Will the circle be unbroken?
– Ada R. Habershon
My junior year of college, Katy and I were in an argument. I didn’t know it at the time. The details remain a bit sketchy, even now. I do remember a discussion of being best friends and what it meant to me compared to what it meant to her. The values we each put on the idea of best friends versus friends differed.
I’d honestly never considered how those terms might have differing meanings in my life. I certainly had paid no mind to the idea that these terms might hold deep and abiding meaning to someone else. I learned a lot from that argument. I felt parts of how I see the world shift by the end of it.
Luke and I have known one another since I was in eighth grade. We have never lived in the same town. He is one of the people I know I can call who, if need be, will have his flight booked before we hang up. Our interactions, our social networking, take place with remarkable inconsistency.
Last week, Google threw its hat into the social networking ring with the release of Google+. Each day, I’ve been receiving e-mails notifying me of my addition to this or that person’s circles. It’s restarted the 21st century game of categorizing those I know into lists or groups or circles.
“This person is connected to you,” says the site, “wouldn’t you like to cement for us exactly how y’all know each other?” (I imagine Google+ to speak to me with a folksy southern twang.)
More than a few of the conversations feeding through my Facebook, Twitter and Google+ accounts have centered around how people were organizing their circles. They wanted to import contact groups from their Gmail accounts or replicate their lists from Facebook. Now, they needed to come up with a whole new version of how they were connected. Some, I’d imagine, even split-screened their monitors to make sure the connections were the same across platforms. I’d hate for Katy and me to be best friends in Illinois, but only friends in Philadelphia.
I’ll admit to currently having a dozen circles in my account.
The whole thing began to feel like an empty version of that argument with Katy 10 years ago.
I see the meaning of grouping those to whom I am connected online. Putting all the names in one place at one time makes the collective that much more daunting. It has value on the site, but that value isn’t something I carry around with me in life. When I get the chance to share a meal with Bud, I don’t think to myself, “Bud lives in my friend circle as well as my PLN circle, I will restrict conversation accordingly.”
The best moments are when those circles break, when the people with whom I’ve forged relationships exist in the ever-shifting cloud of relativity, when how I know you isn’t a categorical imperative.