Keep the Friendship

Lose the keyboard.

Say it with me…

Speaking of keyboards… I do try not to immediately run to mine and offer my public thoughts on current events (especially those beyond the boundaries of my family). I’m making an exception. I also try not to post about current events within the same week of the event (especially those inside the boundaries of my family). I’m making an exception.

Keep the friendship. Lose the keyboard.

So how about 2021? That year was the longest week ever! What? Oh, hell.

I’m going to chat briefly about the Capitol building, okay? Stay with me. The events last week were absolutely awful, no matter which side of the aisle you sit on. Is it even an aisle anymore? Something we can walk across to socialize with the others? Something we can look beyond to give a wave to those who don’t necessarily have our same opinion? Or have we gotten our wall after all? Have we put up emotional bricks and temperamental mortar – removing our ability to see the others, removing our ability to hear their thoughts? My husband’s been training me for years to search for the silver lining in every situation (no really – he stops just short of carrying around a glass of water just so he can say Hey, look, it’s still half full!). Is the weird silver lining in Capitol event that there does seem to be a common, national agreement that the breach was too much? That the mark in the sand was destroyed by misdirected feet? That this is not who we, as mutual Americans, want to be?

It seems we’ve spent much of the last six months defining and redefining “riot” and “protests” and “perpetrators” and “terrorists.”

Here – from the dictionary:

Riot: a violent disturbance of the peace by a crowd.

Protest: an organized public demonstration expressing strong objection

Perpetrator: a person who carries out a harmful, illegal, or immoral act

Terrorist: a person who uses unlawful violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims

Okay, well, yes, one could easily blur the lines on our everyday, run-of-the-mill incidents – but it’s pretty clear that what we saw at the Capitol was a straight up riot and that those responsible fall solidly into the category of terrorists.

And, while I’ve got you – let’s do one more:

Privilege. Truthfully, this word has had me a bit stymied through the latter half of 2020. Last week, it was made clearer to me. Privilege is when it is mostly okay to suffocate a single person for maybe trying to pass a counterfeit bill but then allowing an entire crowd to take the key under the mat and stroll into one of the most important (and guarded?) buildings in our country and destroy it while not only bringing our nation to a halt but also sending countless people into shelter because it was deemed dangerous enough to warrant it. Sure. That seems off, right?

Here’s where we may split off from one another, but hang with me.

I have learned to avert my eyes from the headlines reported via social media during such times. I have not, however, stopped being a virtual rubber-necker – taking a quick peek here or there to see if and what everyone is fighting about. I was relieved, on Tuesday, to realize that most opinions were the same – ie, followers who typically launch missiles at each other from their space bar were being fairly agreeable about the path of melee. And then, my eyes caught this:

“If you think what is happening right now is okay, just unfriend me now, we have nothing in common.”

Oof.

Then I saw it again.

And again.

And then I realized this was probably becoming the most popular copied and pasted status on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter of the day. I guess Thoughts and Prayers is over. Honestly, it got under my skin and I spent much of the day trying to figure out why. It just said so much to me about the status of the world around me – this declaration of doneness. A proclamation that we are now officially finished with people we have nothing in common with. But even more so – the publicness of the declaration – which I can only imagine carries a bit of See what I said? That makes me the most woke of all, right? A plea for people to unfriend me if they don’t agree with me? Are we so far gone now that if we don’t break up on Facebook, TikTok, or SnapChat that it doesn’t count? Is there a secret points club that I was not made aware of?

If you are eliminating your followers via a post on a social media platform, you are not that close anyway. If you are announcing their elimination – well, why? – are you hoping that they quickly scurry to their list and uncheck your name? If you are asking them to show themselves out the door…well, huh? You’ve already just called them an asshole in front of all of your real friends, why can’t you just click the exit button yourself? Is it because you’re no longer sure which list they belong on? Did you export your followers into a spreadsheet before your announcement so that you could go back later and see if anyone bid you adieu? Then what? Will we get to see a follow up post in 7-10 days so we can see how it turned out? And then what? Do we go after those people that followed your instructions like an angry mob? Throw our fists in the air while exclaiming I knew it!! I knew we had nothing in common all along! I just couldn’t figure out how to get out of this cyber relationship until a man dressed as a Viking tried to steal the 2020 ballot boxes!

Also, and then what?

If you are cancelling your friendships via a keyboard, you are no better than they. Then them? Then they are? Whatever. It’s just actually pointless and shows an inability to participate in human interaction. Oh, hey, maybe that’s how we got here.

We’ve enjoyed social media for nearly two decades now – maybe we really have just forgotten how to be actual friends with actual people. Maybe it’s slipping our over-screen-timed-mind that friendships are something that happen in REAL life, typically before you even get to social media. Or at least that’s how it used to be. The next time you meet someone new, make a mental note of how long it takes you to find their profile and send a request. It’s becoming a bit pathetic – and I speak from experience. I do this all the time. I leave concerts with 30 new followers and three months later cannot remember why I know them. I collect ‘likes’ everywhere I go – and then, sheepishly, as if they are peering over my shoulder, snooze/unfollow/cancel the relationship – feeling an unwarranted amount of guilt for saying so long to someone I barely chatted with next to the bagged salad section at Kroger.

You can be friends with people in real life without being friends with them on social media. It’s true. I actually learned this years ago when my sister vetoed our entire family over a social media post. At the time, and I mean the minute she announced it, I thought okay, no big deal, it’s just Facebook. Except then I realized that the death of our Facebook relationship was code for the death of our actual relationship. Wait, so I’m dead to you on Facebook? That’s fine – it’s really just a place for cat pictures and meal documentation – but why also in real life? Surely that’s not what you meant, right? Do we still send Christmas Cards? We actually don’t.

Stop putting the value of your friendships on social media presence. And if you are really fine with ending those friendship because of social media presence then, I’ll say it again – you are not actually friends at all. What you are is a voyeur. Own it. I mean that in the nicest way – because so am I. I love having an outside view to others’ lives where I know I don’t have to be overly involved but I can shoot a heart or birthday cake or a name-an-emoji and it somehow counts as being involved. I also love not viewing some of your lives – by just keeping you out of my regular feeds but still popping into your lives here or there to see what you’re up to – you know, kind of like actual life. Does that sound harsh? It shouldn’t. I certainly wouldn’t want to have a standing coffee date with you every 42 minutes to see what you had for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and I hope to gawd you wouldn’t want one with me (egg mcmuffin/hot dog/pizza…wow, that maybe is not the day I should be reporting).

A rather large piece of the unrest pie in this country can be directly attributed to people arguing on social media. I have no science to prove that – but can you imagine how that’s going to read in a hundred years? Our descendants finding out that the reason things went to shit was because Starting in the year 2014, America became a nation of cyber rants through faceless attacks across numerous platforms. We are so comfortable squatting on our keyboards and typing whatever we want because, well, it’s not like we are face-to-face or anything, engaging that uncomfortable feeling that checks you when you say something shitty to someone and can actually see the crushing hurt in their eyes.

A couple of hints:

Find the silent/mute/unfollow buttons. They are lifesavers.

Find the direct message button. When you want to say something shitty to someone – that maybe you wouldn’t necessarily say while breaking bread with their family – use that button instead. Broadcasting it is your way of inciting them, your way of making yourself better than them (and not in a good Mother Theresa was the better person way), your way of earning some secret Best Character Badge that only you know about. See if a private message will give you the same glee as a public lashing. By the way, it won’t.

Find your phone. If you are so concerned about someone’s words on your social media…ring them up. Maybe they are being swallowed by the mud that is the last few years. Maybe they are just really unhappy and lashing out wherever they can. Maybe if you chat with them like a real human being you will remember what you do have in common with them. And, if you still aren’t sold on having them in your lives…back yourself slowly and quietly out of the relationship. It still counts – there are ways to move on without broadcasting it in an eye-for-an-eye disparagement. Because that’s really what we are doing, right? When we publicly break up with someone? Trying to get back at them while making ourselves look like the hero?

Is that how you want to become a hero?

I say all this knowing that I’m not innocent – especially to those who don’t understand my sense of humor. And my sense of humor isn’t meant to imply that I’m not taking any of this seriously – I just like to laugh and appreciate a good meme/joke/pun. I’m also aware that there are no winners in cyber arguments – ever. It’s the equivalent of expecting a bumper sticker to change your mind. Never going to happen. And even if you do win a cyber argument, then what? And how do you find out? Is there an awards ceremony? What does the trophy look like? Are there cash prizes? Or do you just look like someone who wasted a lot of time so that you could pare down your friend list in front of a group of other people wasting their time?

Keep the friendship. Lose the keyboard.

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