This is something I’ve been meaning to do for a while. You and I need to have a conversation about what it means to be friends.
There’s someone I know. Let’s call them R. I’ve tried now, ineffectively for some time, to encourage them to communicate. It works brilliantly initially, and then everything just falls down. We have not spoken for some time, and I am coming to the conclusion that a load of work prepared will simply not get used as was hoped, and will now be recycled elsewhere. My desire for a friendship has, effectively, failed to materialise. It is a salutary reminder that however hard you try, sometimes you cannot make people be friends with you.
All this time we spend online extolling the virtues of virtual friendships, how long do we take to consider the real truths behind the exchanges? Are the people you communicate truly mates, or are they simply being polite? Could you trust this person in a crisis? How much significance do you place on personal interaction, when this individual may not be as invested in the relationship as you are? The next time you’re online, ‘talking’ to someone, ask yourself the following questions:
Is this Conversation Comfortable or Not?
When you’re talking to someone, does it feel like they are in the room with you, or is it more distant? How much of your apparent connection is hopeful and not distinct? Be honest with yourself too: are you subconsciously flirting with the unattainable person at the other end of the Tweet? That one’s a real toughie to admit to the room, but we all have girl crushes that nobody will ever know about and won’t ever be admitted. There’s that married guy who, perhaps if things were different… and the list goes on. Being comfortable is a world away from using Social media as a means of self-gratification, and yet it’s going on every single day.
Once you allow inappropriate emotion to cloud your thinking, nothing is correct or normal anymore. This is the quickest means by which someone who has been polite and communicative with will and can walk away. If I suspect you’re not treating me with respect, and even if I can’t be sure but your conversation makes me feel uncomfortable or awkward, I will no longer continue to communicate. If you then decide to make my decision a subject of contention, I’m going to be pretty justified in taking it. If you’re using someone for your own ends, eventually, they will work it out.
This is Supposed to Work Both Ways
I have a particular friend who I speak to, every day, via DM. Sometimes it is only a ‘hi, have a great day’ but that connection has become a very important, reciprocal connection. It began as the equivalent of the cheery wave to the guy you pass every day on the corner, or the line of conversation with a Barista… but has evolved into something far more significant. This daily poke is now backed up with joint concern for well-being, care for home life and support on tough days. It’s contact + depth + effort, and that equation is pretty potent.
If you talk every day on Social media, you’re not friends without the additional backup. It may feel like the connection is there, but it isn’t. That will only come with effort, time and joint reciprocation. Calling someone a friend when you don’t know the ins and outs of the life behind the keyboard can be a dangerous game to play. If your attachment to them is only made up of what you see, hear and read you may know a lot about them, but that does not make you their friend. If in doubt, ask. If you’re too afraid to ask, the chances are you’re not as close as you wanted.
Respect is Absolutely Vital
I’m looking at the people who appear in my DM’s without a word here. I’m talking to the individuals who think the rules of polite society don’t apply to Social media when they so utterly do. If I find you’re pretending to be polite using robot following software, there will be a special curse and expose of your duplicitous lies. Respect is absolutely vital. Understanding then comes a close second. That follower I didn’t get on with for years but respected enough to live with ultimately would not do the same in return. At least she left by her own volition.
You may not like the fact that you’re asked to be a certain way with people, but that is how respect works. Telling me not to just cheer up when I am in a depressive episode, criticising my actions when you have no idea of what causes them. Making no effort to accommodate really does go both ways. I know I have work to do, and progress to make in both these areas. Can you say the same? Before you throw that first stone, have you asked the question of yourself? Of course, you haven’t because there are no consequences on Social media…
There are ALWAYS Consequences on Social Media…
It’s amazing how easy some people find it to take all that love and compassion they normally exhibit and turn it into bile-fuelled, emotionally-charged hate. Don’t be that person who loves to be a total twat in their feed, when it suits, and when you call them out will simply make some delf-depreciating excuse before blaming you. If you want to spend the rest of your life living out your shortcomings online, eventually someone will put two and two together and you will be royally fucked. Don’t think anonymity really exists either, because it doesn’t if you make enough noise about how nobody cares. When people start to care, they find out stuff about you. The only way you truly remain anonymous is by saying nothing.
That’s why I write all this stuff. It is my reason for being sometimes too painfully honest. The moment you start lying, there’s no escaping the consequences. If you really want to be friends with me online, then it has to be the truth and nothing less.
You can forget my birthday. You can not talk to me for months but if you turn up when it matters, I’ll conveniently forget all manner of previous misdemeanours. However, there comes a point where both history and perceived commitment don’t wash. Telling me you were there for me for decades when you weren’t, remembering from time to time ‘oh yeah, I should see how Sarah is’ is friendship, yes, but not the type I crave the most. I write here every day. My future exists on this platform, and beyond, and my World, like it or not, is an indivisible part of Social media. To be a part of my life, you have to be happy existing here, and willing to do so.
As a result, I suspect there will be a search for new friends going forward. As soon as there’s an opening, I’ll let you know.