facebook: give me my friends back

friend

1. A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.

2. A person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause.

3. One who supports and sympathizes.

4. A contact associated with a social networking website.

 

I’ve started to worry that the term friendship is losing its meaning. In light of the above definition, society’s evolving understanding of the word certainly raises a few concerns. Undeniably, what it means to be a friend is slowly being compromised, so that the phrase is no longer reserved for those with whom we feel strong bonds and meaningful connections. Indeed, when considered as a verb (I’ll friend you on Facebook), the value of friendship depreciates and the benefits of being and having friends are significantly weakened.

According to a study by Professor Robin Dunbar, an individual can connect with a maximum of one hundred and fifty people. Of those, the ones with whom we enjoy active friendships are fewer still. As reported by extensive studies, maintaining genuine friendship depends primarily on actually doing stuff together. It’s been established that, with the exception of a very few close and long term relationships, if you don’t physically interact with a pal within a six month period, they will become a distant friend, and from this point it’s only a matter of time before they gradually become nothing more than a person you once knew. This is because friendship is fostered and concreted through three acts: watching the way in which others respond to what you say, the sound of shared laughter, and physical contact.

After reading Professor Dunbar’s study, I thought about the ways in which I conduct my friendships. To my shame, I recognised that in most scenarios, I am not an active friend. Generally I wait for my friends to phone me for a chat, invite me for dinner, arrive on my doorstep for a walk. In a moment of dawning it hit me that if I want to keep my friends, especially now that I’ve moved away, I’m going to have to make an effort to maintain those relationships. Sadly, due to a bad track record, I have many mates who are very barely hanging on to our tattered ties.

This negligence did not happen on its own. My becoming a lazy friend directly correlates with the rise of social networking. When I signed up for Facebook, seeing friends’ statuses and pictures in my newsfeed created for me the illusion of being connected to them. I truly believed that I was interacting when in actual fact, Facebook was enabling me to be a voyeur of lives with which I was growing increasingly uninvolved. In next to no time I developed the habit of writing on their wall when I was thinking about them, rather than organising for us to spend quality time together. Meanwhile, I was growing more and more isolated. I’m sure I can speak for many when I say that, thanks to social media, in the space of a few years I devolved from a kid who would fluidly reach for the landline when I wanted to contact someone, into an anxious creature who’s more comfortable sitting at my pc and offering throwaway lines to the inter webs than pursuing face to face contact.

This revelation goes a long way in explaining why I’ve been feeling lonely of late; I have friends, but I’m not availing myself of their services. So the other night when I began feeling a shade of blue, I did something I rarely do; I phoned a couple of my mates from home. You know what? Suddenly I felt loads better. What’s more, I didn’t feel the need to write an arbitrary and obstructive status on Facebook alluding to my state of melancholy. For the first time in a long while I let my friends help to fix me. The effect was instant and two fold; I felt better in myself and closer to the darling people who had happily picked me up.

So I’ve made myself a promise; I am going to be a better friend. I am going to use my voice, rather than social media, when I feel like speaking with my buddies. I am going to play an active role, so as to make my friendships more meaningful. Because my mates are excellent. And I intend to keep them.

 

Have you noticed social media affecting your friendships? What do you do to keep it real when it’s so simple to be passive?

 

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just another four letter word

It cannot be refuted that as a species we are uncannily resilient and endlessly optimistic in love. It doesn’t seem to matter how often desire dies and our hearts are broken; even as we kiss goodbye one lover, our soul somehow allows itself to mend, enabling us to be wrapped in the arms of another with renewed vigour and a sense of boundless hope regarding how we’ll fare this time around.

It wouldn’t be fair to say I’ve been unlucky in love; harping on about one’s romantic misfortune seems fitfully reserved for those among us who’ve suffered heavily at the hands of the opposite (or same) sex. Thus, for me to complain would be altogether ungracious, as actually, I’ve been loved by some fantastic men over the years. Yet despite their many collectively admirable qualities, at one point or another, something’s gone awry, and here I am, journeying bumpily through the years and tears alone.

Recently I’ve spent a deal of time pondering the nature of love. It really is a deceptive beast; the way it colours each romance with the genuine shades of passion and devotion, making it feel like the real deal. For myself, I can’t help but wonder whether I might be an especially foolish breed of  romantic, as rather than learning to look where I’m going, I carelessly walk face first into the condition, repeatedly mistaking that concussed cluster of spinning stars for universal bliss.

I met my first heart breaker when I was in high school. I fell hard and hopelessly for this kid when we were fifteen, and as sure as day follows night, I was convinced we’d be together forever. Of course, with an attitude like that, I was in big trouble.

What I’ve found over the years is that although you can dive over and again into the very depths love, our hearts only truly break once. After that point, you’re already in pieces. Sure, lovers may come and go, shattering you shamelessly and taking the best bits with them. But although you may be left once again with the slow and arduous task of picking up the scattered pieces, wandering aimlessly in an effort to locate the things you lost so as to become whole again, that original smashing pain only ruins you once.

Needless to say, things didn’t end well with my high school sweetheart. He ripped me to shreds by dumping me over the phone one night, just days before what would have marked our fifth year together. It took weeks and an endless stream of bad television before I could finally crawl out of bed and begin to function again. At the time I resented the fact that I had to break while he could simply hang up the phone and get on with things. Now I realise that it’s only during that wretched process of putting ourselves back together that we’re gifted the rare opportunity of seeing our inner most components and the stuffs of our cores. As strange as it sounds, it wasn’t until that awful breakup that I grew to know myself.

That first time around I experienced the piercing glory of naive adoration. It was the tender type, founded on friendship and grieved like a loss. While the pain of it ending was sharp and deep, the wound was clean and healed well. Other varieties of love aren’t so harmless.

The kind of which you need to be particularly wary is that based principally on physical attraction, as this type comes partnered with the smack and reek of addiction. Knowing it was a bad idea, when met by the opportunity for this breed of love affair, I pushed against it with all my weight for many weeks, before waking one morning to find I’d fallen head first into the messy thrill of it. This guy was bad news; the sort who gave it away for free until the moment that I was hooked, at which point I began to pay the optimum price with my pride and humility. This is the kind of love that coats you in its sticky sweetness until you’re completely stuck. Worst of all, you don’t even mind that you’re slowly drowning in its saccharine syrup; it tastes so good! I guess that’s the nature of lust; accompanied by sleepless nights and melancholy, a complete abandonment of self respect is inevitable.

Perhaps the hardest love to bridge is the kind that seems as if it was never supposed to happen. When you’re hopelessly romantic, it’s these initial difficulties that concrete the idea of it in your mind. After all, anything that’s so hard to come by, but for which you’re willing to fight anyhow has to bare some kind of meaning. When I was faced with impossible love, I assumed I’d found my soul mate. Maybe I had. But while I’d concluded this meant spending eternity together, actually, a soul mate is simply a mirror; someone who shows you to yourself in all your flawed glory. This guy shook me up, giving me courage and introducing the notion that I could be a better version of myself. Unfortunately, once he’d done that, the love seemed to fizzle to no more than a soggy version of its former fireworks, and despite my sadness and regret, it was time to walk away.

Love is a curious thing. Every time you curl into that other person’s side, in your mind it’s for the first and the last time. I suppose therein lies its beauty; we’re able to bounce back and give each partner the real deal, regardless of how many lovers came before and how many may follow.

Perhaps the truth is that when it comes to the raw, untameable chaos that is love, our mind and our consciousness have nothing to do with it. It’s our souls who choose one another, and whether they bind for a year or a lifetime, it can never be discounted as a waste of time or energy or heart.

Maybe this is the reason behind our ability to revive like we do. Despite what our minds may think, our spirit is never defeated or cheated by a transpired love affair; some integral part of us knows that whatever the union was supposed to achieve, it fulfilled its purpose. But when our heart needs something other, we must permit it the freedom to seek it.

So I guess there’s no such thing as being unlucky in love; no matter its duration or motive, it’s a gift and a growth. And afterwards, there’s nothing to be done but gather our missing pieces so that in our entirety we can look forward to the next time our core connects, for as long as it will, with another.