Observations on friendship by guest blogger Hollie Grimaldi-Flores.
There was a time when, if you had a few true friends, you would consider yourself lucky. It seems that Facebook has taken the word and somehow redefined it. Minimized it, if you will. I have more than 1,000 Facebook “friends.” Daily, I see the lives and times—both good and bad—of many people I don’t really know. My newsfeed seems to be filled with faces and names that are familiar only in passing.
I was talking with my brother recently about a post I saw from our aunt—only to find out this woman is not our aunt at all. I had the wrong Sue. Good thing I didn’t show up for the reunion! The photos looked fun, and I am certain I recognized a family member or two. Hmmmm.
I feel bad about blocking perfectly nice people, but the truth is I don’t necessarily care about their dinner plans, politics, or Pinterests. I really want to have my feed filled with the people I care about and am genuinely interested in. However, I find myself checking out vacation photos from more than one person I do not have a personal relationship with at all.
More and more often I find myself alarmed by the inappropriate posts and shares I see in my feed. I keep yelling at my computer screen: “This is too much information! Keep it off social media! It’s none of my business!” And I am sad to see longtime friendships ending over political and social differences. But I also see how this part of our culture helps the lonely feel less alone and the socially awkward more engaged.
I admit I am getting to know quite a lot about people I would never have considered inviting into my life without Facebook. But the bigger question is: do I really need to? Isn’t that what high school reunions are for? The wondering whatever happened to that boy from freshman English has gone out the door. Unless he is of the (seeming) minority who cannot be bothered or does not want to be found, I already know what he is doing.
Friendship of Every Stripe
Last week, I was in my hometown to meet up with some friends for a newly formed annual get-together. One lives in Indiana, another in North Carolina, and I’m in California. After mentioning the trip on social media, we were told that a few of our former classmates would be gathering at a local watering hole while we were in town, and we were invited to stop by.
Upon arrival, we were greeted by no less than fifteen alumni. I did not recognize at least three of them, but felt I had come to know another half dozen simply from our posts on Facebook. There were a few people who are not part of the FB community, and it was a genuine treat to catch up with them and find out about their families, interests, and career choices. There were also a few who were not friends in either real life or online, but we have since made a social media connection.
During the evening, many of us played twenty questions to fill in the decades that had passed since we graduated and went our separate ways. It is amazing how many times we passed each other in the halls without a sideways glance. But now, given the advances of modern technology, we share activities, successes, and even failures with abandon. I have found myself finding kinship with people I would not have otherwise given a second thought—and that is a good thing.
Also at this gathering were some of my faithful friends—longtime confidants and partners in crime who know and love me through and through. We don’t need computer applications to keep track of our comings and goings, but it does make it easier to keep up.
The New Brand of Friendship
I have a close friend who just doesn’t get it. Why are we all so fascinated with the lives of people we would otherwise not spend a moment getting to know? My former classmates are all fine people, but the truth is, without social media I would have long forgotten many of them. I would know nothing of their whereabouts, offspring, or recent vacations.
While it is interesting and does give a sense of belonging, these people are not among those I would call in an emergency. This new brand of relationship is a long way from friendship. Might it be more adequately described as acquaintance, or something even more casual, like a passing interest or simply voyeurism? Still, my sense of empathy has me sending condolences to someone I went to school with nearly forty years ago whose dog lost its fight to cancer. It’s an interesting phenomenon.
The Real Friends
The truth is, I know who my real friends are. The ones I would call in a crisis. Those I turn to first, in celebration and in sorrow. There are a scant few I know I could call in the middle of the night for help, knowing they would come to the rescue—no questions asked. I know the ones who would probably be in the cell beside me should we find ourselves in real trouble. That kind of friend is sacred. It’s important to be able to make this distinction.
Following a career in broadcast and print media, Hollie Grimaldi Flores became a freelance writer. Originally from New York State, she has been in Northern California since 1985. She and her husband raised a blended family of six boys and one girl—now all grown. She is available for hire for ghostwriting, media content, and articles on a variety of topics. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.