I have a very dear friend. We are like brothers (and nearly the same age). A while back, my friend got a very significant position at one of the leading internet companies. Not only was it a great personal opportunity for him but it also offered him the ability to do some real good in the world. I was delighted for him and proud of him. The new position has a lot of responsibility and also gave him a lot of public visibility. I knew it would impact our ability to get together to talk. We often had very long and deep conversations about life, the world and those that we loved. But I thought we would be able to keep in communication via email and occasionally get together for a walk and a talk. But this proved very difficult. He rarely answered my emails and would not follow up on my suggestions to meet. I finally wrote to him and said that while I cared a great deal for him and knew he was doing important work, I was finding it difficult to be his friend. This motivated him to get his assistant to work hard at setting up a meeting for us (not easy since I travel a lot and spend half the week in my home in Sonoma when I am in the bay area and he travels all the time too). Yesterday, we finally meet well after a year. We talked about how superficial communication has become and that there is not much of a conversation about important matters. During the conversation my friend explained to me why he did not answer my emails. It seems that my friend had move to the small screen (I mean the really small screen of a cell phone). He had a blackberry and also an iPhone. He got hundreds of messages a day and as new messages came in the older ones dropped down on his screen and soon disappeared. He had no good way to track them, and it was hard for him to reply anyway since his he has big fingers. That is when I realized that many of my friends have made this transition to mobile communications. While I do have a nice smart phone (HTC Touch), I still work from a desk with a large screen and when I travel I take a notebook with me. Call me old fashion but I would hate to be writing this blog post on a blackberry. So the good news is we can be connected to all our friends all the time provided we scroll down.
(I know who you’re talking about, and geez he hasta be so busy it makes his head spin – and I give you a pat on the back, my friend, for carrying this thru and insisting on getting together!) I have friends who similarly have gotten so busy that it’s impossible to get them thru any medium, and I have a few others who are impossibly busy but still are available. I find that if they are truly friends and we are fellow-travelers, we can eventually connect even if it may be only once every 5 to 10 (yes) years.
This thing about scrolling down is so true. I have my email set to maintain the last 5 days of mail visible and then let it go invisible on the theory that if I don’t get to it in 5 days it wasn’t important. Nevertheless, I have to check about once a week to see what has slipped “below the fold” and there’s always something important down there. Maybe the once-a-week-check is something we all have to do.