Remember a few years—well, maybe a decade or more ago—when we started using the acronym IRL (in real life)? It seems quaint now, since so much of our lives are lived online, mediated and facilitated and sometimes complicated by our screens, but as real as can be.
Sort of. I’m writing this on my “phone” (and I did actually make a call on it today, amid the emails and texts and updates) as I’m sitting outdoors, in nature, for what feels like the first time all week. I remind myself to look up and out, not just down, but so much happens in these few square inches: Friends posting photos from their travels. Classmates organizing our reunion. Another friend's successful surgery. Smiling babies, sleeping cats, people imperiling the real world, people imploring us to act before it's too late. And you ... you are reading this on a screen right now, and I thank you.
And yet there is a world IRL, beyond the screens, the world that Cai wants to experience. One of my Facebook friends recently traveled from her home in Washington, DC, to the other Washington. She messaged me the week before, wondering if I wanted to get coffee.
I have a lot of Facebook friends, given how I’ve lived in a lot of places and had a lot of jobs in my dozen years on the site—and especially how I used it in its early years, as an organizing tool. I racked my brain and tried to remember how I’d met this person. I couldn’t recall, but from her profile, it was clear that we share some key interests and could have a good conversation--and so mindful of Cai’s vow to meet all her Facebook friends IRL, I accepted the invitation. My correspondent reminded me which of our mutual friends introduced us online a decade or so ago and confirmed that no, we had not actually met face to face.
But now we have. I passed a fine late-summer hour talking urbanism and walkability and travel with Eileen in a favorite little park in Seattle, a place I’m always eager to be sure visitors see. I won’t tell you more here, because if we are friends on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or LinkedIn, I’ll tell you once you get in touch to tell me you’re in Seattle and want to meet up IRL.
|We'll go here when we meet IRL in Seattle.|
Thank you, Eileen, for reaching out to meet when you were here. Thank you, Cai, for challenging us all to seek each other out.
A postscript: My daughter was a bridesmaid last weekend and she mentioned that everyone kept their phones put away during the ceremony. This surprised me a little--and delighted me, too. The couple hired a great photographer and let her document the event so everyone else could be fully present in the moment (though someone did crack a joke about doing a Facebook Live of it).
Natalie reported that she actually kept her phone stowed in her bag the entire wedding day, the longest time she can remember going without it except while camping. For this reason and others, I am not too worried about the Millennials. (And big congrats, Kelli and Gus.)