Well, the world is changing and so too the nature of friendship with it. Often we say social media has transformed the way humans interact with each other – everything is simultaneously more immediate and more fleeting. This is true not only in business and in politics, but also in the very nature of what we call friendship.
Thanks to Facebook I can call someone a “friend” even when we’ve never met or I’ve never had a conversation with them. In reality, I should say could instead of can – these are my two prerequisites for adding anyone.
Yet even beyond social media, it seems to me that over the last decade or so the line between acquaintance and friend is fast disintegrating. And I don’t know how I feel about that.
On the one hand, it’s nice to be able to meet someone briefly just the one time and know I can count on them to hang out or help me out when I need; to know that I might never see them again – but that if we’re ever in the same city/country again, we’ll catch up and reminisce about the last time we were together. It’s also just easier and nicer to say “my friend” rather than “this girl/guy I kinda know”.
On the other hand, it sucks to know this person I spent intense time with, shared part of my heart with, might never ever think of me again now we’ve parted ways.
The reason I’ve been pondering this topic is that I’m currently overseas and have been for a good part of the last few years. It’s safe to say it’s generally easier to make friends in countries other than my own (particularly if they are Latin American ones). There are a number of explanations for that, which I won’t go into here.
It’s easier to form these friendships abroad – but it’s also easier for those friendships to fizzle out once our shared experience ends. Partly that’s natural; it’s hard to stay in touch when we’re not in the city, let alone timezone, let alone life path. I didn’t have as long to nurture those relationships as I have with, say, my high school friends.
Not that I’m good at staying in touch with them either. But I appreciate them more the more time I spend away from home – I value feeling super comfortable around them; I value being able to talk about our shared past; I value that we value each other even though we haven’t seen each other in a year or two; I value that despite our differences there is a sense in which we are somehow hewn from the same stone.
The truth is I am afraid to have expectations of anyone. Except maybe my high school friends – and even then, it’s actually coming home a few times that has allowed me to have confidence in our relationship.
It’s just that too many times I’ve spent an amazing day, or week, with someone or a group of people and seen it come to nothing. At home and abroad.
Too many times someone has said to me, “Let’s stay in touch” – and we haven’t.
Too many times someone has added me on Facebook and walked straight past me on the street, as if we were strangers.
Once someone said to me, “You make your friendships disposable.” It stayed with me for a long time. He was a friend. At the time. (Are we still? Maybe you’re reading this – after all, we’re still connected on Facebook, which would make us … well, friends. Right?).
Disposable friendships. I wonder if that isn’t what many of our lives have come to. Super useful and serve their purpose but we throw them out once the party’s over. And we move on to the next party.
And the litter piles up. Can our hearts sustain all the waste?
Give me Wedgewood any day. I’ll do the dishes – by hand, the old fashioned way.
Or will I? It’s easy enough to say, but have we in fact become too lazy to maintain our friendships?
The quantity/quality equilibrium
I wonder if I am wishing plastic were Wedgewood, and wishing simply can’t create the necessary chemical reaction for that transformation to take place.
I wonder if I need to learn to throw out the plastic plates and just remember that they fed me – once, but well.