On Friendship

I quit Facebook in June 2011, and Google Plus...I don't know, maybe last summer? My reasons were varied: dislike of business practices and privacy issues, time wasting potential, etc. But I think one of the primary driving force of my self-imposed exile was the increasingly superficial interactions with people I genuinely cared about. Facebook had managed to distill friendship to whomever "likes" a post or photo; your BFFs were defined by those who could exert themselves enough to actually leave a comment.

I've been thinking a lot about what friendship means, and why I feel so isolated. I refuse to rejoin Facebook because I resent the fact that if you are not on Facebook, you no longer exist. I don't believe relationships should just be defined by how easy it is to broadcast a thought or emotion to your hundreds of friends. Where is the meaning in that? How does that actually foster a connection, make it grow? Does it make me a better friend if I know what you ate for lunch, or whether you like Mondays, or type a 140-character comment about that video you posted? But it seems to me that this is what friendship means to people now - and no one wants anything more. We can all sit safely at our computers or on our phones, in our own homes, and not actually have to see people in person, or struggle with the reality that true friendships are like marriages and require work and compromise and meaningful communication.

I thought, by leaving social networks, that I could preserve my relationships with the people I really wanted to stay in touch with, leaving the distraction of hundreds of Facebook friends behind. I thought there was no reason that email and phone calls couldn't serve just as well. I was wrong.

Part of that has to do with the fact that I realized that, within my circle of distant friends, I was the one who initiated contact. It was I who organized group chats, scheduled online game nights, and planned in-person visits. In this time period I've been pregnant 3 times, have had 2 babies, and I am tired and busy with small children. It was hard for me to be always be the Instigator, and I thought that maybe my friends would take up the slack if I just let go. I was wrong.

That's been hard for me, because I feel that says I cared more about the relationship than they did. That the friendship wasn't as reciprocal as I'd always thought. Perhaps we were friends because it was convenient, or because I did the work, not because of genuine affection and love. And this starts a chain reaction, doesn't it? They don't reach out, for whatever reason, and I don't reach out because I am insecure and resentful. Do they not miss my presence? What do they think, if they think of me at all?

I struggle, too, because I believe you should be the friend you want your friends to be, and I admit that I haven't made much of an effort to reconnect with those I feel most isolated from. I know that I am not blameless. But now enough time and space has passed that I don't know what to say or do. How can I express disappointment that they didn't come to me when I needed them to, when I never asked? I tell myself to be understanding - I know people get busy and time slips away before you know it. But I can't help but feel that there's been enough time for someone else to take the initiative if they wanted, and the fact of the matter is no one has because no one has wanted to.

I wonder if this is the path all my friendships are doomed to follow. That's probably an exaggeration...isn't it?

It feels strange to let decades-long relationships die without some form of closure, and I guess that's what this post is for me. These are thoughts I've held on to for a long time. Maybe my blog isn't the best place to talk about these things, but I needed to write it out, to send it out into the wild. And my blog is like the wild now, since it's not in the closed garden of a social network, pushing its way into streams to catch your attention. Over time, this place has been visited less, since no one has blogs anymore unless they're on Tumblr. My statistics tell me that people visit here to read about the time I made steel-cut oatmeal pancakes unless I've specifically notified people about a new post. I don't expect anyone to read this (unless you have accidentally wandered here in search of the steel-cut oatmeal pancakes - yes, yes, they're here). I'm not expecting anything from anyone - I just wanted to rant and get some thoughts off my chest that have lingered for way too long.

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