I wonder if technology has changed the meaning of friendship. My daughter is 12 and most things that happen to her are photographed. She and her friends get together and spend hours trying out poses, making videos, retouching them, setting them to music and posting them on this or that social media network. I’m sure the girls are bonded in many of the traditional ways, but I also wonder if they’ll ever lose sight of each other, which was always one of the possibilities of friendship, an aspect of its mystery. I think we always knew we would move on in life and that our great friendships would be a matter of memory.
Social media is a vehicle of self-promotion, a means of fixing an idea of yourself in the social sphere, without people actually knowing you at all. And that’s a change: The thing about friendship used to be that the ideal was shared entirely by the pair of you, or sometimes by a group, yet it remained local, and that was part of its power.
It’s the mindfulness I miss. A pair of excellent youngsters in my wider family have over 1,000 Facebook “friends” between them. They say they don’t know half of them, and that some of them are “frenemies.” The social network gives them the option of corralling people into “close friends” or “acquaintances,” and, naturally, they always have the option of clicking “unfriend.” But are the majority of these people friends or are they just names? You can know everything that’s going on in people’s lives without knowing a single thing going on in their hearts. But is that friendship? I’m told that empathy still flowers in the usual way, but I have my doubts. 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 times we live in are big on loyalty. Technology has driven us wild with questions of loyalty to flags, to nations, to a “way of life” or to brands who give out “loyalty points” to those who stay tight. But the only kind of loyalty that matters is to know your friends and stick with them. The relationship has nothing really to do with outside people, or with your self-image or with status updates, and perhaps our vision of friendship has been degraded by the instantaneous, relentless nature of our communications technology. Replace “watch and click” with “listen and feel,” close the curtains and mix two drinks, download nothing, “share” nothing, but lose yourself in the sort of communication that has nothing to sell.
Love gets all the big headlines, but friendship is where the action is, especially if you consider that it is really a lack of friendship that makes an unhappy marriage. Fundamentally, it’s the art of friendship that warms you in the various winters of your discontent, and when you’re in trouble you don’t want 1,000 people, but just one. “Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain,” the late Muhammad Ali is thought to have said. “It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.”
o'hagan, a. (2016) reflections on true friendship
the public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything, except what is worth knowing.
o, wilde. (1891) the soul of man under socialism
There's a Polar Bear
In our Frigidaire -
He likes it 'cause it's cold in there.
With his seat in the meat
And his face in the fish
And his big hairy paws
In the buttery dish,
He's nibbling the noodles,
And munching the rice,
He's slurping the soda,
He's licking the ice.
And he lets out a roar
If you open the door.
And it gives me a scare
To know he's in there -
That Polary Bear
In our Fridgitydaire.
silverstein, s. (1981) a light in the attic
If you're too open-minded; your brains will fall out.
, always tell the truth, do no harm to others, and don't think you are the most important being on earth. rich or poor, you then can look anyone in the eye and say, "i'm probably no better than you, but i'm certainly your equal."
lee, h. (1960) to kill a mockingbird
"it was a star," mrs. whatsit said sadly.
"a star giving up its life in battle with the thing. it won, oh, yes, my children, it won. but it lost its life in the winning."
"itt iss eevill..."
"what is going to happen?"
"wee wwill cconnttinnue tto ffightt!"...
"and we're not alone, you know, children," came mrs. whatsit, the comforter. "...some of the best fighters have come from your own planet..."
"who have our fighters been?" calvin asked.
"oh, you must know them, dear," mrs. whatsit said. mrs. who's spectacles shone out at them triumphantly.
"and the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not."
suddenly there was a great burst of light through the darkness. the light spread out and where it touched the darkness the darkness disappeared. the light spread until the patch of dark thing had vanished, and there was only a gentle shining, and through the shining came the stars, clear and pure.
l'engle, m. (1962) a wrinkle in time
as i am. all or not at all.
joyce, j. (1922) ulysses
by fighting with the wind.
burnett, f.h. (1911) the secret garden
will get you nowhere. only an open heart will allow you to float equally between everyone.
albom, m. (1997) tuesdays with morrie
with what you've got, where you are.
widener, s.b. (1913) theodore roosevelt: an autobiography