I met my grandmother through Facebook. I met my mom’s sister through Facebook. It was through Facebook that I also met my half sister who I did not know about. After my mom passed away, I decided to go on a digital journey around the world in search of her relatives. She never spoke of her family and lost contact with them long after she moved to Micronesia.
When I began this undemanding journey, all I needed was a laptop, Internet connection, a Facebook account and a name to search. Luckily, I had all of them. I was 14 years old at the time and I pretty much assumed that everyone had an FB account. With the pressing of buttons and scrolling through names, I found my long lost relatives. A few days later we were video chatting and getting to know the family–all through the lens of a computer screen. I was grateful to have found them, but little did I know that our relationship was nonetheless, superficial. We kept in contact every other week and eventually that all faded to once a month to almost twice each year.
When people ask me if I’ve ever met my Filipino relatives, I contemplate on what the right answer should be. I know them, that’s for sure. But, did a few messages and an hour conversation through Skype count as meeting them? I wasn’t sure.
I have 2,402 Facebook friends, 354 Instagram followers, and 2 Snapchat friends (still learning how to use Snapchat). Do I know all of them? Of course not. The friends I know through these social media sites are merely zeros and ones that increase the number of friends I have. I may know only some of them in reality and I have yet to get to know the rest. The opportunity to start a conversation with a friend is always present through social media. However, I feel like these conversations are more controlled compared to the actual real life kind.
It’s easy to craft a great message through Facebook messenger. I like how we have the time to actually “think before we speak.” If I were at a table with someone I’ve never met, I would probably be the most awkward person they’ve ever met. I’m not too good at face to face conversations. I like to rehearse what I would say in front of a mirror and through a chat box I don’t have to do that. On the other hand, the strangers I end up talking to always seem to misinterpret my messages. You see, the acronyms “LOL” or the phrase “hahaha” are words I’ve grown so used to typing in all my conversations. I don’t laugh like “hahaha” and I don’t laugh out loud. I’ve received countless replies of “What is so funny?”, and then the conversation usually ends there.
We are given so many opportunities to build new relationships, maintain others, and stay connected with the use of social media. But we are deprived of the reality that is meant to come with the package of these relationships. We know the person by the name of their profile. We have open conversations through a chat box. Our facial expressions are transformed into emojis. Our gestures are nothing but the typing of words.
Our world today has now chosen to take that digital journey towards forming relationships. Is that a good thing? I enjoy being conveniently connected to the people I love. It is how I’ve maintained my friendships. For the most part, social media has given me so much, so I guess I will continue on this tranquil digital journey across the world. I have to.