For week seventeen of the 52 Blogs project the topic is ‘friends’. In this post I end up discussing friendship more than actual friends. Or Friends.
I’m a bit of what you might call a fairweather friend. Or, at least, I used to be. In my more social days friends were the people I’d hang out with, the people I’d talk to often, the people I’d confide in, the people I’d want to have a beer with. I’d try and maintain friendships over distance, if it became necessary, but I was always rubbish at it. I don’t like using the phone, so lengthy catch-up chats aren’t really going to happen. I’m terrible at time management, so letters get further and further apart until they just stop happening. Also I have terrible handwriting.
The internet’s changed a lot of that. While thinking about what to write for this blog post I realised that most of my closest friends now are people that I don’t tend to see on a frequent basis: they’re people I talk to on twitter or facebook. Whereas ten or more years ago a catch-up in the pub, or over coffee, would be a requirement (at least in Britishland it was) for maintaining any relationship, now a few hours on twitter during the week performs much the same function.
I do still like to see my friends from time to time. It may just be me, but I think it’s virtually impossible to maintain any meaningful, close relationship without seeing the other person at least once in a while–it can be as little once every few years, but it still has to happen. After all, you can’t hug people over twitter, or in an email.
Some people argue that the internet has destroyed or diminished real relationships (I don’t actually have any examples of that, but I’m sure it’s what some people are saying). I say that the internet has massively improved people’s abilities to strike up friendships. Previously your friends were often decided by circumstantial things: where you work, what school you went to, who’s in your extended social circle. You could pick your friends to a degree, but they’d still come from a fairly limited pool. Furthermore, you’d often strike up a social relationship with someone before being properly able to judge whether you wanted to be friends or not.
(I want to add at this point, in case I seem to be suggesting otherwise, that the friends I grew up with are still very dear to me. I may not talk to them often or at all, but they all have a cherished place in my memories and my past would not be what it was without them. These are the people I did spend incredible years of my life with and it’s *because* they were friends that those years were incredible: in other words, they weren’t my friends simply because I spent all those years with them).
Now it’s the other way around. Something I’ll be eternally grateful to twitter for is that it’s introduced me to almost all of my current group of friends: not only that but it’s given me the opportunity to develop close relationships with people *before* I even met them. For someone who’s fairly social phobic it’s revolutionary.
Of course there’s more to friendship than simply hanging out occasionally, or sharing bad puns over social media. Like any relationship, friendships need to be cared for, nurtured, worked on. One of the reasons we develop friendships is for support: sometimes it’s given, sometimes it’s needed. I’m quite a cold-hearted bastard at times (or maybe ‘dispassionately practical’ is a more accurate term) which is why I accepted the ‘fairweather friend’ label. In a lot of ways I still struggle with working out what I can give as my part of the ‘friendship contract’: I don’t have vast amounts of spare time, and my family will always come first; I don’t have much in the way of practical skills, so i can’t offer to help with things like DIY; I’m not even very good at sympathy, so I tend not to offer it. If I really like you I will let you play with my Dalek toys…
I guess, in the end, friendship is about giving whatever you can whenever you can (or whenever it’s needed). My friends mean the world to me: I might not have much to offer, but whatever little I have to give is theirs.
And since you had to know this was coming: