Sunday, October 9, 2011

With a Little Help from Your Friends: Get a Life

"And the days went by like paper in the wind. Everything changed, then changed again. It's hard to find a friend. It's hard to find a friend."
- Tom Petty

Here's the question: Are real friends still a necessity in a digital age?

When I am feeling sorry for myself, which happens more than I would like to admit, I worry that if I ever want to make a friend again it is going to be of the invisible kind.  This is mainly because I am under house arrest here most of the week, glued to the computer and my little "corner office" for a lot of hours everyday with my only office mates being hairy, smelly and generally not the greatest conversationalists.  My friends back in Texas are still my friends, but I'm not right there anymore and we live divergent lives now.  I forget to check in with them.  They forget to check in with me.  It's the way it goes in a fast paced world.  I am far more guilty of it than the reverse.  When I chatted with a friend on the phone the other day, the first time we had actually spoken since I got here, I found out that her life had been rather dramatic in the months since I came east.  I had no idea, and I felt so badly that I had allowed us to lose touch to that degree, and that she had to go through all those things without any moral support from me.  How could I not know all of this, I wondered?

Facebook gives you a false sense of connection I think.  One of the many conundrums of social networking - you are connected, yet you aren't.  I could reach out to her at any time through that media, but because she is my "friend" on FB, there is sort of a complacency about it that causes you not to actually touch base with people themselves, but to get your information and base your assumptions on their well being from your news feed.  One is likely not going to change one's Facebook status to say, "My husband left me today for a much younger woman and took the dog with him, and because I cried about it at work, I got fired." (DISCLAIMER:  That is NOT what happened to my friend, not even close - it's just a fictional example.)  You still have to actually communicate with your friends to get the real details of their lives, their loves, their fears and worries, and their needs.  And I don't mean Tweeting or texting when I say "communicate".  One can check in with one's friend via text, but I would challenge the notion that one can really effectively communicate that way.  I've watched people try to carry on rather in depth "conversations" via text and let me just say, the subtext gets lost in the text.  Sometimes you need to hear the inflection in one's voice to really understand them.  Trying to make major decisions in 140 character little snippets is just mind boggling to me.  But, I'm old, so just take that into account.

Anyway, I digress.  As I was saying originally, people are so busy with their work and their families that there is precious little time to remember to drop a note to someone or call just to say hi.  So, you naturally tend to hear less and less often from those you left behind.  And in corresponding order to where they existed in your circle of friends.  Casual acquaintances drop off first and so on until you're left with the hard core and long established close friends.  The people you would take a bullet for and vice-versa.  They stay in touch, but even they have lives outside of you now that you're not right there.  That's all well and good.  Because you do too.

Unless you're me that is.  I have lived in this town for nearly ten months now and can honestly tell you I have not made one single friend (my lovely Philly friend does not count - we knew her already).  I can claim a fair number of acquaintances.  Some I know better than others.  But, there is not a single person I could call up at midnight and tell them to come get me and expect them to actually do it without really wondering what in world is wrong with me and then promptly losing my number.  So, I've been thinking about that some lately.  I am potentially in a unique position to answer the question, "Does a [relatively] normal individual actually have to have friends to go and do things with to be whole and happy?"  I think I would have answered that question back in January as no, not really.  I would have told you that I could live very comfortably for a long period of time with no one but my family - both the two and four legged ones.  And so I have.  But, every so often, and more often lately, I think there is a large value in having someone else to do things with.

As an example, Greg doesn't like hockey.  I'll drag him to a game or two.  He'll concede to record some of his socially progressive talk shows so I can watch the Pens real time in high definition, but it is just not his scene.  So, at midnight on opening night of the season, I was talking to the cat about that shot and this amazing save and then bemoaning the fact that it was going into overtime.  The cat stared at me intently like I had lost my mind.  He apparently does not like hockey either.  At least he didn't leave.  And that's when it struck me:  I really need to make some friends.  And they better like hockey.  I'm sure my family would appreciate it if I would.  Then the responsibility to entertain me wouldn't be squarely and wholly on their shoulders.

I'm not an easy person to like.  It's not just me saying this, I've been told as much before.  But, I don't think I'm a monster either.  I think I'm friend-worthy.  The challenge is just to get out in the world to meet people.  Volunteering is still the best plan for that, but that is problematic with work being what it is.  All of that is more or less beside the point.  I know what I need to do to fix it.  I am just fascinated by the fact that I created this little social experiment for myself and learned that John Lennon was really right, you get by with a little help from your friends.

1 comment:

  1. Who the hell told you, you are not easy to like? You're easy to like. What's not to like? You are smart, funny, intelligent, tell a good story, you like to laugh, you are interested in lots of different subjects, you are caring, loyal and fierce. If I ever find out who said that to you I will kick their ass...see, that's what you call hard to like.