I’ve been thinking about the deception of social media these days. No doubt, blogs, books, and a million words have been written about this already, but I couldn’t resist adding my two cents worth…after all, that’s why I blog a bit!
I read a lengthy post on facebook by a friend today – she was lamenting her loneliness, her longing for a best friend, the circumstances which kept her from bringing people into her home, and her hurt feelings over all the fun that seemed to be happening in the world without her. It got me started thinking about all I’ve learned in the past few years about friendship. I realize that she may read this – I hope it helps her.
I understand about loneliness. I was raised in a lonely place, with few friends… I didn’t have a close friend my age for years – not until I was well into my 20s. I moved from a remote place with few opportunities for frienship to an area with many, many more opportunities. I’ve learned that a place with more people can be more lonely. But the most important lesson I have learned is that it is what I make it.
Facebook is a lie. The newsfeed looks like the society page in a Victorian newspaper. Everyone is somewhere doing something fun. Except you. You are at home, on facebook, wishing you were somewhere fun. But the truth is that you do fun things. Most people do as many fun things as they can fit in their life. Most people do about the same amount of fun things. Just looking at everyone’s life at once makes it look so overwhelmingly fun, and the contrast created by all the collective fun makes yours look lonelier.
But those people have work days, have mundane days, have bad days, have Mondays just like the rest of the world. But they rarely post about those things…because who wants to read about being stuck in traffic again or someone’s really bad day (unless it’s funny)? So, we only see (in most cases) the collective good, not the collective bad. Otherwise facebook would be overwhelmingly depressive!( Maybe it would make us feel better about our day if everyone posted the reality of their bad days!) So, the constant newsfeed of fun is a deception. It is not a true representation of everyone’s lives. It’s only a tiny snapshot of one good moment. So, if you’re having a day when you’re feeling a little down, feeling solitary, or needing a friend, don’t turn to facebook. It will make you feel worse. Turn to a real person. Call someone you haven’t done something with in a while, and see if they’d like to have lunch. Or just chat on the phone a little while. Or do something nice for someone else – nothing will make you feel better than turning your focus outward.
Next, a word about best friends. Most of us long for a best friend (although there are a few personality types that seem to not need them)…Henry Adams said, “One friend in a lifetime is much, two are many, three are hardly possible.” Soooo true! One of the favorite lessons I have learned is that life is cyclical. You will go through cycles with friends. There are so many people that I have been close to over the years that I am not close to now…many people come into your life for a season. Very few are going to be around for the duration! Geography, life changes, personal changes – these all affect our friendships! I have learned to be very grateful in the moment for friends – and not to cling too tightly to them – or take it for granted that we will always be close! I treasure the memories I have with all those I have been close to…I have moments of nostalgia when I remember the comfort of those friendships…but I cannot turn the clock back or change the circumstances that cause us to not be close today…it’s just life! I nurture my friendships and don’t let them go lightly. It saddens me when I see a friendship going through a change, but in most cases, I am powerless to change the forces at work. I am totally grateful for the friendships that have remained strong through the years – but I could probably count them on one hand….
Another word: don’t put all your friendship eggs into one basket. I realize that we are busy people and we don’t have tons of time, but make sure you nurture people. Not just one person. Hedge your friendship bets. Trust me – if you are that needy, you may be overwhelming for an unsuspecting potential friend.
I feel like these epiphanies took me a while. Well into my 30s, to be honest. Which brings me to another point. If you are living far away from your family, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to expect someone to fill that void. That is an unfair burden to place on someone who already has their own family. If serendipity brings someone into your life that you feel that close to, that is a tremendous blessing – but don’t turn that blessing into an expectation. Things may change! ( see above paragraph) When I learned to stop expecting people to be family to me, I was able to really nurture some friendships that have turned into an almost-family relationship. But I would never demand that from them…which brings me to my next point…
You must be a friend. You must take responsibility for your own loneliness. If you want to go for lunch with friends, call someone. Otherwise, you may grow old waiting for the phone to ring (besides, no one really wants to go to lunch with an Eyore). If you want to go shopping, make some calls and take someone shopping. BE THE FRIEND. Take the initiative. I read once that there are 2 kinds of people – hosts and guests. If you want to have friends, learn to be the host. You don’t have to open your home if circumstances are not favorable, but you can invite friends to go for coffee, shopping, lunch, dinner, anywhere! There are times when you don’t feel like taking the initiative, but it’s what you may have to do if you want to have some friends. Staying at home and moping will not get you any friends. Get out there. Invite. There have been many times when I’ve invited someone to do something, and they have never reciprocated. That’s okay. That’s the chance you take. Some people are not hosts, remember? Some people already have very complete social circles and may not be looking for new friends. Make a few attempts, and move on to someone else. You’ll strike gold eventually! Many people are not meant to be anything more than acquaintances in your life.
Remember not to judge a book by its cover. One of the best friends I have ever had (and I hope she reads this) was someone whom I looked at and thought, “There’s no chance she needs a friend. She seems to live the life of a social butterfly.” It has been one of the most cherished friendships of my life, and all because I took a chance and started to cultivate it even though it looked as though it wouldn’t get off the ground. I have learned to pray, “God, bring into my life the people You want me to be close to….show me whom to approach…help me not to get caught up in my idea of who looks like they might be the right friend for me…”
These revelations have been transformational. I don’t know if just reading these will be enough. You have to really REALIZE and BELIEVE them yourself….but if you can, it will change your life for the better. You will still have lonely moments. It’s the human condition, right? My family is still 800-3000 miles away. I still have days when I’m lonely for that kind of companionship. We all have days when we feel a little blue and everything looks bleak, including our social calendar. But those days just need to be weathered. The next day will be better. Be the friend. It works, I promise. And stop believing the facebook lie that everyone’s friendships are better than yours!