Remember the old days of friendship? When friendships were conducted via personal interaction, phones and letters written on paper (with pens! and pencils! LYLAS!) Back in the day, friendship took effort. Now? You can "follow" your friends on The Tweetle, "subscribe" to your friends' blogs or the easiest of all - "friend" your friends on Facebook. I never knew I had so many friends until folks began using Facebook. In fact, I have been on Facebook for nearly 3 years and for much of that time, I was pretty much friendless (or friend-free? What is the politically-correct vernacular these days??) Now? Folks who would not give me the time of day in high school, are now my friends on Facebook! They like me! They really like me! (Huh?)
On the one hand, this ease of access to friendship is lovely. Truly, just lovely. It is a great way to connect and keep in touch. Many of us are far-flung and busy with jobs and families, so getting together is more difficult. All of this media helps us keep up on each others' lives so that when we do meet face-to-face, we can dispense with silly "catching up" small talk and move directly into current events.
But what happens when a friendship turns rancid, much like that long-forgotten Diego yogurt I recently found skulking in the depths of my refrigerator? What should I do when that friend comes to my Facebook wall goading me into arguments? Or when that same friend deceptively takes pieces of my own wall posts, completely out of context back to the safe confines of her wall, so that she can garner a little bit of Groupthink on her behalf? When she uses pregnancy as an excuse for her behavior?
So, last month, I unfriended her. Another delightful verb created in this sparkly new era of fraternization.
It was a hard decision. And in the time that it took me to make the decision, I had the discussion of friendship with a few other folks who were also struggling with these new boundaries that are completely redefining the term "friendship".
I struggled with that decision last month because it is the first time I have had to make such a clear distinction such as this. In the past, I would let friendships die a slow, quiet death. I would simply quit returning phone calls and emails. With one such Friendship Fade years ago, I actually debated telling the friend why it was over. However, I realized it was not my place to tell her why I did not want to be her friend because it was a simple difference in opinion in how she conducted herself and her attitude towards others. It was not my place to call a judgment on that and I decided the problem was mine and mine alone.
Of course, she found me on Facebook 10 years later and we are now friends. Again.
This recent situation last month? Was different. This person was coming to my space and spewing steamy loads of poo all over it. Oh, gentle reader - make no mistake about this: I am the first one to acknowledge that I am crude, bitter bitch. In fact, I hand out blanket warnings now when connecting with folks on Facebook. (Hey, if you do not mind?? I will offend you.) However, I consider my wall as my personal space. If you do not like it, then do not come to visit me. And I will do the same. I read Tweets and Facebook statuses every single day that make me roll my eyes or even make me disgusted. I MOVE ON. I do not comment on other folks' walls unless it is 100% agreeable in some form because I have been burned so badly by this weird Facebook phenomena. I respect other folks on their Walls as I would respect them in their actual presence.
On a grander, more meta sort of thought, I do wonder how social media such as Facebook is affecting women in the way they communicate. Most women do not like to tell the truth in how they feel about someone or the relationship - I am most certainly guilty of this. I do not like hurting someone's feeling, so I will go to great lengths to avoid confrontation. Truthfully, this post has been in draft for over a month because I wanted to think about the action I took of unfriending someone. And then?
Over this past weekend, someone unfriended me.
I discovered this when I went out to unfriend her and I realized with a start, that we were no longer Facebook Official. And the oddest part is that I was relieved. Sad, but it was a friendship that had long run past its expiration and I am so comforted that this Facebook Decision was ultimately mutual. Obviously, we were in agreement and we were both in a place where we realized we are better off not being friends. (Gentle reader, could this be Facebook Nirvana??)
So. If you will let me get all Transcendentally Carrie Bradshaw for a moment, the question is this:
Will social media force women into being more genuine in friendships?
I have seen us struggle with truthfulness within the blogging community, but it is much, much easier to end blogging relationships. It is not so very difficult to simply stop reading and slip away, since there is no "record" to be wiped. And furthermore, Facebook is lacking one critical character.
Ah, yes. Anonymous, that crafty little bitch who is seemingly friends with half of the Internet. That little minx? She does not mince words and she'll cut you to pieces in one fell stroke. Ah yes, never fear. Anonymous delights in telling you exactly how she feels because after all, she knows you better than you know yourself. Do not mess with Anonymous, folks.
However, most of us are not lurking around pretending to be Anonymous. Most of us actually care about hurting feelings, even when we want to be more authentic in our dealings with other people. Even when we want to move on to happier relationships. And I suspect many of us struggle with how to be honest with our friends. And ultimately, ourselves. I have to hope that social media will force women to be more truthful in their dealings with people (myself very much included.) Ultimately, I have learned in this gilded age of social media that forming friendships is all too easy whereas forging them is a bit trickier.
And I am determined to never let a friendship go rancid again.