Friendship

I’ve been thinking about friendship a lot lately.  When I was young, I was popular enough I guess.  I had the requisite BFF and other assorted close friends.  Most of my friendships were made through school.  It stands to reason that if one is obligated to spend the better part of a year interacting with the same children on a daily basis friendships will form.

I started school at one of three small K-4 schools in town.  Some kids came and went, but there were many that were there all five years.  Then most of us went to the middle school in town and for the next four years we joined the other two elementary schools.  Again, some came and went, but mostly the population stayed the same.  Then we joined forces with a neighboring town to create a regional high school that still probably didn’t have more than about 500 kids overall.  I graduated 12th grade with kids I went to kindergarten with.

After high school, I lost touch with a lot of my classmates.  At the time it was painful.  We went to college and got jobs and we made new friends.  Without the confines of school to hold us together, the friendships fell apart.  In some cases, I was truly surprised by the end of the friendships.  I thought we’d stay friends for a little while at least.  In some cases it was a blessing.  Some friends you’re “friends” with long after you shouldn’t be and graduation is a great opportunity to make those separations.

Some friendships just slowly faded.  Some friends moved away to school and when they got back, things weren’t the same. (And, really, why would they be?)  It’s hard and it’s sad.  Sometimes I’d try to hold them together – we’d get dinner or drinks or coffee or whatever but, as they say, what’s done is done.  There’s nothing wrong with this, it just happens.  It doesn’t mean you care about the person any less, you’re just in a different place.

Enter Facebook.  Most people know that I’m on Facebook way more than a grown woman with a young child and an almost full-time job should be.  The great thing is that it’s allowed me to connect with some childhood friends with whom I’d lost touch a long time ago.  I now also have friendships with people that I was just marginally friendly with in school.  I get to hear about their families that I knew growing up, their marriages and children. I still feel connected enough to some that I feel their pain and grieve with them when they lose a loved one (even if they don’t know it).  I’ve also reconnected and revived some friendships that I never thought would come back.  I’m truly blessed to get to talk to some friends I had as a teenager in a way that adults do – we’re in the same stage of life and we connect as adults, but with that mutual affection and connection that you can only have with old friends.  It’s a wonderful thing…

…Except when it isn’t.  I am finding that as an insecure, non-confrontational person, I have a fair amount of “Facebook friends” that simply give me stress.  Let me back up.  Any of you who know me in real life are laughing because of the “insecure, non-confrontational” bit.  Deep down, that’s me, even if that’s not the persona I put out there.  I talk a pretty good game, but the truth is I don’t like when people are mad at me and, rather than ask if they are, I’ll sit and stew about it and try to mentally recall the last 150 conversations we had looking for some reason that person could possibly be mad at me.  If I think you don’t like me and I don’t know for sure, I’ll look for clues to figure it out every single time we interact.  I might ask someone else, or mentally will them to tell me (this usually does not work, in case you’re wondering).  Eventually, I’ll decide that I’ll never know and let it feed into the insecurity that was already in overdrive in the first place.

I have a certain respect for the people who are mean to my face or just delete me on Facebook.  At least I know where we stand.  There are no questions.  When there’s behind the back talking or otherwise, I get all stupid.  Now, let’s be clear:  I know better.  If my son came to me and said that someone was talking about him or that he felt upset by another child I’d tell him to be direct, ask what’s up or deal with the situation head on.  If someone doesn’t like him, I’ll tell him there are a lot of other people out there and as long as he’s done all he can to be a good friend, consider it the other child’s loss and be done with it.  But I’ve never been one to follow my own advice.

Trying to figure out the motives of others is an exhausting business.  When someone is weird to me and then weird online, it’s easy to put two and two together and not take it personally.  But when it becomes apparent that someone has a split personality, you can’t help but wonder which is the true one.  Perhaps the problem is that we put too much stock in a status update or lack there of.  And by “we” I mean myself, lest you think I think everyone is as crazy as I am.

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I have friendships that are on life support.  They are hanging on by a thread and Facebook would appear to be that thread.  This is not to be confused with friendships where distance makes things more complicated and electronic communication is all there is right now.  And I’m not talking about the ones where we never have been anything more than “electronic friends.”  I’m talking about those friendships where everything appears to be great online but I don’t rate a call or personal email or whatever and I always used to.  I’m talking about the ones where we used to hang out or speak or email or interact outside of a glorified message board. These are the ones I don’t understand.  These friendships are the ones that 20 years ago (even 10 years ago!) would have faded out and been done.  Or we would have had a blow up and called the whole thing off.  But now, no, we like statuses, offering a comment here and there.  We seem like we’re still friends, but are we?

And now we’re back to the insecure, non-confrontational bit.  I guess I’ll never know where these friendships stand.  Is it me?  Is it something I did?  Did we just grow apart?  Did you never really like me in the first place? The starry-eyed optimist in me (OK, I can’t even type that with a straight face!) thinks maybe the friendship hit a rough patch and things will go back to normal.  The eternal pessimist in me (that’s more like it!) thinks that probably neither one of us will pull the plug but eventually we’ll stop using Facebook and that’s probably where I’ll find out the truth.  But what could the truth be?  Were we only ever friends out of convenience, much like the school mates I’ve never gotten back in touch with and I don’t think of anymore?  Did we only know mutual people and that’s not enough anymore?  Were you waiting on me all this time to start the conversation to work things out?

In the meantime, I’m just going to hit Publish and go see what my Friends are up to on Facebook.

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4 Responses to “Friendship”

  1. Tim Dawson says:

    One thing to remember is that the advent of Facebook might be a change to your relationships tantamount to leaving high school. Some people will feel comfortable just seeing how you’re doing. They might have been calling/emailing/whatever just to catch up on your life. And with you posting status updates frequently and leaving so much of your personality in your writing, some of those people might not feel the need to initiate further. You are a presence in their life without your knowing it. You never had that presence before, so your relationship has to change, and maybe not always in expected ways. BTW, I totally love reading what you have to say because I can hear your voice in your writing, I can see you saying exactly these things.

  2. Thanks Tim! I definitely agree that social media creates a new kind of friendship. I’m so lucky to have so many people in my life (that I actually see and those I only see online) that I care about and I know care about me. It does make me sad when “real” friendships go the way of only being Facebook based, but I definitely don’t condemn it. And I do try to write as I speak, with a few less bad words maybe, so I’m glad that you noticed!

  3. Danie says:

    My theory is that FB is not forever. Eventually something new will come along to replace FB and people will be more selective when “friending” people the next time around. The novelty of seeing what “so and so” from back in the day is up to wears off. That will separate a lot of “friends” from actual friends.

    Social networking is still in it’s early stages and will become more refined as it progresses. Just as in real life you have those people that you form actual bonds with, and then those people that you need to grin and bear it with because they are friends of friends or part of whatever group you are associating with and it would be rude to exclude them. It only makes sense that you would have similar “friendships” online.

    I think that FB has also become a way of test driving new friendships. As a mother getting to know other parents in my town I have found FB to be a great tool to help develop those new acquaintances. I have had people “friend” me after briefly getting to know each other through soccer or what have you. It allows you to get to get a feel for what this person is all about without having to physically invest time getting to know them face to face. I have had a few friendships grow from brief acquaintance to actual friendships because, in part, of the FB connection we had. We realized we had more in common through online communication and so when we did physically get together we had more to discuss and an easier time connecting.

    That said, I too, worry if someone who I thought I was getting along with doesn’t respond or post on my stuff as often as they used to. But then I’d find something to worry about offline too because I am like that!

  4. Hi Danie! Those are great points about about using FB to test drive a new friendship. And I couldn’t agree more about the novelty wearing off. I have plenty of contacts on FB that it was great catching up but we don’t have anything in common now besides our past. And while it’s great to know someone’s doing well, there’s no need for daily interaction (as harsh as that may sound).

    Thanks for reading and for posting a comment!

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