Sunday, December 18, 2011

My Favorite Electrons

Ancient Greeks noticed that amber attracted small objects when rubbed with fur. This is humanity's earliest recorded experience with electricity.  English scientist William Gilbert coined the term electricus to this property of attracting small objects after being rubbed. Electric and electricity are derived from the Latin ─ôlectrum which came from the Greek word (─ôlektron) for amber.

We just had one (of many) holiday parties in New York City. I always love New York, but spending time in the city during the holidays is very special. $10 for a beer seems like a bargain during the holidays, bringing new meaning to “holiday spirits”. A Martini was $21. Ho Ho Ho.

Here's what I find interesting: 99% of the people who attended this party, I consider to be my close friends. I have known many of these people for years. We have shared secrets. We have openly expressed feelings that only true friends exchange. We do what you would expect good friends to do – to speak openly - sharing the deepest of thoughts from the heart. 

And yet, I just met most of these people (live) for the very first time.

The people that I just met - I know them better than I know anyone on the planet. I have pictures of their pets. I know when their pets make a mess, or when their doggie ruins a pair of new shoes. I know where they went to school, what they do for a living.  I know everything about them, and their kids. I know their friends, and I know their friend’s friends. I know what they like, I know what they read, I know their political beliefs. I know what they think is funny and what they think is disgusting. I have seen videos of birthday parties, pictures of their cars, pictures of them in their pajamas, and now - thanks to Facebook’s new timeline feature – I can see what I missed from years ago. The statement “tell me about yourself” has taken on new meaning, in the age of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google+.

This particular holiday party was planned 100% online. It was organized and confirmed via emails, texts and postings on Facebook. Not a single phone call; just the free exchange of electrons. No hand written invitations, no cards in the postal mail, no notes, no face to face conversations. Everyone exchanged their opinions of “what we should do and where we should go” - all done remotely and virtually.  

Over time, I became very close with my virtual friends – or should I say – I became very fond of their electrons. I never met these people live; I never shook anyone’s hand, or put an arm around their shoulder, or patted them on the back. I never bought these friends a beer after a round of golf or gave them a hug when they needed my support. Oddly, I have lent them money via PayPal!  *Yeah, that was for you, Joey.

When you do meet a virtual friend in real (not simulated) life, it is amazing. Your brain replays all of the emails, texts, videos and online chats that make up your virtual friendships. It is that “life flashing before your eyes” feeling, when you see standing in front of you (in the flesh) your close, no longer virtual friends. All electrons are now fully assembled, ready for a handshake or hug.

The morning following the party, my inbox was full of new electrons from the same people that I have known for years – the same people that I just met for the first time. And now “friends of friends” have now connected with me on Facebook, or joined my blog, or sent me a text – all thanking me for our very dear and very important friendship.

What was the best part of the entire evening?

We all promised to have a reunion dinner, sometime after the New Year. A real “breaking of bread” meeting. Real life - not virtually.  No sending of electrons on our behalf; we need to show up for our (no longer just virtual) friends.

I hope that someone posts plans for the reunion dinner on

1 comment:

  1. A cool take on the digital world. I never thought of how many people's electrons I love!