Way back in the mid-nineties, when a person could actually say they had visited every website ever created, in one day, there was a very limited number of people online, and a small number of platforms that could be considered social media. Moreover, there just were not that many people who had the time to spend online. People didn’t care if there was someone out there screaming at the rain. It didn’t mean anything.
At that point in time, I lived in a small town in South Georgia, and I had moved into a fairly nice subdivision close to the office where I worked. This led to me having close neighbors, which was both very nice and a pain in the butt. It also led to me being able to get to work in less than five minutes. But it also led to people from work dropping by after work because I had beer.
I’ve always considered the clergy to be parasitic by their very nature. They’re like people you pay to spray your house to get rid of unicorns. That opinion was not overly popular with the people who lived next door to me, seeing how their dearly beloved grandfather, who had just died, had been a preacher all his life. Repeated attempts to lure me into some social setting where I would be eased into the church caused more than a little friction.
I wonder how many people submerge into the world of the internet because it’s the only place they think they can find likeminded friends? Certainly, if your hobby is snakes then you’ll find more people in a snake group who will talk snakes with you than you’re going to find in your local diner.
Where there might have been some conversation between two people in that diner, “Hey, how are your tomatoes doing this season? Damn worms got mine before they got out of the ground good.” There’s now a feeling there isn’t anything there anyway so why bother? Why go through that awkward stage of conversation with a stranger trying to figure out if they’re a total nutcase or someone who can grow a decent tomato?
The first reaction is this is a good thing, that a person doesn’t have to wonder what another might be like, but then again, the unknown quality about someone might be good for you both. Can you navigate a conversation with someone who has no interest in tomatoes, but might have a story to tell about someone who did? There’s real work here, real tedious sifting through idle talk, but isn’t that how we used to make friends with people we never met before?
Of course, now in the Time of Plague, talking to strangers in diners isn’t a possibility, and being online is a given, but I remember being in the Army, and getting new guys in the barracks who might be black, or brown, or from Chicago, or secretly gay, or just plain boring. It was a game of chance every time the door opened and someone new arrived. The net has eliminated most of that before we even hear a person’s voice. We already know everything they want to tell. But what we do not know is what they are not saying. We can’t feel the hesitation in their voices when we ask why did your marriage end, why did you leave your last job, why do you still wear that necklace he gave you, or questions that hit a soft spot, and you can see it when it does.
It’s hard to garden as an atheist. There’s a lot of faith in asking the earth to produce food. Yeah, I know, there’s a process that will work, but so much depends on luck. The God of the Rabbit’s Foot must smile upon you. Meeting people used to be like that until the net made it easier. It’s like buying tomatoes now, and there’s something lost in getting what you want when you want it, instead of having to cultivate a friendship.