More friends are waiting
I like Facebook. It appeals to both my desire for interaction, and my need to closely guard the borders. It's friendship on my terms. I decide who, when, how much. Whatever sort of day I've had, I can turn it into a flippant, chipper little sentence; and that's my social interaction done.
I realise that makes me sound like a grumpy old bugger. The truth is, just like almost everyone else on this planet, I crave friendship: real friendship, the sort that doesn't let you down, overlooks the shortcomings, and doesn't try to find fault. That doesn't laugh dutifully at your jokes, but genuinely delights in your sense of humour. That looks out for you, knowing you so well that it can predict what situations will send you spiralling into self-doubt, and swiftly move to stand alongside you. That tells you the truth, because it's good for you, not because it's what you want to hear. That anticipates the bad times, and celebrates the good. Facebook can help you keep up with distant friends, and even meet new ones; but it can never foster that sort of friendship.
And the truth is, I'm, rubbish at it. That sort of commitment takes time and effort. Oh, I've taken the time and made the effort with my nearest and dearest: almost 23 years of marriage surely bear that out. But human beings need more that one person in their lives, more than one who is allowed to get past the peripheral trivia of our daily conversations. So how many is enough? How many, to fulfill my needs? How many can I reasonably be expected to keep faith with, to that extent?
Tracey, more friends are waiting...
Facebook insists I should go trawling for more and more people to add to my collection, however tangential the link. It suggests family members of someone I once met; work colleagues of loose acquaintances. It is hungry for me to connect. The more I do, the more stretched I feel. I become thinly spread, my friendship like a devalued currency. I lose my grip on what friendship is. Is it telling the world what I am doing, where I am, who I am with? Does relationship deepen if I share that cartoon, those photos, this YouTube clip? More friends are waiting. But what are they waiting for? Should I entertain them? Reveal my innermost being to them? Or simply count them, clicking the abacus higher and higher until I reach some sort of Friendship Nirvana?
Tracey, have you found all of your friends?
No, I haven't. There are so many people in this world: surely more of them want to be my friend. Surely I would find a sense of well-being in befriending them. So far I have found some long-lost friends, from way-back when, and I am so grateful to Facebook for enabling this. And there are some dear friends that I interact with in this odd virtual houseparty on a regular basis. But most of my list either rarely use FB, or play a walk-on role in my life - as indeed do I in theirs. We cannot truly connect with so many people: it overwhelms us, and we pay lipservice to true friendship.
So, to all those people out there who are my friends: thank you. I'm a grumpy old bugger with flashes of humour, and I welcome your constant presence in my life. Please never assume that I keep you at arms length because I prefer it that way. The truth is - and there's been a lot of truth in this blog - I would love to learn how to be the sort of friend that doesn't do aloof and reserved. I'm learning: but it doesn't come naturally.
And to those out there who may become my friends, however tangentially: welcome. But please don't stretch me too much. I may break.