The Vast Realms of Friendship

I grew up in the analog age when the kinds of friendships were more limited. We didn’t have “facebook” friends, chat buddies, or communicate with people we hadn’t met IRL first. Friends lived close by. The few long-distance friends I had from various camps never lasted long. Mostly, I think, because the effort of communicating via snail mail was too onerous to maintain. In those days, even calling a different part of the state could be expensive. Some of my friends lived in different states altogether.

The phone was also a friend lifeline, especially in the tween years. In those years I was still too young to go out by myself. I used to spend hours and hours talking on the phone with various friends. It seems strange to me that young kids may not have regular access to a phone, unless they have their own cell phone, or can share with someone. In school we passed handwritten notes to each other. I found a stashed box of them a few years ago cleaning out my childhood bedroom.

These days the whole nature of friendship feels fundamentally altered. I have some friends with a more “traditional” friendship. We message somewhat regularly and even, gasp, call each other. These friends don’t live that close so in-person meetings can be a bit tricky.

Then there are others with whom I communicate mostly through messaging with the occasional in-person meetings. These I find more challenging to understand the nature of the friendship. It’s easy to hide behind text messages and slow the pace of communication. Responses can be delayed, vague, or even non-existent leaving the other person to wonder. Recently I was wondering about some friends. Shockingly, I got my answer accidentally through social media. Photo confirmation popped up in my feed one day confirming my suspicions that I had been dropped. I wouldn’t say I had FOMO over this, but it was a devastating way to find out. I also rarely use social media, so the whole thing felt weird and unsettling to me.

True friends, however, are the ones you can contact through any medium, anytime. When you do, they’re happy to hear from you. They’ll reach out if you’ve “gone dark” for a while. Most importantly, you can always pick up where you left off, even if you have a few kinks to work out every once in a while.

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