Not so long ago, the best neighbors were built with a few kind words and the occasional sturdy fence, but balancing atop the modern lines of communication requires much more than a “Toodle-loo!” and a two-by-four.

Today we only face each other in the flesh after we try to Facebook or FaceTime our fellow friends. There’s always the zippy little text message, and for very close chums, we drop the vowels in our missives, causing the tiny screens to be filled with the garbled warbling that could only come from a parrot cursed with Tourette’s. We could always send a tweet via the virtual pigeon of Twitter, where each of the 140 characters counts as if we ourselves were hand-setting Gutenberg’s famed press, all to share the glories of a particularly splendid cupcake or to fume over the latest shenanigans of the Kardashians. Perhaps we’ll catch each other on Tumblr, and share the hipster delights of a ‘Game of Thrones’ themed version of Bohemian Rhapsody or the unconscionable cuteness of a kitten in black-rimmed glasses.

The topic we wish to discuss will often determine the venue for debate as well, from employment issues and our sterling resumes on LinkedIn to impossibly perfect dolphins leaping from the ocean in one graceful and life-affirming gesture, all carved from watermelons and posted on Pinterest. The purchase of a new pair of shoes requires several photos on Instagram before the deal can be done with satisfaction, then followed up with a crouton regatta across the still seas of tomato bisque, preserved forever so that we may have our lunch and eat it, too.

There are pitfalls in the plethora of communicative choices. Typing in all capital letters is akin to straining the vocal chords in a vigorous shouting match, and the sly, sarcastic wit must be festooned with an array of winks and LOLs so as to not offend the more gentle reader. Posting on each other’s Facebook pages is fine, but asking someone to live chat on the site is as intrusive as a knock on the bathroom door. Conversations of a private nature should be concealed to the back channels of direct messages on social media, or, as many of the political persuasion have discovered, should not be shared at all.

Only when we exhaust all these digital avenues do we consider the bold actions of meeting in person. But to truly shock and excite those in our dear circle, use that small computer in your palm to make an actual phone call. Telephone conversations have become so rare, they are practically on the cutting edge of social media. Imagine how big they’ll be when someone invents an app for that.