The past few years have been quite different than any other years. I’ve had a Facebook account since around 2005. Instagram and Twitter a bit later than that. I thought it would be fun to “connect” or stay “connected”. It felt like maybe I’d get to stay friends with folks from college or reconnect from childhood. It did do all of that. I can let someone know I see them, I care, I think they’re amazing without having to look up their old phone number in a phone book from 15 years ago and just hope they still have the same number.
When I first started using social media I would usually say something very ambiguous that even when I get memory notifications now “you said this 10 years ago”, I’m like what was I even talking about then I have no idea. Now, I post long paragraphs about my experiences, photos, or repost the current news story. So in another 10 years I will know exactly why I was so upset or excited.
With these changes and the changes in society in general I’ve noticed stress and frustration over making decisions to unfriend, block, mute and so on. I see it in those I follow as well. Social media has set itself up as a friend especially Facebook. Other spaces you may follow or connect but especially Facebook where you have more room to express yourself to your “friends.” Your posts can be longer, you can post more photos, and you can cross posts and things.
Because I am “friends” with someone I feel trapped. For one I take the word and the work of friendship seriously. I don’t think I’ve ever had an instant friend. For me there is time and cultivation that goes into it. So here I am almost 20 years removed from the college friendships and all of our lives have changed. Our views and values may have shifted, but we had great time together our freshman year of college.
I got to thinking about my parents and how they didn’t have social media. My mom recently reunited with people she knew over 50 years ago from a summer work experience she had. She had lost touch, maybe a few times she ran into a few people who worked at the same organization but never really found her friends from those two summers. Then a year or so ago my mom found a friend. They talked and then that friend had a few more phone numbers and eventually they were all able to connect on a Zoom call like we all learned how to do in the year that was.
So I was wondering if my “friends” whom I have precious memories but we differ in such ways that make theirs and my blood boil at times, I wonder if I unfriend them will maybe 20 or 30 more years pass and they’ll accept my friend request again? I wonder if it will even matter as almost that much time has passed and I have just enough words to say to them to get me excommunicated for good.
What if we give ourselves to time to cool. To learn more about life and what will always be worth it and what just doesn’t matter anymore when you’re in your 60s and 70s. What if time (and work) does heal wounds?
Is the unfriending just a way of mentally having control or does it truly mean the deepest of meanings? If we are no longer friends on social media but we still have access to each other’s lives is that enough? Can that be enough? If we never see or speak to each other again but have memories, is that enough? Can that be enough?
For now, feel freedom. Unfriend, unfollow, mute, shut it all down. I don’t care. I do. Don’t shut everybody out. We do need people.
I have a feeling friendship is deeper and wider than social media. I also have a feeling we will be okay and go through life’s ebbs and flows half a world away and around the block. At least I hope so.