16 June 2009


What becomes of missing in this hyper-connected age?  This is actually a question I've puzzled over quite a bit over the last two years or so.  Mr. Fallen lived here and I lived in the States when we were involved, and because I never asked if he had skype - it never occurred to me - our relationship was conducted through e-mails, and was thus like an epistolary relationship of old. Him I certainly missed.  I've talked to my parents via skype every two weeks while I've been here, and I've never missed them, but I wouldn't have missed them anyway (I think of them about once an hour, so they're always with me).  And, as I've once said, I miss very few people, and the friendships I had in WhereIlive were mostly not very deep, so when I left WhereIlive for here I never expected to miss the people I left behind.

But the people here are different:  I see them every day, often for quite a few hours at a time, so I've become quite attached to them, and thus when we separate there's the potential for missing.  

Now, over this past week TB went away on holiday. And I was very interested to see what happened,  because I was interested to see if I would miss someone who was away for just five days.  But one thing I forgot was that for TB, at least halfway, technology is a constant companion.  And so it was that all of a sudden at 2am on Thursday (11 hours after departure) up popped a skype message, and we had a tiny chat.  I enjoyed it, but I did think, If we chat while you're gone, how will I have a chance to miss you?  This was not enough to deter me from participating in skyping, though, so there were also random connections on Friday and last night.  And today TB came home.

You would think, and indeed I thought, that those skype talks (and one of them was quite long) would have prevented missing; I certainly didn't feel any missing over the five days (I did keep looking for TB in the canteen, but that's not missing:  that's just habit).  But when I came in for dinner tonight and saw TB at a table, I suddenly realised that there had been missing.  In fact, in a funny way that skyping had produced more missing:  I could see the voices, but it wasn't really conversing, and I guess that half-conversing had, without my realising it, made me feel the extent to which face-to-face conversation can't be replicated.

So now I know that the wonders of the digital age - the instant messages, the video conversations - don't stop the missing.  Of course, we're just animals at bottom, so naturally we want the smell of someone and the feel of their self, not just their written or spoken voice, or a moving image of them, however real-time and reactive.  

(although those things are lovely, too, and lovely in a different way, just as a conversation is differently lovely - neither better nor worse, just different - from a letter.)

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