facebook and the age of artificial relationships
I have a few stories for you.
I lost my best friend. Well, okay, it's not like she died or anything, but she's not really my best friend anymore; I hardly know her. It took me a long time to accept that. Our lives practically went in opposite directions and anything relatable in our lives became unrelatable, until we became unrecognizable to one another. Today we are still friends on social media sites, but I haven't seen her face in over two years, and I haven't heard her voice since I called her to tell her I was pregnant with Austen. I haven't communicated with her at all, in any way, in a few months. There was a point when I broke all social media contact with her because I didn't want her to see what was going on in my life and feel like she was still my friend. I wanted her to know her presence in my life was supposed to mean more than seeing a few pictures of my kids on Instagram. Maybe it would change something, maybe it wouldn't.
One time I deleted a friend over a Facebook debate. Yes, I was one of those people. I am sure you have experienced, in your lifetime, how words can be taken the wrong way online, you know, with the lack of facial expressions and vocal tones and such... all that stuff that happens in a normal face-to-face conversation. Anyway, some things were said and feelings were hurt and it wasn't long before I felt I had overreacted and thought it was silly to have deleted a dear friend over a miscommunication and a little pride.
A few years ago, I came to the realization that a good friendship of mine was fading. A few lost emails, exchanged words of "I just need the time to sit down and write you back" on both ends, and forgotten conversations drifted as the door was gently closed on our relationship. I wasn't bitter. I wasn't sad. It felt right. I believe most friendships are meant to fade. Naturally, most people are there for a chapter in your life, and then both lives move on. People are placed in our lives for a reason. Sometimes they reach deep in our souls and stir up the soil where the relationship is planted and grows, and they share joys and sorrows, and then sometimes, eventually, it must whither away. Different paths are taken, and the friendship is remembered for what it was, in all its goodness. It's how things are supposed to be.
About two weeks ago I told my sister I would call her back that night. I miss her so much but sometimes you can hardly tell by my lack of involvement in her life. I am a hypocrite because I don't go out of my comfort zone to make the utmost effort to show people how much I love them. Sometimes I am just as much of an empty place in someone's life as I feel my friend has been in my life.
Facebook and other social media sites offer the false sense that a friendship exists, that by "liking" or commenting on a few pictures or statuses now and then, the friendship continues. On the opposite end of letting friendships fades, social media also gives us the impression that we are involved when we are not. This is fine for Christmas-card-friendships. But I'm talking real, honest, sharing-life-and-hopes-and-struggles friendships. I felt this first-hand after the birth of my daughter. We received many warm congratulations on Facebook, and I had many friends (even people we'd never met!) bring us meals, but there were many people whom we considered close friends or family, that did not come by to see her. It hurt. I understood though, that because her birth was announced through social media, that by seeing her pictures and telling us congratulations, people felt involved
But I am not pointing fingers. I am guilty of the same things. I haven't visited brand new babies in hospitals because I let them know of my love by "liking" and "commenting" on photos. I've said "way to go!" and "awesome!" or "hope you feel better" through social media more times than I've been there in person to hold a hand or pat a back. Sometimes I don't speak to some of my closest family for months because we are "connected" by Facebook. I know that my grandma sees pictures of the kids daily through social media, and so I hadn't taken the time to print photos and send her a hand-written letter. I finally did last month. Never underestimate the worth of a hand-written letter. It is precious when it comes from people who are precious in your life.
The neglect by some people whom I considered close friends has made me strive to be a better friend to those I love. The other day I forced -- yes, I had to force -- myself to call a sweet friend who had given birth to a precious baby girl a few days before. I am terrible at the phone, but most of the time once I am actually talking to someone I am always surprised that I haven't died from spontaneous combustion, or whatever I think is going to happen when I use the phone, and I enjoy the conversation.
Sometimes social media takes true relationship out of some friendships, even relationships with family members. The next time someone has an important event occur in their lives, be there. In person. With a hand-written card. With words and eye-contact and hugs. Call someone you haven't talked to in a while. Write a letter. Strive to have real, rather than artificial, relationships.