I have been thinking a lot about friendships lately. Relationships always seem to be fluctuating and changing- so fluid at times that it can be difficult to feel secure with friends. I marvel at my wedding- almost four and a half years ago- and how I never see some of the people I was closest to or invited back then, and how I have some very close friends now that I would certainly invite, or even add to my bridal party if I did it all over again. I don't constantly doubt all my friendships, of course, but knowing that people come and go in our lives can make us feel vulnerable and insecure at times- or at least wonder which friends will stick with us through the best and worst in our lives.
I've actually been thinking lately that social networks and even our TV shows have helped to create uncertainty in friendships. For one, I think we are only built to have so many close friends, or to be able to closely keep track of the lives a small group of people. So facebook becomes this anomaly- we have hundreds of "friends" from all over the country perhaps- and we all post daily details about our lives. We feel like we are truly connected to all these people, even if we never see them, because we saw their posts about where their family went for vacation or how much they hate coffee. We feel like they are connected to us because they commented on our last post about potty training our child or our rant about our last Dr's appointment. In reality, we are not sharing our lives with hundreds of people- maybe we are sharing an outline of our day or lives with the facebook world. But only a handful of people know the story between the posts or go out of their way to actually become part of our lives- part of our story- rather than be simply an interested reader.
Then there are TV shows, which I have decided for myself can create a false sense of friendship or shared experiences. I am completely guilty of talking up TV shows with virtually everyone, and when I find someone who likes my favorite shows I feel like we have this instant connection. We immediately have what seem like "inside jokes"- hours of common experience- even though we watched at different times, on different couches and snacked on different things. And I know there is nothing wrong with talking TV, or spouting off quotable lines. But I think maybe shows have become the new "weather"- shows are my default discussion when I can't think of something else to talk about or don't know someone well. And if I continue to get to know them better- by talking about their life and actually spending time with them- then it is all gravy. But if I think of them as a friend because we were both hooked on Lost, then I will inevitably be disappointed A) since the show is clearly over and we have nothing to talk about now except that "Jin" is in Hawaii Five-O, or B) because we laugh so much together that I make more of the relationship than is there. I will end up with an unrealistic expectation of someone that I am only superficially friends with.
Sometimes I'll sit and think about who I am closest to, and I will be surprised- some people I rarely see but I know that when I do we will share heart to heart things and that if I ever need them they would be here in a minute. There are others who I see very regularly, and may do normal everyday activities with, but who also always make time to talk with me on a deeper level. Others may have been close to me in the past, and I am grateful for how they shaped me.
I'm realizing that really, this understanding of myself actually frees me up. It gives me permission to not feel guilty that I can't have a deep friendship with everyone on facebook. Conversely, it reminds me that I don't need the whole world to care deeply about me-if I don't have the ability to truly spend time with all my friends on facebook, why would I assume that all my online friends should be close to me? It also prompts me to think about the people in my life that I am close to, and ask if I am actually keeping up with them in real life, or just following their virtual updates. (Sorry, Facebook, I'm really giving you a beating these days. But I swear I'll never give you up if only to be able see friends pictures.)