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Jenna-Marie Warnecke

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The False Warmth of Technology

Posted: 05/16/2012 12:46 pm

Between Skype, email, Twitter, YouTube and the blogosphere, the world today is smaller than ever before. Though I live in France, I never feel too far away from America, and my friends and family can look at my blog to see what I'm up to and video-chat me to talk about it immediately afterward. I don't feel half a world away from the people I love, because it's easy enough to get in touch with them, and for us to share our lives electronically. Yet I must admit, I have experienced a most uniquely modern kind of sadness recently upon learning very big news from two of my friends.

With one, we were IMing one day, I with a glass of wine after dinner, she from her office after lunch in New York. I asked her what was new.

"Ugh, too much to tell!" she wrote.

"Come on!" I implored her.

"There are some things I can't bring myself to say over IM," she said.

"Are you preggo?" I asked, having had this hunch about her for a few months now.

"Yes" she wrote.

"REALLY???!" I typed furiously fast.

"I AM TOTALLY PREGNANT" she wrote.

I scream-whispered out loud, a half-quiet (very refined European) squeal at my desk in Paris.

"OMG OMG OMG DARLING!!!!!" My fingers couldn't type fast enough.

"Totally silent screaming!" she wrote with a couple "Haha"s. She hadn't started telling everyone yet, so I knew that she was at her desk at work in the exact position I was in: typing maniacally, excitedly, a broad, noiseless grin on her face as news of her baby was being carried from her fingertips through the fiber optics across the world and onto my glowing screen six hours into the future.

Two weeks later, I came home from a late night out and, a couple of glasses tipsy, checked my email before bed. There was a message from my best friend in San Diego, with the simple subject line, "Jenna..."

I know this tone from her. It might be just letters, binary code illuminated onto a Mac screen, but in those letters I could hear the exact pensive, about-to-say-something-REAL sound of her voice. I opened the message.

"I'M ENGAGED!!!!!!!!!!" I read the sentence over and over again, and imagined her typing out the letters happily, holding down the Shift + 1 keys for seven seconds. My heart swelled. "I can't believe I'm telling you this over email but the world of social media has forced me to," she continued. "I didn't want you to find out from somebody else. SKYPE SESSION ASAP!"

Half-drunk, tears sprang to my eyes with happiness and excitement for my friend. I looked around my empty room, wishing for someone to share the news with. I wanted so badly to scream and jump up and down with her, holding hands, in that terrible rom-com way; I wanted to hug her tightly and look at her left hand and see her smile and cry with her. But it was 3 a.m. in France, which meant that she was at her day job in California, and she wasn't on Skype. My chest bursting with unreleasable excitement, I had never felt so far away from home, from my heart.

It doesn't usually feel like too big a deal to be living away from America and a U.S. phone number -- with Twitter, I know what's happening in New York before some New Yorkers do. With Instagram and international texting, long-distance lovers can be, in a way, together for one moment, in a moment. And video chatting lets us feel 75 percent right beside each other, seeing each other's faces, hearing each other's voices and intonations. But in big moments like these, where we should be shouting from the rooftops and high-fiving and hugging, the moment is diluted to a painfully silent, eyes-wide, mouth-agape quick typing of capital letters and exclamation points on an object on a desk.

The night I finished my first novel, I ecstatically typed the last few lines, then jumped up from my desk and raised my fists in the air victoriously. I jumped back down again and wrote my mom an email telling her in all caps to "GET ON SKYPE NOW!" Within a moment, my iPhone-toting mom's face popped up before me.

"Mom," I said. She could hear the pride in my voice. "I am now a novelist."

"Honey, that's wonderful!" she squealed. I could hear the pride in her voice too, and I could see the tears welling in her eyes. She gave me a virtual high-five, and we had a glass of wine together (so what if it was only noon in Arizona?). Before we signed off, she said quietly, "I love you," and I leaned forward and hugged my laptop screen.

For more by Jenna-Marie Warnecke, click here.

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