When I was in the 6th grade, my girlfriend broke up with me three weeks before I broke up with her.
We obviously had communication issues. I was feeling some distance. So, I did what any middle schooler in a dysfunctional relationship would do: I sent my friend to tell her it was over.
Imagine my shock when said friend reported back that the girlfriend had already ended it. Apparently, SHE had sent a friend to deliver that message nearly a month before, but somehow it never reached me.
I’d like to think that relationships – romantic or not – have gotten less ridiculous since middle school, but spend much time on social media and it’s obvious that this isn’t always the case.
Facebook and its ilk allow us to take the surface components of friendship and smear them all over our computer screens without including any of the depth of an actual relationship with another person.
Let me explain it this way:
Just today I landed on the page of a friend’s friend that was full of photos of recent cooking projects this guy had undertaken. Every single picture was mouth-watering perfection, to such an extent that if you asked me right now if this guy was a good cook, I’d emphatically tell you “YES!”
But the truth? I have NO idea if this guy is a good cook. That could have been rubber chicken. Those pictures could have been lifted from someone else. This guy might not know how to microwave hot dogs.
I am not knocking this guy for posting pictures from his kitchen. And I am not down on social media sites for allowing such behavior. But I need occasional reminders that reading quips and seeing photos and sharing videos and article links does not a friendship make.
I’ve started to realize that there is a large swatch of my friends list on Facebook that I would not talk to in public if we, say, passed each other in the grocery or parked at adjoining pumps at the gas station. It’s not that we don’t like each other – we don’t really know each other.
So I am challenging myself to actually communicate with people again.
I am doing my best to start asking real questions and not be afraid of silence.
Sometimes you have to lean into the awkwardness. We aren’t used to this anymore. Texts and Tweets and Instagram have allowed us to cull together what we WANT people to think about us with plenty of time to spare.
Face-to-face conversation calls for us to account for our feelings and our thoughts immediately. That has never been easy work.
But when you start talking – really talking – you start realizing things: like who is a good cook and who doesn’t want to be your girlfriend anymore….