The generation that talks about absolutely everything- that’s life if you’re in your twenties or teens right now and you have a personal assistant in the form of a smart phone. WhatsApp, Facebook Chat, iMessage, free texts- we can talk as much as we want to because as long as the monthly phone bill keeps sliding out of our account we have access to more messaging platforms than you can shake a stick at. I have absolutely no idea what that saying means or why you would ever a) be holding a stick or b) shake it at anything, I just really wanted to use it.
I got out of the bath last night to 17 WhatsApp notifications from three friends, a text message and a notification from a group chat on Facebook to which someone had sent a gif of some bees earlier in the day that I hadn’t caught up with yet. Standard. That’s quite a lot of contact, and I’m not trying to sound mega popular because I don’t usually have that many notifications about anything, it was just a busy hour in virtual friend world.
The thing about all of the notifications and various conversations is that they weren’t really saying anything. They were just chit chat. This is what I do every day with friends. It starts with a message from someone moaning about the tube service, to which I reply, sympathise and then share a story from how bad the trains are being or how bad the person next to me smells, then it just continues, slowly, all day, talking about basically nothing but pretty much everything, just because we can.
When my phone recently started being needy and saying the storage was running out and I should delete things, I went into the settings to see what was taking up the most storage and apart from photos, it was mostly just messages. If you use WhatsApp, have you ever looked through just how much media you share with people? Endless photos accompanying messages like ‘is this dress nice?’, ‘look at this cat’ and screenshots from something hilarious or outrageous or a BBC news notification alongside that shocked face emoji that’s slightly blue.
I feel lucky that I have good enough friends that I can chat to them as much as I do about pretty much everything and anything, but all of the deleting and looking through just how many messages there are made me wonder if it’s too much. Like, I’m not going to change it and stop the conversations, because I like it this way, but it has occurred to me that there’s never any surprises. There are fewer and fewer times when a meet up with friends has me reeling with shock at something because we cover it all on the phone.
I still miss my friends who I don’t get to see much and I still hugely look forward to seeing them, but because of the constant and easy ways to get in touch at any given time, it’s not like I ever go without their company, even if it is only virtual. Maybe it would be nice to stop for a bit and grow to REALLY miss someone? There are a few friends right now who I haven’t seen in the longest time and can’t wait to finally meet up with, but snippets of their life appear on my Facebook or Twitter feed, or I have brief conversations with them through texts, so there’s not a definitive, long gap- but should there be?
Is it healthy to share everything and be able to send a photo of your lunch in 7 seconds to a friend who you haven’t had human contact or a serious conversation with in a couple of months?
Or maybe this is just a normal way of life now. Maybe the days of having catch-ups with friends where you literally haven’t had a chance to speak to or check in with them for weeks on end are over for many people.