Serious question: Do you know who your friends are? What makes your friends your friends in life or on Facebook
Last night I sat on the couch with an old friend. She is going through a hard time in her life for her husband was killed in Afganistan 2 yrs ago. Fittingly, it was this friend and her husband who stood by me as I went through my hard time and now I was doing the same for her. She cried, but not because it was sad The emotional intensity of it all was so overwhelming that she ended up in tears. During this time the Movie Notting Hill playing in the backround.
The experience was jarring for me. Not because I minded crying or sharing that kind of experience with a friend. It was jarring because sitting there and feeling what a close friendship is, I realized that a lot of people that I call “good friends” aren’t really good friends at all. I realized how readily I use terms like “good friend” or “close friend” with people I’ll never have this kind of experience with.
In this age of omniconnectedness, words like “network,” “community” and even “friends” no longer mean what they used to. Networks don’t exist on LinkedIn. A community is not something that happens on a blog or on Twitter. And a friend is more than someone whose online status you check. A friend is an emotional bond, just like friendship is a human experience. What I’ve learned is that I’ve too often confused the weak bonds I have with people I know with the strong bonds I have with friends. This may not seem like a big deal, but it is.
A friend is someone with whom we share deep trust. The strong bond we have with a friend means that person will be there for us no matter what. The reason I made it through a few years ago was because someone was there for me at a time when I could offer nothing in return. The strong bond of friendship is not always a balanced equation; friendship is not always about giving and taking in equal shares. Instead, friendship is grounded in a feeling that you know exactly who will be there for you when you need something, no matter what or when.
There is a difference between vulnerability and telling people everything about yourself. Vulnerability is a feeling. Telling everyone about yourself is just facts and details. The problem is the more we share about ourselves on Facebook, for example, the more we confuse all that information with having others “get to know us.” Someone can look through our pictures, read our comments and opinions and start to think they know who we are, but they don’t. They only know what they see and read. Worse, the feeling they may have toward us is one-sided.
This phenomenon is called a parasocial relationship — a relationship in which one person knows much more about the other. This is what happens with celebrities. Because we can read about their public lives in the tabloids and hear about what they are doing on TMZ, we think we know them. But we don’t know anything about who they are. Everyone see’s what they appear to be but few feel what they are
I “friend” a movie star who lived in Toronto. I sent her a message that I was coming to see Toronto and she posted on Facebook that she would like to show me the city and go together. I told her my dates but when I was ready to to go and emailed her she never responded and was nowhere to be found.
A “movie star” who I had many connections with gave me her personal email and said she wanted to keep in touch. I never asked her for it. But when I emailed her she never responded. Months later when she came back after reading how she was planning to have a baby with her boyfriend … she claimed “she missed me” . Two weeks later she was off Facebook again.
In our modern world, however, we are all celebrities and we all live semipublic lives. Others can read about what we’re doing and who we know and what we like. They can start to form bonds with us, but those bonds are one-sided and they are not the basis for real, close friendship. I was not friends with her and nor did I expect her to come through or even see her. The reality is those people are acquaintances — a term we rarely hear anymore.
Although I like the movie ‘Notting Hill’ I have no desire to be a character in it.
I was reminded of this when I ran into an old Hollywood girlfriend in Calif recently
At the time she was the most beautiful woman I had ever see. A Hollywood actress who was constantly at the Playboy mansion. It was like Jessica Rabbit had come to life. I was determined to make her mine. She had told me she had “dated’ George Clooney and Bruce Willis but I was what she wanted and I showered her with gifts and trips. But nothing about her was real as I was to find out including her name. Years later she was still looking for ‘Mr GoodBar” …still looking for a man who would treat her like a princess and no longer a choice for movies roles.
When I asked her of all the men who had come into her life wasn’t there one?. She said she had been engaged 3 times but changed her mind. Now she sits in a bar in LA paying for yesterday, on Match.com with pictures from 10-15 yrs ago.
There are lots of people who tell me they are my friend. They seem to act like friends, but they aren’t really friends. I don’t, and probably won’t ever, share that kind of deep, strong relationship with them.
I have one business relationship who, when he introduces me to people, introduces me as “my close friend, Every time he does so, it makes me uneasy, because we’re not close friends. I’m not sure we’re even friends. Another professional relationship, almost from the day we met, would tell me, “this is the start of a long and close friendship.” He acted like a friend too. He would send me e-mails to say hi, call to chat, and he’d want to hang out when we were in the same city. But when we couldn’t agree on the terms of a formal business relationship, all of a sudden my “new close friend” stopped calling, stopped e-mailing and no longer wanted to spend time with me.
As my life becomes even more public, I meet lots of people and I form genuine friendships with some, but most are just acquaintances or professional relationships. The problem is that there are lots of people who think they know me. They think they are my friends. Yet friendship is too quixotic to be formed by a decision. It’s a feeling more like love. You can’t decide to be friends with someone. You can’t request it. It just happens.
Facebook is good at connecting people with common interests. We can easily form weak bonds with people online. And those relationships are good and have real value, but strong bonds, trust and deep friendships require physical interaction — and lots of it. I no more believed Rachel McAdams or Anne Hathaway were my friends than I believe I am going to be POPE. I have never met them nor do I expect I will. But unfortunately a lot of people do and that’s what can be painful for a-lot who do live their lives through Hollywood.
But the lesson I learned this week is more of a reminder. I have too often confused the weak bonds I have with people. I know with the strong bonds I have with people who are my friends. When I run the names of the people I call “good friends” through this new filter, I realize that I don’t have as many good friends as I thought. And that’s not a bad thing, because the ones I do have I value even more.
My family member who is a casting agent for the past 30 yrs told me something that still resonated.
” Everyone wants to ride the limo with you when times are good. But what you want is the friend who will hop on the bus with you and drive when the limo breaks down. Then you will know who your real friends are.” In Hollywood she said ‘Until that happens you will never know who is your real friend or who is real. That’s why I don’t envy those who have 1000 friends . I envy those those who have 1-3 good friends because that’s what everyone in this town really wants”
That applies everywhere.