I’m watching your baby grow. Every month you post a picture of your burgeoning belly, a little number pinned to your shirt to let all your audience know just how many weeks along you are now. Every once in a while, you post a selfie without makeup, reminding us all just how “real” you actually are, that morning sickness is painful and you feel swollen and can’t sleep.
When your baby is born, you take tips from the professionals – closeups of those brand new toes, tiny fingers clasped around your pinky as he dozes, exhausted from the exertion of leaving the womb. Every few days, I’m treated to new images, every milestone I hear how your little “Pumpkin” is now “Jeffery Amos” thank-you-very-much. I see sweet images of cousins playing, videos of his first babbling sounds, mommy-and-me matching outfits, and those first wobbling steps towards daddy.
I’m watching your baby grow, but if we ran into each other on the street, you may not even remember my name.
I’m watching your nomadic life. Every jaunt to a Mexican resort or weekend hike in a national park. I watch as you cheer over new camping gear and muse about which destination should be next on your list. I see a thousand sunsets over oceans and mountains, images of peeking out a tent flap or feet hanging out the back of a van door.
I read the articles you post – how to be a digital nomad, dating someone who travels, the best places to visit for your dollar. I read as you wax poetically about the delights of exploring the world, and as you create group events in every city you move to, collecting friends like souvenirs.
I’m watching your traveling life, but we never actually talk and swap stories of our lives.
I’m watching your marriage. I see your excitement as you share your engagement ring to hundreds of likes and comments. I see as you follow pages of wedding planning, and post questions to your friends about affordable venues, photographers, and caterers. After the big day, I see your name change and your picture switching every few days between you in a gorgeous gown silhouetted by the window frame, the first kiss as a married couple, and the father-daughter dance.
The pictures of the honeymoon in Fiji are soon replaced by the celebration of closing on your house. I see each room getting remodeled, and glasses of wine by the fireplace after a long day. I see you being tagged in pictures of your new home with your bible study enjoying a barbeque on your back porch in the summer.
I’m watching your marriage, but I’ve never been invited into your beautiful new home and it was before you started dating your now-husband the last time we had coffee.
I’m watching your career progress. I read the articles about the scientific advances in your field. I sense your excitement as you proudly announce the completion of your latest project, and take surveys for you as you post them and beg for help. I read your political rants regarding how the latest proposals will affect your life and the comment threads of bitter anger that follow. I admire the view from your hotel room where the latest conference is being held.
I smile at the stories you share about the people you meet. I watch as you bubble with excitement about returning to school part time to get the next level of education, as you dream about advancing and making a difference in your workplace and the world. I watch as you pose theoretical questions relating your career to a current event and appreciate your thought process.
I’m watching your career progress, but I can’t quite remember where we met.
In the age of social media, we add connections at every turn. We follow and friend and forget. Why should I go to my class reunion? I know exactly what each of my high school classmates have been doing. There’s nothing new to learn. When I run into someone I haven’t seen for five years, I’m grateful when the connection ran deeper – the traditional “what-have-you-been-up-tos” fizzles out in seconds.
We post and we share, we like and we comment, and algorithms push our voices louder and louder to people we met for an hour too long ago to remember. All our exes don’t stay in Texas – their shadows live on in the digital landscape, despite their better intentions seeing every move we make.
I’m watching your life, as you’re watching mine. But I don’t know the last time I saw your face.