I should know. I was a child with imaginary friends.
I might even know more about my imaginary friends, known lovingly as Johnsus and Billy, than I do about most of my connections in the social media world in which I participate.
Take Facebook, for example. I am connected to 160 “friends”, which is a relatively small number compared to many others I’ve seen, some who number in quadruple digits. If I limited that number to those who play an active role in my life, it would drop to about 60. Maybe even less.
The rest, although they are actual flesh and blood creatures, and have real lives, seem almost imaginary to me. We were schoolmates, workmates, or perhaps even neighbors and friends once upon a time, but we haven’t seen each other in years. Social media has simply made it possible for me to read about what their kids are doing, what they ate for lunch that day, and see photos of their family gatherings and vacations.
Sadly, I can say the same about Johnsus and Billy. I lost track of them more than 40 years ago now, leaving Wildwood, N.J. after a family vacation. I’ve searched for them on Facebook and LinkedIn, but without last names I came up empty. I remember realizing they weren’t in the car beside me on the drive home. When my parents said we didn’t have time to go back for them, I had to let them go and I guess that was OK.
Now, in their place, I have the imaginary world of social media.