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Let no hello expire: 30 day challenge

| Wednesday, December 10, 2014

I have 1,637 friends on Facebook, an immense number that falsely speaks to both the nature of my social life and general popularity. Admittedly, there are some who contribute to this digit that I’ve never formally introduced myself to; I just could not resist the chance to stalk their profile. But the vast majority of this 1,637 represents an assemblage of individuals I’ve befriended through years of schooling, summer camps and dorm parties. I can’t quite wrap my mind around the fact that I’ve encountered this many people in only two decades of life, but the number stands.

I’ve always been intrigued by Facebook’s ability to filter news feeds according to the friends users interact with the most at any given time period. Now, almost completely occupied with those from my Notre Dame network, my News Feed looks totally different than it did three years ago. It’s only once in a while that the kid who “left” high school freshman year or my bunkmate from band camp circa 2010 pop up on my homepage. Because of these social media blasts-from-the-pasts, I know he recently starred as the lead role in a theatre production of “Cats” and she just accepted a position with Google. Yet, if I saw these former peers in person, would I congratulate them on their recent successes? Moreover, if I were to run into each of my Facebook friends on any given day, how many of them would I even say hello to? I know the number would not be close to 1,637. As we move to different places and take on different stages of life, do former friendships approach an expiration date? Are hellos for a limited time only? Facebook’s news feed filtering system certainly lends itself to this idea.

It’s hard to discern the status of our relationships with those who fall between acquaintance and friend: the peers we’ve sat next to in lecture halls for a semester but never see on campus, the friends of friends we’ve shared a single meal with at the dining hall, and the dance floor make-outs that last a matter of minutes. As affiliations with these people rarely progress past mere informality, friendly exchanges are bound to expire.

Every Tuesday and Thursday on my way to DeBartolo, I get the “sup” head nod from my freshman orientation three-legged race partner. This hello is long past its due date; I have not spoken to the kid since the first week of school, don’t even remember his name. Nevertheless, in our moment of mutual recognition, I am brought back to my freshman year joys and anxieties, the absolute newness of college. In a simple hello, past sentiments and memories that have made me who I am today are momentarily renewed.

Though I have not talked to the boy who would aggressively dance to Lady Gaga at every high school homecoming, and have no idea what that “up-to-no-good-10-year-old-girl” who lived next door to us for a while is actually up to anymore, if I ever crossed paths with these people of the past I’d be eager to at least exchange a wave. Perhaps, in renewing these hellos, I could revive the memories of them that have left such great impressions. If for but a second, I’d love to recall the pure joy I felt watching this sweaty teen leave everything on the dance floor. I’d do anything to relive the time when my neighbor friend and I cut off every luscious lock of our Barbie dolls in declaration of our new tomboy status. These individuals define moments in my life I hope never expire, so why would I passively let the connection die out completely?

I’ve decided that I am going to renew one expired hello each day for 30 days, as a way to commemorate these people of the past.

I challenge you to do the same. Take the initiative to rekindle a bond that once was: initiate a wave to that peer you haven’t greeted since Microbes and Man, text a cell phone contact you haven’t used in years, spontaneously Facebook chat your high school locker buddy, send an email to your sixth grade English teacher. Don’t worry about awkward rejection — you never or rarely see these people anymore anyway so there’s really nothing to lose! Just one person a day — that’s it. I have a good feeling the results could be pretty darn cool.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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