“I think if I've learned anything about friendship, it's to hang in, stay connected, fight for them, and let them fight for you. Don't walk away, don't be distracted, don't be too busy or tired, don't take them for granted. Friends are part of the glue that holds life and faith together. Powerful stuff.” ― Jon Katz
According to my current Facebook page, I have 440 "friends" at any given time. So with that number, you would think the odds of having someone ask about my day, take interest in my successes, or pick me up when I've literally tripped over life would be favorably good, right?
I recently celebrated my birthday and in my now 35th year of life, I am finding the friendship area to be a more difficult one. Out of the 440 friends, only five wished me a happy day outside of the Facebook confines. If I had an emergency, these five people would be the ones I would call even though in the land of social media I am invisibly surrounded by likes, support, and friendship. In a world a virtual friendships and constantly being connected to one another, how is it possible to feel so alone in the friendship department of life?
Collectively, we have all become dependent on social media, myself included. Facebook reminds me of Birthdays, invites me to events, keeps me "in the know" of the goings on around me. I have had moments where I missed the life event of a loved one because a post about food or cats appeared at the top of my social media platform. We rely on technology to do the job. We trust that virtual media will inform those that need to know. We allow the convenience of typed words to let the spoken language fall through the cracks.
The people we meet in life, good or bad, help define who we are as a person. Friends and experiences from high school shaped who I began college as. The friends I made in college laughed when I laughed, cried when I cried, saw the good and the bad along the way. They helped get me ready for life beyond the safety of a dorm room. However, with all of that preparation, nooone prepares you for making new friends as an adult when you've left the security of those who surrounded you. Life offers us change as we journey from chapter to chapter. The first day in a new school, living with a roommate in college, starting a new job, having a child, joining a fitness class, beginning a relationship, marriage, divorce, and the list goes on. Any life change presents the opportunity to gain new people in your life and also sometimes closes the door to others.
Making a new friend can sometimes feel raw, vulnerable, and exposing. It's sometimes hard, awkward, confusing, and feels similar to going on a first date with someone new. To gain, you have to give. Giving or sharing is not always easy. The human race by nature can be judgmental and rough on the exterior. We often act the way we think we should. Say the things we think others want to hear. Harbor who we are to impress. The thing is, what's the point of all the effort if the result is false? I envy the fearlessness of my daughter who can walk up to a child an effortlessly engage in conversation and play all because they like the same crayon or have sparkles on their shirts.
A friendship is a relationship and relationships take work. Reciprocal effort from both sides is needed to effectively and successfully maintain a friendship. When recently asked about maintaining established friendships, One Cool Nerd Mommy Reader Ellen replied with this: "I think the biggest challenge is that people are constantly changing. None of us are the same person we were 10 years ago, or even last year for that matter! And when life circumstances change, when paradigms shift, not everyone is able to accept and support that. The person you may have partied all night with a few years ago may now be a mom of 3. Or your atheist friend may now be a conservative Christian. And if your own life hasn't evolved in the same way, it may take a lot of patience and effort and understanding to keep that friendship going (because you may have to get to know that person all over again), and not everyone is willing and/or able to do that."
Our lives, whether we like it or not, are directly or indirectly driven by social media. If you're reading this, it's on social media. Text messages, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, you name it. We stay in touch, but when is the last time you picked up the phone and called a friend instead of messaged them? Gone out for coffee instead of sending an emoji about it? Sent a card just because? We have lost touch with ourselves and with each other. Friendships take time to develop. They take time to maintain. Friendships take communication and truth. Honesty to be who you are and accept the person on the other side. Development and evolution. Friendships in a social world have lost the social component. We need to type less and verbalized more. We need to fight more, love more, be more. We need to be the person you want to have in your life. Stay connected with those who support you on social media, return the virtual love, but make time to get to know the people behind the screen. Life's moments are immeasurable, our time limited, so why not get out and get to know your neighbor, the person next to you in moms group, the familiar face at the gym. Call that lifetime friend who you've lost touch with. Laugh a little, cry a little, experience a lot. In the motto of the Girl Scouts, make new friends, but keep the old.
Until next time,
One Cool Nerd Mommy