Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Friendship - should it virtually matter?

I just read about someone complaining that they were tired of reaching out to friends, doing all the work and getting nothing back. Another bemoaned that they couldn’t believe people couldn’t take the time to “like” a picture or post or wish someone a happy birthday. Others stated that they weren’t interested in being friends with people who didn’t comment or interact with them as it was viewed as spying – be it family or friends. 

I almost nodded my head in agreement and was than horrified. At myself.  Have we really come to that?

I consider myself a good friend. I value the friends I have and am grateful that they are a part of my life. Does it bother me when I don’t hear from them? When they don’t just ring up to say hello or text a quick “how ya doing?”  To be honest, sometimes…but then I got to thinking. Why on earth would that bother me?  Should they be bothered if I don’t check in with them as often as they would like? If I don’t ask “how ya doing” often enough? I sure as shit hope not.

What I love about my friends is their humor, their wit, their ability to say just the right thing, pour the perfect drink or just go along for the ride. I am grateful for their shoulder when I cry and their strong backs when I need a lift. Their potty mouths, their ability to talk me off the ledge, or laugh with me. I love when I can help them – and return the favors so often bestowed on me. I value their willingness to accept me in all my imperfection – including my sometimes lax communication.

With all the Facebooking, texting, Instagramming, and Tweeting, we have this mistaken belief that every single thought we have, opinion we voice, picture we post, or “meaningful” quote we share must be acknowledged for us to feel valued. Trust me – that dinner you made last night – well, I hope it was great but I can assure you it did not change my life. If I didn’t “like” the picture, it doesn’t mean I’m not impressed by your culinary skills but that I simply didn’t click a button.  Don’t take it personally.  Some folks have hundreds – even thousands - of social networking friends. Do we really need to wish each one a “happy birthday” on their big day and comment on each post?  I don’t know about you, but I have a job, a family and a real life that isn’t online.

I’m a Facebook regular. I post, I share, I upload. I appreciate the interaction with those who respond – I’ve learned a lot about my friends both old and new. It’s a quick and easy way to communicate.  But, if I look at my friend list of 250, I can count a handful of really good friends, some long distance friends and many acquaintances or folks from my previous lives.  Facebook allows us to peek at each other’s lives and feel a modicum of connection.  Yes, even to be a bit nosy – but admit it, there are friends on your list that you never communicate with – you just look at the pics and maybe snicker about something you don’t agree with.  Yet there are others -  good friends who rarely, if ever, log on and I have to connect with them offline and in the real world.  Sure, a comment on a post or anecdote is nice; but when we get our knickers in a twist because someone didn’t like or comment – well, seriously? Do we have such an inflated sense of self?  I have a couple of sisters – both lurk around on Facebook with nary a comment or like.  I can see one sister like other pictures or comments – but never mine.  Never. It never even entered my mind to hold it against her, unfriend her or use that to gauge her love for me. Why? ‘Cause she’s my fucking sister. I can call her up and tell her about my life. She’ll call me and tell me about hers.  She knows if there is a picture I really want her to see, I will email it.  Because honestly, and this may be shocking, but monitoring posts, liking or replying to a comment posted to the world is not a priority for everyone.

I recently joined Instagram – not because I’m so popular or because I have even more to share but to monitor Mini Me as she starts to navigate social networking.  I immediately had people “following” me and I laughed so hard I nearly peed my pants. I don’t even know how the fucking thing works – I’m really just trying to practice a modicum of responsible parenting. I’m honestly not that interesting.  I have no intention of Tweeting. Frankly, no one is that interested in what I can say in140 characters or less. Even this blog – I write because I have things I want to say but I don’t need anyone to hear me.  Writing is cathartic for me. I was a journal keeper and now I’m a blogger. Sure, I hope folks read – even enjoy it - but I’m not offended if they don’t. Hell, I’ve got some family members that don’t even read it.  But, it doesn’t mean they love me any less. At least I don’t think so.

Keep it real - not virtual.

But reading that Facebook exchange really made me think. I’m sorry that folks are placing so much value on social networking interaction. I want the people in my life to think better of themselves, to focus on real connections – not just those online. To invite a friend for coffee, to arrange a playdate at the park with a group of mom friends you haven’t see in a while. To call that friend you haven’t heard from and ask how they are – even if you leave a voicemail that isn’t returned. Find value in the real world and not the virtual one. Stop keeping score – it’s a friendship, not a game. You either both win or both lose.

You see, my friends (and sisters, brothers and sisters-in-law) – well, we’re friends despite our busy lives, crazy schedules and time spent apart. We’re close in spite of our inability to chat often enough or even finish an entire conversation. All those things make our time together sweeter.

So my friends, let’s pour a glass of wine and catch up. When we find time. In the meantime, don't hold it against me if I don't "like" or "comment."  Know I love you and you matter. In the real world.