Thursday, November 19, 2009

We'll be friends... Forever...


Hope this isn’t just me… When I was young, the end of a friendship usually came with a harmless drifting apart. Friends could get through the weirdest issues, even violent pull-your-jumper-over-your-head fights, and still stick together. I don’t know if it’s universal, but we used to say:
“Make friends, make friends, never, ever break friends. If you do, you’ll catch the flu, and that will be the end of YOU” During this recitation, you’d be shaking hands vigorously.

So it was natural that social networking sites got much of their success from primal friendships such as these. Suddenly, you are thirty five, and not able to hang out with your mates every day, and it comes to you in a flash- Whatever happened to that guy I used to be best friends with in grade three? With those early sites, you could track them down with some minor detective work, and find out that they are now just as middle-aged as you, working as a printer, and have 1/3/5 children and two exes.

Right there, you wonder what the hell happened to the kid you used to chase around the playground, the one who taught you swearwords like dammit, and fudge. The one with the dirty knees and the scabbed elbows, who could score a goal from the halfway line (well, the prefab classroom). You send a couple of messages, and eventually he’s just listed as a friend.

Then came Facebook. You never truly had friends until you had at least 500 of them on FB. Friends who poked you, invited you to become part of their zombie force, friends who sent you growing flowers and birthday cards, and fanpages, and events invitations, and pictures of their holidays at the seaside and their pets. You could spend hours thinking up a status, with just the right punch to reach as many as possible.

Then the fatigue set in. The endless keeping track of hundreds of people, the weariness of opening and closing chat windows, the realisation that most of them weren’t really friends. In fact, some of them pissed you off a little bit every time you saw the amusing avatar they’d designed.

So began the unfriending- apparently the most popular word in the UK last year. The sloughing off of dead skin friendships. Cathartic, yeah!

There must be a point to this…
Oh, yes. I’m not trashing FB, or networking sites (apart from MySpace, which is like, sooo old, dude, and that school one which has refused to let me deregister. I’ll be stuck in school forever, always a fear of mine)- but rather just taking a look at what friendship is, or isn’t.

Some of the best friends I’ve met in ages have been new ones, on Twitter. Seems unlikely, but it’s true. Cool people, normal people. Funny people and sad people. It’s like walking into this room full of friends at almost any time of day. You can sit and have a drink, or laugh, or even ROFL or PML. That’s actually not such a bad thing. You can ignore or block the bullies, and if you want to be alone, you switch off.

Is it superficial? I don’t think so. Most of the people on there are actually friends in some way or another, and happy to include you (or at least too polite to tell you to sod off). You can’t shake on the friendship, but you also can’t pull the other person’s jumper over their head or try and gob in their eye.

So. Social Media made it possible to be friends forever. Even after you die, your profile sits grinning out, a perky cartoon figure, or a sinister eye. There is no end, to you.

10 comments:

  1. hhmm if you pull my shirt over myhead i surely will gob in your eye! kambabe

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  2. @kambabe: The key is to slot the word 'virtual' before everything- then you can get away with murder. Virtual shirt. Virtual gob.

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  3. "Virtual" klap knocks you off your "trolley", cos this "virtual" friendship has only just started but it is so terribly cool <-for real not "virtually" :)

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  4. Is it superficial? No... definitely not.
    If I look back at old friendships, they were mainly based on common likes and dislikes. When you grow and change, those friends disappeared as your interests changed.

    Meeting people online when you're just being you, without any filters, is probably the best way to meet long term friends.
    I've met people that just like me for who I am.
    I don't need to like a certain band, look a certain way or, most importantly, pretend to be ok when I'm not.

    There are some online friends that I will never meet face to face, but it doesn't make the relationship any less meaningful to me.
    I am glad that some of these online relationships have translated to real friendships offline.
    I have offline friends... and I love them too.
    But sometimes it's nice to know that you can just go to a place anytime you want and everyone knows your name.

    Cheers (and cheque please :P).

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  5. Thought provoking ...

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  6. @Sharon: Ow! That virtially stung- nah, I love my new friends.
    @Ani: Never write a comment longer than the actual post!!! heheh I came across as too cynical here. I have met some amazing/wonderful people, and I am grateful for this lifeline. But yeah- the offline thing is good to have as a balance.
    @Friday: Glad it's provoking- then it has succeeded. ;)

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  7. Where is the "like" button on here?

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  8. My FB and my Twitter have pretty much always had "real" friends in them, or people I have gotten to know well through blogging.
    And both my profiles are closed too, so I don't get people adding me just for the sake of adding me.

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  9. i have made the most amazing IRL and even just on line friends. Being a single mom can be lonely and this was any time of day or night I have people to talk to. Watch this space - twitter is changing my life. I know that sounds a bit extreme but it is.

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  10. I think I enjoy virtual friends more than real friends. And I know I should say "I'm sorry to say" or say "that's a shame," but it's not, really, not if I enjoy them.

    I almost never communicate with old friends (or ex-friends) on general principals of "they made fun of me then, they'll make fun of me now."

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