How do you define “friend”?
I think about this a lot, especially as a person who easily (and quickly) becomes attached to people I like. It can be heart-breaking to think of someone as a friend, and, later, for them to completely disregard your relationship. As if it never mattered in the first place. This situation seems to happen rather frequently in “real life”, but what in the online world – where the boundary between friend, stranger and acquaintance never seems to be clear, or it’s constantly being re-draw, recreated and redefined.
I’ve been faced with rejection in both my real and online life. It can be disheartening for a minor misunderstanding, or a difference in opinion to make a relationship explode. But I suppose that brings to mind: what is a friend and how do you know when you have one? This is almost exclusively related to social media. In our waking life, it’s easier to see who our friends are; the people who call us or write us. The people who we feel we can talk to about anything. The people who we resonate with the most. But online? Does spending months chatting constitute friendship? Does taking the time to e-mail each other mean you’re BFFs? Do private DMs mean anything at all, or is it just meaningless chatter? At what point do we know when we’ve reached a solid friendship? But also, when have we realized that our friendship is worth fighting for?
You never really know what a friendship can or is able to tolerate until there’s a tremor. Casual relationships, understandably, tend to explode the quickest since there’s no foundation or support to keep the friendship alive. There’s a strong undercurrent of; “I don’t know you, therefore I’m not morally obligated to you or our relationship.” People are more inclined to walk away from something they haven’t invested themselves in, including other people. But the concept of rejection is also very much about power.
It’s similar to the idea presented in “Two Can Play That Game” where Vivica A. Fox says that whomever breaks up with the other person first, wins. I do believe that there’s a strong sense of satisfaction and self-importance at having ended a friendship – regardless of its quality – versus being the person dealing with the rejection. A lot of the time, I think, the people who were rejected long for a sense of closure because everything happened so abruptly. The quickness of it is jarring because a person is cutting you off for no other reason than because they just don’t know you.
For instance, a girl I knew in college unfriended me on Facebook. It drove me nuts; it still bothers me because she’s friends with people I know. But underneath all my insanity, I get it. I can’t compete with girls she saw every day in her dorms, the fact that I never called her or spoke with her, or the close relationship she had with a girl who become the Godmother to her kids. (Yeah, can’t compete with THAT) So technically, we were never friends, and it made sense for her to unfriend me. Yet at the same time…
This isn’t to suggest that every online relationship is destined to fail – I’ve made some amazing friends online who I hope to meet up with in real life very soon! But an online relationship can, and does, have the same emotional responses as one that’s initiated in real life.
What about you? What are some relationship explosions or mishaps you’ve had since being online?