My best friend Kay and I were texting today when she brought up something I thought was very funny. “So who’s this Jeff?” She was referring to this photo collage that I posted on Facebook about my friend Jeff who was leaving for Riyadh that day. I simply told her that it was an innocent gesture, because I’ve always been thoughtful and it was my way of telling Jeff how I’ll miss all our climbs together. Visual representations make these shared experiences more felt and evident, if not for the other person, then for me. There’s a reason I write my heart out when a friend leaves, or when I have a falling apart with another friend, or when I’m thankful to yet another. I like expressing myself through words and I especially like appreciating them in this way.
But I did ask her, “Did it seem to you and to other people that there was something more to that?” She said, “Yes, definitely, more like someone very special than a normal friend, with all those pictures.” She even said if she, as my best friend, thought there was something going on, what more for those who don’t know me that much?
So I guess the issue really here is how things come off differently than you intend. And in the world of Facebook, that always happens. Life isn’t compartmentalized in Facebook. What you post will be seen by everyone unless you fix the privacy settings so that a certain group would only access a certain post. I do that a lot of times, but in most cases where I feel there really isn’t anything to hide (or to withhold from people), then I post freely away.
But that brought to mind one other thing. Sometimes, we come off differently to people because of the way we use our words. My best friend knows me inside out so when I post something on Facebook that’s supposed to be, say, sarcastic or funny, she gets it, as with my other friends. Now for people who don’t know us that well, what we let out in words is basically what people have to work with. Their understanding of us in a way is limited to how we express ourselves. So I get it when people who added me in Facebook (and for the record, I never really add people I don’t personally know, but over the years have taken to accepting invites for the sake of ‘mutual connection’) think I’m intimidating. I get it, because they don’t really know me. They can read me in a different way. That’s why I think the best way to really knowing a person is investing personally in each other’s lives. Facebook and other social media are cheap substitutes. We don’t develop or nurture friendships as genuine as we did before. When I take people out on Facebook, it doesn’t mean I’m mad at them or anything. To me, I don’t let Facebook become that determiner that we are friends. On paper, on Facebook, we might be. But in reality, in practice, we’re not. There’s no value therefore to our status as “friends” on Facebook. Here, the word fails.
Friendship is always better lived out. :) No misreading. :)