When is someone your friend? If I had to answer this question in a quick survey, I’d say someone you spend a lot of time with, or “hang out” with, more than with acquaintances. Someone that you have strong affectionate or admiring feelings for (not romantically). You share in their life, whether that be their losses or wins, successes and failures. Someone you have shared interests with. Someone you have a connection with on some level.
A good friendship will have an even balance of these things, a reciprocity of friendship. The violation of this unspoken agreement is also the greatest downfall in a friendship. I think every person has been in a friendship where you do not get as much from the person you are investing in as you are giving. It’s like trying to sprint a 100m dash when one of your legs has been in a cast for three months while the other one was being exercised; things are going to tumble to the ground. It would be a normal reaction to have resentment towards the other leg that just didn’t pull it’s weight, making you do all the hard work. And yet despite all your efforts, the ship still goes under. It’s exhausting to be the strong leg. It’s painful.
I’m rather introverted, so I can’t really manage more than five friendships. The Dunbar theory suggests that each layer of friendship is multiplied by a factor of 3. You can have 5 intimate friends, and then 15, 50 and 150 in each successive layer which sees a decrease in intimacy. I can relate with those numbers. Intimacy is of course reached by spending time with each other and exchanging experiences and emotions.
So now comes the reason why I’m writing this post. In this modern day, we have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Youtube, Whatsapp, 9Gag, Reddit, 4Chan and a whole bunch of other platforms where you can give your opinion about things and interact with other people. The biggest users on these platforms are usually celebrities or platform made celebrities. Examples are Brock O’Hurn and Matthew Noszka. I’m using them as examples because they were the ones that led me to these thoughts. Both of these beautiful people were discovered on Instagram, and subsequently got launched into celebrity status. I whole-heartedly admit that I only got Snapchat to follow Matthew’s indevours and day to day life. The same is true for Instagram.
What I’m getting at is this: I’ve spent hours, probably days, looking at their photos and videos, twitter, interviews, and anything else that has to do with them. This is part of the celebrity culture problem of this world. I’ve invested so much in them that I even share in their emotions. I’m happy when things seem to be going great, and sad when they aren’t. But what I realised was that these people actually create a false sense of friendship in your head. I watch their videos and think, man I think we’d get along great. We send them messages, comment on their videos and photos, hoping in our hearts they will respond to us, see us, return the friendship. But they never do. And we spend so much time on them, probably the amount needed to create intimacy with you 5 close friends, or at the very least your 15 circle friends. But now you don’t have time to maintain an actual friendship with real people, because you’re spending that time on unreciprocated friendships.
We might be very digitised, but we are still only humans and our bodies/brains are confused with all the hormones and signals it’s bombarding us with. I mean, it has pretty much been proven that social media is an actual addiction and that you get the same kick out of it as you would on drugs. We are overloaded, and frying ourselves. We are squandering precious minutes, hours, days, months of real friendship with actual humans in our vicinity on digitised, airbrushed, limited entities on the internet.
I was sad when this realisation kicked in a few days ago. I had just spent a few hours watching stuff on Brock, and then I went out with an actual friend and I told her about this. Because let’s be honest; when you’ve spent time with someone, there is a residual memory and emotive response to the interaction for hours/days after the actual interaction. Those internet videos have the same effect.
When you die, will a life filled with real friendship and experiences flash before your eyes? Or the life of someone you never met but vicariously lived through?