There are two things that predict a level of personal loneliness in the digital age: 1.) how many times you’ve reactivated your OKCupid account, and 2.) who you invite to an event involving friends.
The latter is definitely the more pervasive, telling occurrence—since we all know OKCupid is mostly just another way to stave off boredom and maybe find some vague form of validation from internet strangers.
It feels weirdly more intimate to hold onto selecting a friend in a Facebook invite, or cc/bcc’ing on an email invite about a party. You sit and hum, wince, think, add, delete, re-add, pause, awkwardly laugh to yourself (which holds a whole slew of emotional nuances in it), and move on to the next—most likely a person you have to invite for obligatory reasons that WILL show up when that’s the opposite of what you want. But you’re a wiener, so you do it anyway! But, getting back on track, these invites, they’ret this thread that we rationalize as a connection to an acquaintance that you never quite “got there” with, or have let slip away—either reluctantly or just out of sheer scheduling conflicts. Time is never on anyone’s side. But when you’re feeling especially lonely, it’s even harder to say no to inviting those people to things. It’s a regret spiral. It’s a way of appeasing your feelings or casually winking (metaphorically) at a person in hopes they’ll respond back with a “OMG hey! I can’t make it, but how are you?! Send me a really long diatribe with details about your life so we can reexamine this friendship that we never had/had but lost/don’t really have/will hopefully turn into romance/will get us both somewhere beneficial (maybe)”-type email/FB message/text. Or better yet, that they’ll show up and in reconnecting, open up an entire new chapter in your life (romantic—literally or figuratively—or otherwise). We all know that never happens.
So why do we do this? We all have that person or group of people—be it one or eleven—that we long to connect with better, but never can or will. So why is it that sending out a superfluous invite to a gathering/event we both know they’ll never come to, feels appropriate and sometimes necessary?
It should also be noted that these people do the same in return (if it’s one-sided, well, that’s just weird, America); it’s a constant volley of back-and-forth. Intended missed connections. Friend Seeking Friend to Friend. Wink Poke Nudge. I think your twenties are filled with those lingering outliers. But still, beyond all reason, why do we care?
I wonder if these digital dances get easier in your thirties.