I’ve noticed a flux of friend requests on Facebook lately. I’ve started dwindling down my friends feed to be only things, people or causes and organizations I’d go to bat for, (or pick up at 2am when their car breaks down.) I’m still at 425- which is frankly too many people to pick-up, but I enjoy my stream and the people inside it. As I get older, I seem to allow fewer and fewer people into my life. Not that I’m not proud and want to share, but my children, ideas, feats and emotions are all precious to me. And, it happened a few years ago, that I actually just stopped wanting to know about people that I hadn’t kept in touch with. There’s a sort of voyeurism on Facebook. And until I started pairing down my friends list, I had difficulty differentiating the authentic from the well-typed.
A few weeks ago, I went to the store in yoga pants, at 12am to get groceries. Across from electronics, stood the guy I dated when I was 17- who, looked the exact same. It was as if not a moment had passed by, except for a few piercings and tattoos in-between. I made a promise with myself years ago, that should I ever see someone I know in public- no matter how awkward, I’d always say hello. And so- I did.
We talked for about 10 minutes. To his question of, “so, what’s been new?” I replied, “everything and nothing.” We thought we should grab coffee or drinks soon. And we did actually, last Saturday night for about 5 hours with follow-up plans for this week. Ironically, we’ve been within a few miles of one another our whole lives- even through moves or the craziness that was my twenties. Life is strange and wonderful. He wasn’t at all what I remembered and frankly, either was I.
My days of wanting everyone to be my friend lasted until age 29ish. And then, it turned into a sort of goal: I wanted to be able to close each circle that was opened. For any angry parting, I wanted to be able to look someone in their eyes and know that I had the humility to stand before someone, apologize and move on. I never want to fear running into someone, I want to embrace who I see and know that I’ve grown from the messes and mistakes I’ve made.
It started as a dare to myself after an incredibly-painful parting with my dearest friend. I called her up one day and said, “We’ve gotta meet for coffee.” And we did- having the best discussions yet- in our 30 year friendship.
I saw a business contact at an event last month and gave her a hug. It had been too long. I had failed at communicating and I was given an incredible gift to have the opportunity to apologize.
Then just over a week ago, I had an opportunity to invite someone who I haven’t seen or talked to in a few years out to a press event. And I did- nonchalantly, via phone without baited breath. He never responded, but I had done it. No more awkward.
But today, I felt stumped. We went to grade school and middle school together, but during the massive un-friending that happened earlier last year, I just didn’t feel confident I truly needed her in my life anymore. There was drama, or uncomfortableness. Facebook, somehow- seemed more intimate to me than a wave hello in public. But, there it was- the ominous friend request. Everything had been going so well lately. I had been putting great karma into the world and receiving positivity in return. Why did this feel wrong? I messaged her asking her to meet me for coffee, as my friends list had gotten smaller and smaller and I wanted to know her again. Her reply was curt, and interesting. “I don’t really interact with people I’m not friends with on Facebook.”
Well, crap. That certainly backfired, didn’t it? Not everything is simple. Not every situation can be a perfect circle. And I somehow had done the exact opposite of what I wanted in the first place. My final reply was short with an explanation about kids and cancer and wanting my friend list to reflect people I knew intimately, or at least, a tribe of people who understood and took me as I was. It went unreplied to. Why anyone would want to simply be on my Facebook feed, but unwilling to grab coffee seems strange, doesn’t it? It seems like a comforting mechanism: I’ll peek in on an individual, but I don’t have to do more than, “like” them to keep this false relationship. Because, that’s what it is, unless you take it offline, right?
Relationships are hard work- especially with a few hundred people. I find myself failing at missing birthdays or not being as in-tune as I should. I haven’t meant to be lazy, in the least. I just haven’t found the perfect balance that wasn’t writing, “Happy Birthday” to one person and copying and pasting it into the rest of that day’s birthdays. Without writing what a truly want- a sentence or paragraph with someone personal. Because, that’s what people deserve.
I’ve tried to pick up the phone instead, or send an email- but sometimes, I fail at that too. We all do. And, that’s alright. For some, Facebook doesn’t mirror real life any more than real life mirrors online personas. I just think there has to be a better way. Hopefully I’ll find it before I anger too many other non-friends from the 6th grade. Because- embarrassing.