Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Lost Art of Friendship

It used to be that in order to make a friend, you actually had to meet someone face-to-face. Those early meetings probably happened in the school yard, or you got set up with your mom's friend's kid (the way I met my oldest & bestest friend). At the very least, if you wanted to meet someone you'd actually never seen, you had to write Archie Comics and ask for a pen pal. When I was in high school, we had one computer hooked up to the outside world, where, if you used some code or something, you could find other people to talk to through the computer. I tried it a couple of times and didn't really see the appeal. In college, although I had some sort of email account, I had to go through linux or some crazy thing to actually send and receive emails. It was in a DOS program. I had a friend in college that had her very own modem, and would sit in her dorm room for days, chain-smoke, and chat with people. I thought to myself, "Why on Earth are you holed up in this cement room talking to people you don't know when you are at a campus with 20,000 students?" The whole thing seemed insane.
A few years ago, I had a desk job that required about 10 minutes of actual work during the day. I had opened a Yahoo Messenger account so I could talk to my friend, Molly, who was also bored out of her mind at work. One day, she announced that she had started a blog. What? I thought only people who fancied themselves political wrote on such things. Soon, my friend Lisa started her own blog too, and introduced me to some of her friends that were writing on their own blogs. "Wow, they'll give a blog to just about anybody!" I thought. Reading the blog of my friend and her friends, I suddenly realized that should start a blog of my own. I say funny things, so surely, I could write funny things. Soon, I had my own little "blog group", mainly comprised of Lisa's friends and their friends and relatives. All these years, I had laughed at the dorks that met people online...and now...I was meeting friends online.
I started my first blog in 2004, when Facebook was still only for college kids, and Twitter didn't exist. Your group of blog friends was limited...and the best way of finding new blogs was to hit the "Next Blog" button on Blogger. After several years of blogging, my "blog group" blew up. There were still the old standbys that I'd been with from the beginning, but now the list of blogs that I visited on a daily basis had grown by leaps and bounds. So many blogs, so many chats, so little time...and then, on the other side of this screen lies real life. I got married, I bought a house, I had a baby, I got a new job, I had another baby...We are human, and can only spread ourselves so thin.
First and foremost, I want to always "be here now". I want to be in the present for my real life, my family, my heart. I want to be there for my "real life" friends. Those that have known me for almost my entire life. My oldest friend and I have been besties since we were 3 years old. My 2nd oldest friend, I met when we were 8. These relationships were, and continue to be some of the most important in my life. These "real-lifers" have seen me at my best, and at my worst. They have seen me laugh, act like an idiot, ugly cry, act silly, treat people horribly, and pick them up when they have been down. We have actually held each other up, and been there in the best of times, and the worst. In other words, they know exactly who I am, and regardless of the chinks in my armor, they continue to love me.
When we make friends over the internet, regardless of how those people come to be our friend, they see mainly our best side. From behind this screen, we can choose to be whomever we want. We see people who are almost always putting their best foot forward. Until we actually start to dig deeper, we really hardly know each other at all. Some people choose to write about the trials and hardships on their blogs, along with the funny story of their kid barfing on the lady in front of them at the check out line. These honest, real posts are hard, because we know that with them, we risk judgement or scorn, and God-forbid, not everyone might agree with your choices, or not every single person that reads your words will like you!!! AHH! We tend to forget that in real life, we aren't friends with every single person we encounter. We don't agree with everyone, all the fact, sometimes, we are real-life friends, and then we grow apart, or that friendship becomes less necessary and important. And you know what? That's ok. We don't have to be "BFF" with every single solitary person on this planet.
With the advent of Facebook & Twitter, friendship has been reduced to a mere click of your mouse. As my friend Dan put it, some of the most important relationships of our lives have become a verb: I'll "friend" you tomorrow (Dan, by the way, is an internet success story friendship of mine). We "friend" people we barely know, hardly remember from our past, or really don't know at all. An algorithm thinks that we may, in some way, know a particular person. In some cases, these friendship suggestions connect us with a childhood sweetheart, or an old friend we haven't seen since 6th grade. In other cases, it brings together people that have never met, and creates some of the most important relationships that you will ever have. There are good aspects, certainly, but it also makes it very easy to put a lot of faith into one click. I have made great friends though the internet, best friends, even...and I have made friends with people who I'd later deem "cyberpsychos". I'm eternally grateful, in many ways, for the internet, to have the opportunity to meet amazing people, and become close friends with people that I would have otherwise never met. I am also careful to not put too much of my heart & soul into these friendships, until I have really had the opportunity to get to know the real person behind the blog, the Facebook account, or the Twitter @. While I want to befriend and get to know lots of people, I only have so much time to invest in these outlets, and I want to continue to make the most of them.


Naomi said...

Yes! I totally see where you're coming from. And I'm afraid I've been a sucky online pal lately since I've been having trouble getting online for the past couple of weeks. Who am I kidding, this whole summer has been a comedy of poor time management... ack. I am looking forward to Roo going back to school (Kindergarten! Yikes!) so I can get things back in some semblance of order.

Anyway, sorry for being absent. I'll post about the Space Monkey contest this week, promise.

Laura Seymour said...

naomi, PLEASE! you are awesome. i'll love you forever, even if we never meet in person (but, if that didn't happen, i'd be uber-sad).

you just summed it up-you have a real, actual life that you're taking part in...good for you!