I find it impossible to keep in touch with people.
Mostly because when the idea occurs to me to reach out to someone and I begin to execute it, I become filled with fear that I will be texting them at the most inconvenient time, like they just had to put their dog to sleep or they’re in a job interview but forgot to silence their phone or they’re driving and will become distracted by the noise and it will lead to their fiery death or they’re still mad about that ineffectual thing I said 4 years ago.
Or even worse, we realize we don’t really have anything to say to each other, or we are afraid to say things to each other, and the exchange becomes unsure small talk and it dawns on us that we’re accomplishing nothing and that our friendship was an illusion.
Of course, that’s a completely irrational way of thinking. I enjoy when people reach out to me, despite my hatred for the question, “How are you?” Because that question opens up the emotional floodgates and causes me to reflect on all the things that I am, yet the rule-follower in me still somehow insists on replying with an unengaged, “Good.”
There’s also social media. I have yet to decide if I think this helps or hinders keeping up with friends from a distance. On the one hand, it does keep all the happenings in your friends’ lives. Recently, I realized that I will often share a piece of news about someone by saying, “My friend, so-and-so…” and then it will dawn on me that so-and-so have not actually had a conversation in several years, but I still feel connected with so-and-so because I saw the pictures from their trip to Tahiti. But is that really friendship? The constant viewing of someone else’s highlight reel?
And maybe because I’m feeling particularly sentimental, I will decide to reach out to so-and-so and say, “Hey, how was Tahiti? Love the pictures!” And they will respond with, “Hey, thanks! It was good.” And what do you do then? Where do you go from there? Is so-and-so interested in continuing this conversation or are they wondering why the hell I’m contacting them when we haven’t talked in years? And then I feel stunted and slightly embarrassed and afraid to ask about what their favorite part of the trip was, how was the food, what are their hopes, dreams, and fears, have they found personal satisfaction and happiness and if so, where did they find it? Was it in a burrito? That’s the closest I’ve ever come.
Perhaps I am on the wrong types of social media. I’m only on Twitter and Facebook. Facebook is a really good way to get a general view of what’s going with hundreds of people and Twitter is a great way to remind yourself of how funny you are. I’ve seen people having all kinds of laughs with Snapchat so maybe that’s the way to go. But how do you make new friends if you’re always looking at what your old friends are up to?
I feel like people are inherently insecure, that we all have times when we feel lonely and unimportant, and that throughout history, humans have always been searching to connect with someone, anyone, and those connections at the very least form an experience, a funny story, and at most they form a friendship. We used to keep those connections up through letters and phone calls—mediums where we feel less inclined to censor ourselves—but quality of connection has been traded in for quantity, i.e. how many “likes” your post gets. And our instinctual sense of propriety has evolved into being afraid of being vulnerable, despite our longing for connection.
This post may seem strange and because I, too, am a victim of the insecurity condition (probably way more than the average person), I am putting a disclaimer here to apologize for the strangeness (and for its reiterative nature, because seriously, who needs another social media is ruining human connection story? Says the blogger), even though this is something that I think about a lot and it certainly falls into the awkwardness category, because what is awkwardness but insecurity? And lately, any time I say, “I’m really bad at keeping in touch with friends,” the person I’m talking to almost always says, “Yeah, me too.” And yet I feel like I’m always hearing stories about what that person’s friends are up to, because they can find it online. Mind you, I have no plans to free myself of social media and make it my personal philosophy to call people frequently. I am the problem.
But a part of me has also always felt like I expect way too much when it comes to friendship. Probably because I watch too much TV. But why write friendship that way if it’s not something we secretly all crave? A topic for another day, I suppose!