. I nodded knowingly as I did not know what to say.
In this era of hyper-connectivity, it’s hard to be out of touch with our friends. In fact, we get regular updates (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat etc) about people whom we don’t really care about. We don’t really know what exactly is going on in everyone’s lives but we know something about everyone whom we have acknowledged as a friend on Facebook. As a young adult who lives in a hyper-connected world, it is hard for me to imagine how she felt when she came back to her hometown to find that many of her friends were already dead. Perhaps a part of me feels that this would not happen to me because I would know about the major events in my friends’ lives through the digital interface. But then again, I get rather busy at times and life has its real-life obligations so it is hard to keep up with what’s going on in everyone’s lives. There are weddings that I would like to attend but I could not. I guess at the end of the day, we only have so much time, energy and resources to do a certain amount of things in our lives. Maybe what happened to the Australian lady would not happen to me in this digital age but death of friends and death of friendships will come in different forms.