This past week, my next-door neighbor of about eight months moved out and to another town. She was young and (at least early on) single, and we talked frequently. Nothing too deep, but I ascertained that we had a lot in common. I wanted to get to know her better, but a combination of our conflicting schedules and my desire not to come on strong got in the way of that. Also, she met a guy. And the abrupt breaking of her lease didn't help.
We never exchanged phone numbers, social-media follows or even last names. I know her first name and where she's from — that's about it, and about what she knows of me. She said we were about the same age, but neither of us mentioned our ages (I'm sure 34 is far off for her). We promised to stay in touch, but that seems unlikely now.
That makes me sad. But in a way, it doesn't.
My Facebook friends list is littered with people I met once, for about an hour. Some of those people I've gotten to know better online, but some are just awkward to even acknowledge now. It's easy to do in this day and age — you meet someone at a party or parade, and the first time you get to your laptop or smartphone, they're your online buddy. And you never see them or talk to them again. The basis of your instant friendship fades fast. Also, you might find out they think Sarah Palin should be on the $1 bill or that they loathe the idea of books, things you didn't notice when you were bonding over beads or beer.
Pre-social media, it was easy to idealize people who came in and out of your life. You could be nostalgic about your interactions, and you could pine for the friendship or relationship that might have been. As great as it is to reconnect, it can also be the worst thing to happen to your memories. Nevertheless, in this connected age, it's virtually an imperative to fill in those gaps. We've certainly made it easy for others to do so.
Which is why I'm almost glad my now-former neighbor and I didn't swap information. We had a cordial friendship. She didn't overshare and, unusually for me, I didn't overshare. As it stands now, I'll likely never know more about her than the words we exchanged in person. She was in my life for a moment when I needed an acquaintance in a strange city (and vice versa) and moved on when her time came. It seems novel. Pure, even. In a world of excessive online branding, that's worth appreciating.
I'm still friending her if she finds me, though.