Congratulations, Like Condolences, Should Be Private
I hate to borrow overused internet lingo, but nothing to me is as cringe as watching people in media tweet overwrought congratulations at each other over professional news. It’s nails-on-a-chalkboard stuff, and yet it’s like 12% of all tweets. “Big, big congrats to @SnarkDad420 on taking over as Vice Managing Copy Editor at Dipshit.com!” And the responses, if anything, are worse. “Thanks so much, @GhostOfTomChoad! Buy me a beer at Do or Dive, haha!” Kill me. Strike me dead. Flay my bones.
Here’s my little bit of advice for all of you: send neither public congratulations nor public condolences. Text, email, or (gasp) say it in person. If you don’t know the person well enough to contact them privately, you don’t know them well enough to congratulate or console them. Right? Answer this for me: if you don’t commend them or send them condolences after an event, will they notice? Will it hurt them? If yes, it matters enough to say in private, where it will always mean more. If no, then you don’t have anything to say at all. What are you accomplishing by sending congratulations to a stranger? And why should anyone not think that you’re doing it for self-interested reasons of social position and patronage?
There is a private life; there is a private self; there are private relationships. All are deeper, richer, and more indelible than their public counterparts. It was to operate in that space that you were born. The pursuit of rare but intense relationships, of real connection beyond the digital ephemera, is a beautiful agenda, and as the Zoomers age up we are watching in real time as a generation takes the world without ever having imagined such a thing. Absolutely every technology around you wants you to pursue the greatest number of meaningless, transactional relationships, from which you demand everything and into which you invest nothing. This is what capital rewards. And I’m telling you that you should resist. Stay human. Resist.
I got like twenty friends, tops. At least twelve of them I’ve known since high school or earlier. It’s more than enough. I grow old, and they stay there, off my shoulder somewhere, ambling along beside me, quiet but expectant, bearing me back back back to my darkest and truest self.