UNfriend Part 2

Nov 28th 2009

Francisco Hernandez is a 13-year-old boy with a form of autism called Asperger’s syndrome.  Back in October he was missing for 11 days.  FranciscoApparently Francisco got into trouble at his middle school.  Rather than go home and face his parents… he took the battery out of his cell phone and descended the steps to the New York City subway.  He spent the entire 11 days lost in the NYC subway system.

Your first thought might be “strange kid,” but if you know anything about Asperger’s Syndrome, you might understand.  The syndrome makes it difficult for him to interact socially.  As a result he found it difficult/impossible to ask for help. He mostly sat and slept, frightened, until he was found and returned to his extremely relieved parents.  For 11 days, he ate candy, drank bottled water, used the public restrooms, and sat/slept on the subway.  11 days after he descended into the bowels of the subway system a police officer found him sitting in the Coney Island station and ultimately returned him to his frantic parents.

  • – It isn’t so odd to me that Francisco ran from fear of facing his parents.  I had a daughter who ran away from home once.
  • – It isn’t so odd to me that Francisco got lost on the NYC subway system.  I lived in NY for a while, rode the subway to work.
  • – What’s odd to me is that no one ever figured out that Francisco needed a friend.

Isn’t that odd?  He sat, walked, and wandered in the midst of thousands of people for 11 days.  Nobody was curious that this 13 year old was alone.  Was there never a time in 11 days where he looked like he was in need of a bed, or a meal, or a shower?  Was there no one in 11 days who was curious about the fact that they had seen him multiple times on the same train?

Nobody had unfriended him, but nobody befriended him.

In fact, here’s my bet.  I bet there were people near him who were connecting to to others through social media.  I bet there were people who were twittering from the mobile phone, doing a status update from their iphone, or texting from their new droid.  Thousands of people around him connected to thousands of i-friends, but nobody saw someone who needed a friend.

Now — I like facebook.  I twitter — not sure if I like it yet, but I do it.  I blog and use google analytics to see how many are reading my blog and where they live.  So I’m not a social-network-phobe.

But in reality, studies show that about 55% of communication comes from what we see — body language, facial expressions, etc — about 38% comes from what we hear — tone of voice, passion, etc — and 7% of our communication comes through words — like text messages, status updates, twitters, and blogs.

Here’s what I’m hoping — I’m hoping we don’t lose 93% of what we need to know about those around us; I’m hoping we don’t lose our ability to listen to what those close to us (either in proximity or heart) are saying to us through our eyes and ears, because we are too focused on the texts of social media.

May I never miss a Francisco sitting next to me…