A few days ago I posted about how e-comms has enabled me to make and maintain friends in a way that I find hard face to face (not least because some of the people I love the most are the furthest away). And earlier still, I posted about how e-comms is limiting our sense of connection and community in the real world. Which may seem contradictory positions. But I’ve been pondering this some more and thus will now blether about it for a few moments.
I’m not very good at keeping friends. I’m great at offering practical advice and book recommendations, but I am less good at emotional advice / empathy, rubbish about children, and frequently drop off the radar for weeks, nay months at a time.
I’m also incredibly judgmental. About your taste in cultural interests, your intellect, your choice of how you spend your time.
But… If you get through my ridiculous tests / manage to deal with my insanity, I am pretty good at most friend things. (Like I said, rubbish at the emotional stuff… don’t ask me for romantic advice, I really don’t know how I lucked out with the Gster. I’m good at why relationships go bad, but not so good at how you make a new one or fix a dysfunctional one).
And all the things that make me difficult to become friends with are, I think, what make me a decent pal. I’m honest, but I think being supportive is more important. Constructive criticism with a healthy dose of affection is a big part of my modus operandi (when asked for such feedback). I will try my very best to understand you even if you fail all of the above instinctual requirements, and will feel bad that I have failed to do so, even whilst telling myself that I can’t be friends with everyone, and indeed don’t want to be friends with everyone.
Then I think about why people have friends. To hang out with? To gossip with? To go to the movies with? Cos I don’t do any of those things. I’d rather sit home watching the football and reading a book. I don’t dislike people, and I like having intellectual chat with the friends that I have managed not to piss off to the extent that they abandon me.
But mostly I think we have friends for support, encouragement, affection and reassurance. And to share good and bad times, and to swap opinions with. At least, that’s why I do. So, if you take away the socialising part, and the emotional chat part, I’m actually a pretty awesome friend. Though you do have to be quite smart. Or at least have an informed opinion. Cos I don’t mind if you disagree with me, I just want you to have thought about it for a wee bit, not too much to ask no?
And so actually, the new, ‘chat about politics from your sofa at midnight on twitter world’ we now inhabit suits me pretty well. But then I also use e-comms to keep up with folk close to home. And I’m not interested in gossip, in real life or e-life. I’ve lost count of how many people I’ve ‘un-followed’ because they kept being inane or re-tweeting rumours and hearsay. I’m interested in your opinion, your intellectual take on things, not what you had for dinner or malicious chatter about ‘people in the public eye’.
All of which makes me think I probably should live in a Marcel Proust novel, where I can attend salons of an afternoon or evening, where people will value my opinion over my social chit-chat / which movie I last saw. But then Proust did inspire my name so maybe I should have figured that out sooner.