Living in England, and any other small land mass country, is very different from living in the United States. This may seem obvious, but it’s not when you think about some things. Like driving distances. I was listening to the Eleventh Hour Podcast on my way to work this morning when Chris mentioned that if he wanted to get this particular brand of pretzel nuggets he would have to drive ALL THE WAY to Ealing. Now, I don’t know how far that is for him but it’s got to be much closer for him than for me to drive to the nearest Cracker Barrel (Seattle to Wyoming) for the best chicken dumplings in the country.
And that got me thinking. Dangerous, I know. According to Google Maps, if I were to drive from the northern most point in England to the southern most, it would only take me less than 11 hours. The drive from Seattle to LA, when I go in February to attend Gallifrey One, will take me 17 hours. And that’s only traveling part way down one coast. It took me six days of 8 hour a day driving (and one 10 hour day) to move from Ft. Lauderdale, FL to Seattle, WA. 3500 miles! That’s how far away friends that I think of as family are now.
That’s what really got me thinking. If I lived in England and moved from, say, London to Manchester saying goodbye to my friends would not have been as tearful. I wouldn’t have known that most of them I would never see again. It’s much cheaper to drive a few hours so spend the weekend with a friend than it is to fly clear across the US. This country is so big that if you are a regular working class poor person moving even a few states away can mean never seeing loved ones again. Facebook and Skype are all well and good, but there is a difference between that and hugging your sister.
I made friends this past February when I went to Gally for the first time. Many who live in the area recently besieged by Hurricane Irene. I know I will see most of them again at Gally next February. And we follow each other on Facebook and Twitter. So it’s not like I’ve lost touch with them, and yet I have. In a smaller country I would be able to visit and hang out with these new friends during the year. I would be able to spend this intervening year cultivating these friendships and making them real and solid. It would only be the work of a few hours, and a couple of hundred miles, drive. But when that drive becomes a 46 hour drive at a distance of 2850 miles, those friendships have to live on faith. Faith that they will remember me when we meet again. Faith that they will still like me and enjoy my company. Faith that we still have the things in common that we did a year ago.
I know that sounds very pity-poor-me. But look at it from your own point of view. How do you know that I will remember you? How do you know that someone you met a year ago that you liked will still like you if all you’ve done is read each others posts on Facebook. In truth, the social networks are no different from writing letters thru the mail. You are no surer to get a reply one way than another. And when someone whom you will only see once or twice a year has thousands of Facebook friends, you are sure to get lost in the mix.
What I’m getting at is that those of you who live in those smaller land mass countries, like England or Israel, you should count your blessings that everywhere in your country is so close. Be thankful that you live somewhere small and that if you have to move to the other side of your country you really won’t be loosing anyone at all. A few hours so so much easier than a few days. 300 miles is nothing compared to 3000.
For all that the social networks bring the world closer, that sort of distance makes them all so far away.