Are We This Close?
Friendships are precious, are they not? Who but a friend will listen to our troubles, dole out tough love when we need it, and like us in spite of our imperfections? No one, that’s who. Friends are always there when we need them. Sometimes, they know us even better than we know ourselves.
The Curmudgeon is blessed with a lot of friends—two thousand, five hundred and eighty-eight to be exact. That’s according to Facebook, a site that offers daily visual evidence of just how rich I am in fraternal companions.
I’m embarrassed to admit it, but with that many dear, dear friends in my life, it’s difficult to remember how, when, or where we all met. If the truth be told (and I fear it must), there are some friends that I can’t place for the life of me. Perhaps it’s my advanced age affecting my memory. Perhaps it just a liability that comes of having such a wide social circle. Still, I’m fairly certain I’ve never been to Somalia, Nigeria, or the Netherlands. And yet…it seems…I have friends in those places. I’ve been meaning to reach out and ask some of those pals of mine to remind me how it began, this friendship of ours. I feel silly even asking. But surely one of us must be able to recall. After all, it says right there on my page that we’ve been friends for some time now. I'll bet there are some great old stories that have simply slipped my mind.
I suppose that a few of us must have lost touch at some point—perhaps more than a few of us—maybe even most of us. And no matter how long I stare at the faces of those friends or study their profiles, nary a memory is dislodged. It's not my intent to disparage these great relationships that have so enhanced my existence. But since I can't recall a single conversation with anyone in this particular subset of my two thousand, five hundred and eighty-eight friends—the ones I can't remember—well I hate to say it…I don’t think most of them could be relied upon for a ride to the airport (especially that one fellow in Peru). And I’m not at all sure I’d trust any them to feed my cat were I to leave town.
Ha! Some friends they are, staring at me from my computer screen with their smiling, unfamiliar faces but never thinking to send a card or even a text on my birthday. Why, they behave as if we were total strangers. I don’t even know their latest workplace gossip—or even if they have workplaces. We really do need to catch up one of these days.
It all leads me to wonder what it means to be friends with someone. More to the point, I find myself wondering what it means to be so-called “Facebook friends,” “Instagram friends,” or “Twitter friends.” These are terms that were only recently coined to describe (it would seem) friends who aren’t friends at all—in some cases, friends with whom one has not exchanged so much as a digitally transmitted word. It’s a bit of a strange relationship category, isn’t it? What place do these non-friend friends hold in our lives, and why are they there? It’s said that one can never have too many friends. But surely, one can have too many Facebook friends. (That is an actual fact, as Facebook will cut subscribers off at five thousand. If you reach that level of popularity, it’s no more friends for you, friend.)
But why do these people want to be my unintroduced friends? Since I’m not especially fond of people in general, as a species, I’m completely flummoxed by the huge numbers that appear on my social media accounts. Given my disapproving nature, even if I were to meet these mysterious alleged comrades, I’m quite certain I would not care for most of them. It seems I’ll never have the opportunity to test that theory on a grand scale. But if I ever make it to Chemnitz, Germany, I’m going to have a few questions for my old buddy Ahmed ALzarouq Algaddafi.