Sometimes I am friendlier with people than I really feel. Like at a party, when someone sees you and gushes, “oh my god, I’m so glad you’re here. I haven’t seen you in ages,” and hugs, kisses, pinches, squeezes and generally gets way to close for someone you really haven’t seen or thought about in ages. I’m usually not the gusher, but the recipient of the gushing, not because I’m morally or socially superior, but because I’m shy. In the instances when I am the gusher, I am so embarrassed by my own behavior that my overzealous greeting is usually followed by equally and oppositely intense silence or even coldness.
I’m not even sure that I’m exactly bothered by this practice, because I can see that it just greases the social wheels and makes large events with relative strangers just a bit easier, but it’s something I notice. I have a buddy who says she doesn’t really have any friends, but whenever I see her in public or social situations, she’s surrounded by people…well, gushing over her. I guess the reason I bring it up has to do with 1. social networking sites online and 2. dilution.
First, social networking sites – I hate them. I tried MySpace, and I just don’t see the point. It’s another website to log onto and I just don’t have the time – I’d rather be face-to-face than Facebooking. It’s a shame to me that in many of the papers and magazines I’ve read lately, these sites are listed and discussed. It’s not enough that the people who choose to spend their time on them use up (trying to not use the more judgmental term “waste”) their time on these sites, but now articles are written and take up my newspaper space to discuss these sites. Yes, they are addictive – enough reporters have tried them out and written that conclusion, we don’t need another article about it. So, making “friends” on these social networking sites – this is one instance where this enhanced intimacy thing seems to happen – you’ve read that your “friend” is a red, is most like Cameron Diaz, would be a wood nymph rather than a wizard and maybe a few of their favorites (song, color, type of food, dog/cat, etc) and suddenly, they’re your best bud, even though you’ve never met in person, you don’t know if they have brothers, sisters, parents, children, real live friends or said favorite dog/cat, etc. It’s just weird and … sorta sad.
Now, that said, I know there are lots of people who only friend people they know in real life. I also know there are people who meet people from online in real life and develop real time relationships that are maintained and enhanced by their online relationship. But I hate hearing that my friend was hurt by someone “de-friending” them or no longer commenting on their blog when it’s someone that isn’t really a part of their life anyway. (I recognize that even online pals are really a part of someone’s life, but I just cannot conceive of having relationships that are solely online, anymore.)
Okay, so setting that rant aside, moving onto dilution. The solution to pollution is dilution, but this is not the solution to friendlessness or loneliness. Simply increasing the number of acquaintances one has and calling them friends doesn’t seem an effective method of personal growth, social support or pain relief. I have trouble making time for coffee with my local friends and colleagues, keeping in touch with my out of town friends and family and balancing that with maintaining my home life and career. And I’m really good at time management. When my friendships get diluted by knowing more people, it’s actually harmful to my close, personal relationships, rather than helpful. This is just the effect on my life, but I’ve also noticed the way it feels being just one of the many friends of people who are accumulating friends in this way. You can’t save me – I won’t remain in your “friend account” forever. Our friendship needs to be cultivated and developed or, despite our overly intimate physical greetings, I’ll be a friend on your friend’s list only.