“People now in their 20s have a lot of self-advertising talent, but are they, I wonder, close to the point where a bad breakup, say, or a death in the family, isn’t a moment of opportunity for the protective and dignifying balms of old friendship, but simply a quiet day on social media?”
The internet has radically redefined the way we make and keep friends. Some of us are embracing this transition with grace while most of us born in the pre-internet era feel like trapeze monkeys finding it hard to replace emotions with emoticons because they don’t feel “real” enough. I read this beautiful article about friendship and I wondered why as we grow older, friendships seem far more circumstantial and hardly unconditional than they used to be when we were kids.
Every time I am changing diapers, my daughter chooses that precise moment to pee. It always makes me wonder why she can’t hold it for just a few seconds longer, until I’ve put a diaper on, only to realise that babies don’t really know how to hold things back. Just like how they can’t contain a smile when someone smiles at them. We learn restraint as we grow up. We start holding back our pee at first, and then our smiles. We just become so good at holding everything back that we even lose the ability to stretch our arms wide open and embrace new people in our lives.
When we were little kids, making a new friend was probably the best thing that could happen to us because it meant constancy – someone to play with everyday, someone to walk back home from school with, someone to share secrets with, someone who’d always be your partner in crime and someone you could take for granted (even when you didn’t know what granted actually meant). Our basic instincts as we know is always to trust and not hold back, but along the way somewhere, we start experiencing things we’ve never felt before such as separation anxiety, heart break, betrayal, etc. and in defence to all this, we start learning to hold back and somehow holding back feels much better than being hurt.
Through early adulthood, we practise holding back so much that by the time we are fully grown adults, we have lost the ability to give in and so its harder to make friends. We have so much more going on in our lives as we grow older that we neither have the time nor the energy to fully commit to nurturing unconditional friendships. The only ones we can really sustain are the pretend ones we keep on social media that involves public display of artificially and excessively sweetened affection.
Recently, a childhood friend visited me all the way from Canada just to say hello and see my baby. She needn’t have taken the trouble. At least not any more trouble than my friends in the city took. But I’m glad she did take the trouble because it felt wonderful. It felt like nothing had ever changed. It felt like time hadn’t moved. It felt like 1996 once again. We’ve hardly exchanged hearts or likes on Facebook and may be that’s why our friendship still feels the same? Some of my best kept friendships till date are the ones I wasn’t afraid of making and the ones I haven’t been afraid of letting go because they somehow always have a way of finding me even if I didn’t have droplets of my existence all over the internet.