The New Nature of Friendship

all_friends-512I’m Friends with 736 people. Most of whom I haven’t seen in something like 25 years. A few I’ve never met. But we’re still friends. How is that possible?

First Friends

Our first friends are chosen for us. We don’t have a say in it. Our siblings are our first friends, or maybe the children of our parents friends. But we didn’t choose them. Your first friends were the kids your parents inadvertently decided on for you. That’s how it works when you are a baby. You can’t make those decisions for yourself. You are too busy learning to walk and talk and clap. Babies love clapping.

The older we get the more say we have in who is or isn’t our friend. We see personality traits we like and attempt to become friends with people who share those traits. When I was six I was friends with girls who enjoyed purple as much as I did. As I grew a little older and more mature, it was stickers. If you had a lot of stickers, I wanted to be your friend. In grade school my best friend was the girl who came before me in alphabetical order. We sat next to one another for five years and her family lived a short walk from mine. A friendship was born.

But how long is a friendship based on last names or love of stickers supposed to last? Your grade school friends either became your Jr. High friends, or you were put into different classes and developed new friendships. When it became clear that my Alphabetically Based Friend and I had little left in common, our friendship just passed into memory. It wasn’t a sad thing. It wasn’t a thing at all. We just outgrew each other. Nobody expected you to stay BFF’s with the kid you sat next to in Ms. Partridge’s Fifth Grade home room, or that girl who wore horse shirts every day.

But there they are in your News Feed. Every day. You get to see the children, dogs, cats, hamburgers, family holidays, work complaints and Halloween costumes of every person you ever met in your entire life who happens to remember your name.

Facebook Friends

It was a simpler time. A time before Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. A time when you met people at school or church or work or your local D&D game or the market and if you liked one another – you became friends. If one of you moved away, sadly the friendship would loosen its grip. Long distance friendships lasted only if both parties were good communicators. And remember, it was only the telephone and letter writing. Like with a pen on paper. If you couldn’t manage to keep up with your letter writing or phone calls, the friendship would die out.

These days I see the daily minutia of 736 people. For example, I know that some of my friends in Austin floated the river today. I know that another friend of mine from high school adopted an adorable kitten named Winston. I know which of my exes have gotten fat and which have gotten remarried. I also happen to know that one friend is “Trying the meatloaf”, while another is “Just over it.” Facebook isn’t really about friendships, it’s about self promotion. It’s a one-way street – MY Street. I’ll talk about what I want, and if you are my friend you are obligated to look at it. But is that really a friendship?I’m not casting stones from my fancy glass castle, so settle down. I am well aware that I am guilty of posting pointless pictures of cats to Facebook. And I don’t even own a cat.

someecards-enemies-real-life-block-youI guess I’m saying that since we (as a society) have decided that we want to know people forever, we need to start being a little more discerning about what we put out there. I mean, I would never bring someone over to my house and make them look at photo after photo after photo of my cat or my child. Or my lunch. So perhaps I shouldn’t be doing it online either. Perhaps less is more.

Friends used to be people you saw often and hung out with, people you shared secrets with. In person. Now a friend is just a click away. You don’t really have to put time or effort into a Facebook Friend. Once you agree, that’s it. You are friends.

Terminus

Until you get deleted. And that is pretty easy also. You can edit actual people from your life with just a click of a button. You don’t have to write a long letter explaining why you can’t be friends anymore. Heck you don’t even have to look the person in the eye or be in the same time zone. All you have to do is click. They might not even notice. It’s that easy. Facebook prolongs the period it takes to get over someone, because you have an open window into their life, whether you want to or not. You see their updates, their pictures and their relationship status. You see how happy they are. Or at least how happy they seem. Either way it isn’t healthy. It’s a mecca for passive aggressive behavior.

We call people we know on Facebook our friends whether or not we know them in any real sense, or even like them. Most of your FB friends are just people you used to know. Sure you know what they ate for dinner last night, but it’s a one-sided deal. True friendship is built upon trust and interaction. Real friendship is deeper than words on a computer screen or photos of desserts. A Friend is someone you socialize with in person, someone you have an emotional investment in and feel a connection with. It seems crazy to expect the same experience from a computer screen.

So for good or bad, Facebook makes it easy to form and maintain friendships. We can post a quick happy birthday on a wall and we don’t have to worry about sending a card. If a friend is bugging you with her political postings or boring stories of his workplace, just log off. Personally I don’t give a rat’s posterior if you are “Having a hurried Friday” or if little Johnny “took forty minutes to tie his shoes”. And I certainly don’t care to know which GoT character a classmate from third grade is.

So how do we continue? What is the solution to the problem of online friends? It’s so easy to just hide or block those that don’t fit into the little online kingdoms we have created for ourselves. But that isn’t really doing anything to improve friendships or our online experiences with other people. We need to start conducting ourselves better online. Don’t post every thought that comes into your head no matter how hilarious you think it is. Use good judgement. Ask yourself if all 736 people you know online need to see the ice cream cone you are eating.

Ignore all of the bullshit. Don’t comment on everything. Use restraint. Don’t friend everyone that asks. Treat people online (or off) with respect. Having lots of friends and dozens of “likes” on a status can feel-good. I get it. But when things get tough, “likes” and comments won’t replace a real shoulder to lean on. Being a real friend takes time. I guess ol’ Will Shakespeare said it best, “A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.”

I’m So Over… Spring Edition

SN856851It’s that time again. Time to clean out the closets and let my readers know the stupid stuff that is getting on my nerves at the moment. And of course, to bring balance to the universe, the next post will be a Spring edition of “Things I’m Crazy About”.

  1. Allergies – Although Austin apparently fell 38 spots on the worst places in America for allergies list, it still sucks. People who don’t suffer from allergies normally will be a sneezing ball of snot after a week here. People here talk about the Spring being “amazing” because of the weather, (beg to differ) but forget to mention the constant stream of polan in the air. I have never suffered from allergies like I have here. Yet one more reason to leave Austin in my wake. 
  2. Wine is the new Cupcakecougartown_240Can someone please tell me when women in their late 30’s had a meeting to decide that wine was the new accessory of choice? It’s really embarrassing. All over my FB, (and on TV) I see women embarrassing themselves by talking about how many BOXES of wine they are going to have. And then doing it. Courtney Cox even has a show about drinking wine in your 40’s called “Cougar Town”. Yeah. I know. I for one don’t want that association. Please don’t think that all women are that silly. I don’t want to look like a 40 year old lush who uses my shitty job, my boring husband, or my wonderful children as my raison d’être. It’s not a classy look for an adult. These are the women who get together at restaurants in order to pick at salads get drunk. Oh, and talk shit about their husbands/boyfriends. I know, I used to serve them. Gross. Cut. It. Out.
  3. Pictures of your shitty meal – Maybe we could all agree that not every meal we make, buy or happen to see deserves to have it’s picture taken, hm? This goes for pictures of the inside of your freezer or what your cat ate.
  4. Austin, TX320954-austin-texasYep, not a fan. It’s funny. I have lived in a lot of different cities, states and a few countries. When I say a place doesn’t cut the mustard, I have a wealth of personal experience that it is based off of. Most of the people I have met here who “LOVE IT” have never lived anywhere else. I’m not shitting you. I hear “It’s the greatest city in the world” from people who haven’t been outside the state. It’s really frustrating to try and have a constructive conversation with folks here about the city’s vast problems because nobody wants to hear it. My fella (who is from Texas) feels the same way. This city feels dated and unwelcoming. The division between the yuppies and the rest of the population is startling. Anyway, y’all can have it. I’ll be outta yer hair next year. Til then I will keep on letting the folks of Austin know that they are behind the times on just about everything. Disagree? That’s what having your own blog is for…
  5. Guns: I think we should find a remote island. Or maybe just reclaim one of the Dakotas. But we should have a place where all of the nice freedom loving gun assholes can go live and be free with their guns. Did you hear about the little boy who shot his sister while he was PLAYING with his rifle? The rifle was a gift he received for Christmas from his family. So now… how are guns a good idea again, or is this kid another terrorist.
  6. Calling your kid “Monkey”: spider-monkey_719_600x450I’ve got news for you – Just about every parent calls their kid “Monkey”. I see it at work, I see it on FB, I saw it in Europe and I see it in the states. I see it on TV and in movies. I guess it’s not that big a deal, but I assure you, if I ever have a kid I will not call them “Monkey”. Or “Bean” that’s another popular one. People go out of their way to come up with original names for their children and then just call them “Monkey”. What a waste. For those of you without kids (Yet?) – may I suggest some of the following, less used, adorable nicknames for babies: Stinky, Tank, Gus, Chief, Speedy, or Smigel.

Politics as Usual

Politics usually brings out the worst in people. The reason being that most of us have some very strong feelings about things like the economy, drugs, rights and freedom. Most of believe we are right, but pretend to have an open mind about “the other side”. If you are on Facebook then you probably know what I am talking about – post after post after post about how this candidate is a jerk, and that candidate is a wimp. My side is right and your side is wrong.

And I can handle that. I often post articles that are pro Obama. His views and policies line up pretty well with my own. We both believe that gay people should have the right to marry. (Mitt Romney does not.) We both believe that a woman should have full control over her own body. (Mitt Romney does not.) These two areas are so important to me that the other issues take a back burner. It’s not that they are not important, it’s that I cannot, and will not vote for anyone who doesn’t believe in equality for all people. Mitt Romney doesn’t believe in equality for all people, so I’m voting for the other guy.

I’ve gotten into a few Facebook arguments about the election. Most of these online debates were about things like the economy or social security, and at least once over whether or not Romney was animatronic. I think I won that one, but anyway… Fighting about politics is fine, but what do you do when the statments start turning ugly? What do you do when profanity is introduced, or when the conversation goes from being cordial to personal attacks? I stop engaging.

But what do you do when you are related to the person who said the comment and the comment was racist? Yep, racist. This happened to me this week. I was looking at the FB page of a relative of mine and saw a blatantly racist comment about the President. And it wasn’t the first time. I didn’t know what to do. Do I say something? Will they listen? I mean, it was embarrassing for me seeing it out there and quite honestly it was pissing me off. I couldn’t delete the relative because they are my relative. But I couldn’t NOT say anything because I would say something to anyone else who thought that kind of talk was alright.

Race has nothing to do with which candidate will make the best President. Your decision should be based on facts and your own personal beliefs, not on which candidate looks most like you. Using derogative language instead of a person’s name is mean and pointless. And it just makes you look like a jerk. Like an ignorant jerk!

I ended up sending out a brief private message basically saying what I said in the last paragraph. It probably won’t make a difference, but at least I’ll be able to sleep at night knowing I stayed true to myself. I guess the moral of the story is – be careful with what you say, and how you say it. You never know who might be reading it.

 

SOPA is STUPID

I’ll admit it. When I first heard someone mention SOPA my first thought was of the delicious, savory Mexican snack. My mouth started watering, and I was fantasizing about taco trucks within ten seconds. Unfortunately, the news worthy SOPA and the yummy Sopes are not the same thing. One is full of yum, and the other is full of shit.

SOPA is an acronym for Stop Online Piracy Act. It’s a bill designed to target websites that host pirated content and crackdown on those pirates out there posting shit for free – i.e. everyone. What does this mean? It means that companies will be held accountable and liable for what their users post. That means that sites like YouTube, Facebook, twitter, Wikipedia, and all other social forums where people post and repost funny pictures or videos from god knows where will cease to exist. Why? Because once this bill passes those sites simply can’t exist anymore. It is likely that they will be replaced with commercial media software. 

(Check out this Google Doc called “SOPA For Dummies”)

As of midnight tonight, Wikipedia is staging a blackout in protest of this stupid law. Mainstream media is in support of it which mean that you probably won’t get the full story so I’ll try to fill in the blanks. This law will suppress free speech online and allow for media corporations to commercialize whatever they want. “One of the provisions in the Senate version, which is still out there, is that under certain circumstances Internet providers would be required to block access to sites, by removing them from the DNS entry list. So if you type in the domain of a site that’s been accused of being devoted to infringement of copyright you wouldn’t get an answer of whether that site exists. That’s exactly what China does. They do blocking at the DNS level.” (Jimmy Wales, a co-founder of Wikipedia from THIS article)

I guess I’m writing this because I was in the dark. I thought SOPA was a food. but now that I know, now that a little light has been shed on me, I thought I needed to return the favor. If you like freedom, the internet, posting old clips of The Golden Girls to your pals FB page – then protest this law. Write to you local representative or congress person. Don’t believe me? Then do a little reading for yourself. If you are in favor of censorship then… well…this law is for you. 

Now, I am going to watch some videos of kittens waking up on YouTube while I still can. 

Is this Short Enough For Ya?

I hate Twitter. And Tweets. Twitpix is lame. Twitter is like being in a tiny room full of annoying people who are all vying for your undivided attention. I feel like my shirt sleeve is constantly being tugged, or like a little yappy dog is nipping at my heels. I feel like I just walked into a cloud of gnats. I just don’t get Twitter. What is the point? Is it just to be witty? Is it because you REALLY need people to know what you are doing every second of the day?

  • “Off to the bathroom!”
  • “What should I have for dinner tonight?”
  • “TRAFFIC!”

If you really can’t decide what to make for dinner without consulting your 500 closest friends, then buddy – you have bigger problems.

I blame Twitter (and the Internet in general) for the growing trend of short attention spans. For example, I was on another tool for time-suckage – FACEBOOK – the other day and saw this: A friend had posted a funny video that was a total of 3:23 seconds long. Underneath the video someone wrote, “Dude, I stopped watching after 30 seconds. When does it get funny?” Seriously. THREE MINUTES. A person today cannot wait even three minutes for something. If an article or blog post is too long, people don’t want to read it. In colleges today, students need “multi-media stimulus” in order to pay attention. People will stop reading a book after about 10 pages if they don’t feel “grabbed”. If information is not gathered quickly, then it is deemed not worth having.

My challenge to you, dear readers is this. Pick a day this week. Got it? Good. Now, on this day you are to do the following: Do not take your ipod (or whatever portable listening device you have) with you anywhere. Leave it at home and spend on day just listening to the world around you. Next, use your phone ONLY for calls and/or texts – nothing else. That means not checking your FB page, emails or Twitter when you are bored. That means not playing with iphone applications when your date is in the bathroom. That means getting comfortable with yourself and relearning patience.

I know that to some of you this seems impossible and uncomfortable. But, I think it will open your eyes just a little to the amount of time you spend wasting time. Now, I have to go delete my Twitter account.