Hidden beneath a clutter of folded papers and plastic water bottles, my phone vibrated against the desk. One buzz followed another, each sharp note never failing to make me catch my breath. I was next to my desk on the floor, comfortably molded into a red bean bag.
“Hey, can you pass me my phone?”
My roommate, sitting beside me, reached back her arm and fumbled around. Silently, she handed me my phone as we continued to watch a movie. I replied to some messages and checked my email, an obligatory habit. With a sigh, I placed my phone as far away as my left arm would reach. The incessant back and forth of messages between my friends, to me, felt rather empty. Also, the blue light was starting to hurt my eyes.
When I think about “disconnecting,” it’s so hard for me to imagine myself without my phone. I ask how I would keep myself updated with friends or contact them when I need to. In reality, these things can wait. I can wait to ask my friend how they did on their essay, and I can wait to send a funny picture to another. In English class, we discussed what it means to transcend physical distance and to truly “connect” with humanity. Through our book, we obtained the idea that isolation can help someone reconnect with society through an outsider’s perspective. In other words, the spiritual connection between people matters more than the physical distance. Our book illustrated this idea through the story of a young boy who goes up into the trees and lives the rest of his life without coming down. Although he physically separates himself, the character finds purpose in his life through friendships with others. While reading the book, it was hard for me to grasp the concept of isolation and how that may even be a good thing. Nevertheless, thinking about these ideas made me question if my distant, online communications reflected my definition of friendship at all.
A few months ago, my friend back at home had her smartphone taken away. We both felt torn, as she someone I contacted on a regular basis. As soon as I went home, I contacted her flip phone through my sister. We met up on the first day I returned, sitting in a café near my house. Talking to her, I realized that the passage of time had not torn us apart like I thought it would. Our physical distance, one that could not have been closed, did not affect our friendship at all. This was when I felt one of the deepest examples of friendship I have ever felt. We talked about what had gone on in the past few months of our lives, but more importantly, we talked to each other about the music we listened to and the ideas we thought about. It was strange that although we never messaged each other, we both developed our personalities through changes in music taste and conflicts with family and friends. Our relationship proved to me that friendship doesn’t all come from physical distance. Although it can close distances, friendship itself may come from something a little deeper. My friend and I talked for hours and hours without ever feeling like we couldn’t understand each other. I often think about the next time I will see her, but I never worry about when. I feel as though some distances are harder to spread.