People, Pop Culture, Technology

What it’s like when all your friends are on the internet

When you only communicate with most of your friends through the internet, you feel like what happened to Joaquin in Her is totally plausible.

Your writing skills are impeccable and you can translate the hieroglyphics coined emojis like an expert.

You think you’re more interesting because you can have long, thought out discussions but really you’re just reading Wikipedia faster than the other person.

There’s this unwritten rule about greeting each other after a certain amount of time. It’s like when you see someone in person again after 6 hours, you say hi again. But since you can always say hi to each other over the internet, when people ask you how you are, they really want to know.

Your significant other is always surprised at how many messages you receive. But they only know how many messages you receive because you don’t have any local friends and you don’t leave the house often.

Instead of inside jokes you have inside gifs.

You only share the parts of your lives you want to. But you get to see people’s lives through their eyes sometimes and that perspective can be really insightful.

Happy hour can be anywhere if you text a friend to have a drink too. Even if they’re in Sweden.

You can’t really introduce your friends to other friends by bringing them along. Instead, you reply all on group emails where you don’t know everyone. All it takes is one solid link to forge the beginnings of an internet friendship.

Internet friendships can make you more empathetic. It takes keen perception to notice when someone is being different through text.

When all of your friends are on the internet, you wish you could see them in person all the time. But you still go through things with them as if they were because they can always be there for you. They are literally in your pocket.

One day people will be collecting our emails and making them into a book as if they were letters from Socrates, Neruda or Virginia Woolf. A poem, a love letter, a touching note is still itself when it’s typed. Shakespeare asked if a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

I ask, would a word by another medium have such meaning?

And that’s what it’s like having all your friends on the internet.


Moving and meeting memorable Marys

There are a lot of memorable Marys in my life.

My mother’s name is Mary. There’s Mary Bo Peep. That Mary all those people pray to and that sometimes appears on trees.

But today I was quite fortunate to have met another memorable Mary. We only spoke on the phone 15 minutes and seven seconds but I haven’t been able to forget the things she said to me.

Mary is 63 and was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago. Around the same time, her sister was diagnosed with colon cancer.

“I am really pleased that this horrible experience with my sister and I having cancer at the same time has brought our family closer. We’re all so far apart geographically,” she told me.

It’s not often you hear the word pleased and having cancer in the same sentence. But she told me at the beginning of the interview, she has always been an optimistic person.

“I don’t really think that I’ve changed a whole lot. I’ve always been an optimistic person and I still am. You tend to value each day a little more than you used to. You get the possibility of mortality every day and that’s frightening but then you realize you can certainly still fight.”

This sort of positivity is truly impressive. And it reminded me of my cousin’s. She was the exact same way. I swear this girl would pretty much have parties to cheer her friends up about the cancer she was fighting. She basically had a “beat cancer” campaign that politicians and vegans everywhere would be jealous of.

In a year, I’ll be her age.

But she inspires me all the time. In the same way, Mary inspired me today.

I felt a bop on my head and like the lights had finally come on when Mary was talking to me about going through chemo. How she had to go through it for six months in the beginning, and then on-and-off after that. She talked about the things you realize.

“Chemo is very hard. You don’t know what tired is.”

I asked her what advice she would give to new patients. At the very end of her answer, it sounded as if her tone had changed from giving advice to new patients to just giving advice.

“And I would say, do as much physical exercise as you can do. If all you can do is walk to the mailbox, then you walk there. Because the day after that, you’ll be able to walk to the corner. And the day after that, you will be able to walk around the block, and that helps a lot with your mental outlook.”

I just moved to Riverside, California for a new job and I hadn’t written since my move. I had thought about it a lot but picking up your life and moving to a new city where you have never been and you don’t know anyone and starting a new job in the same circumstances, well. That makes a person tired. Or so I thought, until today.

I hope some Mary inspires you someday.


My Saturday and road trip to Corpus Christi with Chicano hipsters

This entire day was unreal.

I woke up in bed with a gay man and my dog. Luckily, I didn’t over sleep. I was supposed to give a class that morning and had stayed at my friend Louie’s place the night before watching bad movies and drinking wine. I gathered my things and went home to get ready for the class. I should have made coffee.

I didn’t expect many people to show up. I meant to print out flyers and put them up around town but it had slipped my mind completely. When I arrived at the library, I saw a former intern unpacking what appeared to be camera equipment.

What are you doing?

Oh hey, I don’t know if you remember me I used to intern…

Of course, I remember you. (you sat three feet away me for months)

I’m with the local station now and we’re filming these library sessions for the public channel.

Great. Because I wasn’t nervous enough. In retrospect, this was great because if no one showed up, at least there was a chance someone, somewhere would see it, even if by accident. After the class, I threatened him.

If this makes me look bad, I know where to find you now.

He laughed and said he would make it look great. I asked him if he could shop in clapping after my presentation and perhaps a glow around my entire body. He thought it was a great idea, too.

I left the library feeling incredibly accomplished for a Saturday. The local pet store was having free teeth cleaning and nail trimmings for dogs so I went to pick up Orbison. I’m pretty sure the girl who works there thinks I am the biggest freak because I always go take pictures of the gerbils and bunnies. She watches me though which makes me a bit uncomfortable but I think it’s mainly because she is kinda bored.

I feel like that dinosaur scares the crap out of him

I texted Louie when I was on my way back.

Are you alive yet?


What time are we leaving? That is, if Caro ever finds her keys.

I know! I’m looking for them but I don’t think they are here. My apartment is a wreck.

I found the keys in my car and an hour later we headed out. Louie immediately took over the music situation because Caro is an NPR addict and he just wasn’t having it.

This is not road trip playable!

We listened to an a Capella band do covers of contemporary pop songs. We had this book in the car, the name escapes me, about sex in Chicago that Louie was actually published in. I read a story from it out loud and it sounded like the gay version of 50 Shades of Grey.

This car ride still wasn’t awkward which was nice. You really take a chance signing up to be stuck in a compact space for an extended period of time with people you haven’t known that long. What if they say something really crazy and you can’t walk away from it?

What are those Jewish quinceañeras called?

Are you talking about Bar mitzvahs?


And thus, #shitcarosays was born.

We were headed to Corpus to do some shopping for tax-free weekend. Once we got into town Caro actually called someone to ask what mall we should go to. We all have iPhones.

But I guess it is really refreshing that she does this. Side note: on Sunday she discovered the cadillac of laundromats in Victoria by asking the woman at the customer care center in H-E-B what place she recommended.

Once we entered the mall, we realized we had not mentally prepared ourselves for tax-free weekend. Just passing by the food court may have been one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. There were children, preteens, pregnant woman and obese people everywhere. If I had a penny for every time I saw a teenager wearing a shirt with the words “swag” or “yolo” on it I could hire someone to burn down the factories where those shirts are made.

After the mall, we wandered around downtown. Downtown Corpus is actually pretty neat looking if you ignore all the closed store fronts and the faint smell of fish.

Louie is always talking about Caro’s “hipster nonesense.” He is the poster child for the Chicano hipster.

The day ended with the three of us spending $180 on sushi and specialty cocktails. I ate and drank things I couldn’t pronounce, judged people, talked about my feelings and my friends talked about theirs.

Why isn’t there a place like this in Victoria?

Because people wouldn’t know what to do with it. Look at us, we can’t control ourselves.

Can I live here?

Then Caro gets all Caro and says, “I want to move to Paris. I want a cat named Bernard.” #shitcarosays

The ride back was wonderful. Caro and I bonded over random tejano music. We listened to Girl in a Coma, they’re an indie band from San Antonio that does covers of Mexican pop songs. We passed through a bridge illuminated with trippy lights and rolled down the window to take photos, marveling like children do at bubbles.

I poked my feet out the window. I always find it gross when I see people do this but this evening I understood.


Why I always talk to strangers even though my parents taught me not to

He was sitting in a red, fold out chair. The kind you see parents take to school fields so they can sit and watch their kids play sports. It looked just like the one I have in my room. An American flag was draped down the wall behind him. It was as long as the green door to his apartment is tall. He had on a faded blue baseball cap and held a natty light in his hand. I almost walked passed him but remembered seeing him out of the corner of my eye the first time I walked around the complex.

He looked comfortable. The way you look when you’re in your usual spot. The giant flag didn’t shock me so much. The number of plants he had around was sort of strange. Maybe he liked to grow things. Maybe his roommate potted them.

“Say, uh, what kinda dog is that?” he said in a scratchy, typical Texan drawl.

Who could resist? I knew he was a stranger, but I sized him up quickly and figured I could take the old man if he tried anything funny. And by funny I mean one of the million scenarios my parents decided would be my possible kidnapping or murder by a stranger.

“He’s a terrier mix,” I said.

“Huh, well he’s gotta be mixed with something to have a tail like that,” he said, chuckling.

I should have told him he was half pig. My dog is kinda fat with pink, triangle ears and a curly tail. Orbison went up to him and let the man pet him. He wagged his tail, too. I think Orbison has a good judge of character.

Usually, I ask everyone their name and try to sneak a photo. I’m still kicking myself for not doing it. I guess sometimes I feel like I’m bothering people because I ask so many questions. But as I told the man to have a good night and walked away I thought, “Maybe he was just looking for someone to talk to.”

Just like I do some nights.

I’ve walked around this complex enough to know he isn’t the only one. Plenty of people sit on their porch or patio on plastic chairs, benches or stairs. They watch everyone go by. Occasionally waving at a neighbor they’ve gotten to know.

If I could meet someone new everyday, it would be my favorite part of the day. I love hearing new stories and meeting new characters. Everyone has something to show you and I’m continually fascinated by how different each person is or what you could end up having in common with someone you thought was completely different from you. This man, who has a huge flag displayed on his apartment wall, drinks half water/half beer and is probably more than twice my age, is just like me tonight.

We sit in our respective spots and admire a pig dog.

I do hope that man wasn’t lonely. And that he just likes to sit on his porch sometimes and enjoy a beer like my dad does occasionally.

But the next time I see him, I’ll certainly ask his name. Maybe even where he got his plants or that enormous flag.



What being a good friend in your twenties means

It’s hard watching your friends do things to themselves that hurt.

Once you’ve been friends with someone for so long and they’ve seen you ugly cry, lock your keys in your trunk for the third time and milk come out of your nose, it turns into something more than just friendship.

You start to actually care about this person’s well being and future. Struggling between being a mom and being a friend can be tough. Especially when you’re deciding whether you should send that late night message to TFLN or try to explain why hashtagging #tweetfromthebackofacopcarTuesday isn’t such a good idea.

For me, my twenties have always been an adventure waiting to happen. If I don’t travel now, then when? Impromptu trips to Mexico in the name of journalism. Weekend trips to sleep in the stands of a friend’s graduation because she went to yours even though neither of you slept for 48 hours prior. sorry mom. Thanksgiving in BFE, Maryland because his mom makes the best home grown cream corn. Taking home two snakes because they were free and you were pretty sure the terrariums were strong enough to keep them from eating your dog.

You get busy making new friends and seeing new places. You see the friends you made in school less and less. A phone call here, a long email there. And be lucky if you have one that uses technology. I’m not talking interwebz. I mean a cell phone. Yes, some of my friends might as well be these people.

But complaints aside. Those blue moon phone calls and random inside joke texts keep it going and remind you why these bonds are meant to be.

So what do you do when that person is about to make a significant change to his or her life that they’re incredibly excited about and you strongly doubt its success? Telling them your feelings would be comparable to telling them you ran over their puppy. You try to write out how the conversation will go but really, you know it’s all going to hell if they start crying. What if they resent you? What if you can’t say it in the right way?

What if you don’t say it and they get hurt?

Really hurt.

I’ve watched enough Lifetime movies to know what “the right thing to do” is. But reality doesn’t always respect morals. Sometimes the right thing to do doesn’t turn out well and you’re just done. The older I get the more rude awakenings come my way of how, not all things end up alright in the end. Everything’s gonna be alright is a great song. But that’s all it is. I’m not trying to be somber or negative. It’s just one of those turns life takes that isn’t so fun. But you learn from it and the next time it happens you’re not so shocked and can handle it better.

I guess I just didn’t want this to be one of those turns. I was hoping I could just hit the breaks and glide into a field of flowers where my friend and I could just frolick with ponies and margaritas or something. But I’ll prepare for a screeching halt, just in case.

Silver lining: I imagine with either outcome there will be margaritas. But I’ll try to sneak in a pony, too.


Have you checked your “Other” Facebook messages?

I feel like Facebook is turning into that awkward cousin that never outgrew the awkward and now has more body hair, so it isn’t even cute awkward anymore.

That being said, I haven’t jumped on the “I’m too cool for Facebook” bandwagon and I don’t plan on it.

But some days I’m just surprised by little things I find to dislike about it.

Like when you send people you may not actually know or who you haven’t friended yet a message. I’m a journalist so let’s pretend I’m not just stalking random people and sending them messages.

This past week I was actually trying to contact sources through Facebook messages because that’s all I had to go on.

Sometimes people are quick to get back to you because they are so connected. But you don’t always hear back and you’re left wondering why.

  • Are they just really busy and haven’t gotten to it?
  • Do they not care to respond to me?
  • Did they take too long to respond and now they feel it would be weird to?
  • Did I creep them out? (psh, of course not.)
  • Did Facebook not send my message?

Or maybe…it was sent to their “other” Facebook messages so they haven’t seen it.

Yes, if you haven’t seen it yet, there is a section under messages for messages from people who aren’t your friends.

I had missed a lot of things. Messages from readers thanking us on coverage. Messages from old friends. A lot of spam, yes. But some messages were really touching and I’m sorry I missed them.

I debated answering people. Some messages were from 2008.

I’m idealistic about the internet. I feel that social media gives us the opportunity to connect more with more people. I don’t think these connections are lessened. This may be because I’m a sharer and writer by nature. It’s probably best that I write you a really long email than stand , fidgeting in front of you for 30 minutes and never manage to spit out what I’m trying to say.

But finding this made wonder what other things were being lost in the abyss of the Internet.

Some people will be quick to call for Facebook’s end because this is another thing we’re not pleased about. But it’s a learning experience for developers just as using Facebook is a learning experience for users. In my opinion, it would be unrealistic to expect a platform to give me something so great without it costing me anything at all.

Facebook is free, and according to Mark it will always be free. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to think about how it works and play around with it a bit to really reap all of it’s benefits.

Time and time again, I hear people say they don’t use a certain website or social media platform or app because it isn’t easy and they don’t have the time to sit and figure it out. Well then don’t expect any of the benefits.

I’m not saying Facebook is this social media king, because it isn’t. We don’t know what will happen to it next year or in five years or 10. But right now it is the best way for me to talk to my family members living in other countries. It’s a search engine when Google is giving me way too much information. It’s a tool for finding entertainment and sharing content.

It’s not perfect. But neither are the developers that built it and neither am I and neither are you.

So I hope this bit helps if you’re still on The Facebook.