It can be hard to know who is a friend and who is not. merriam-webster.com defines “friend” variously as “one attached to another by affection or esteem” and as “one that is not hostile.” That’s pretty wide ranging, just in terms of the emotional implications.
If we’re only concerned about those that are not hostile, I have lots of friends. Most of them, though, are what I consider to be friendly acquaintances. We can enjoy each other’s company, virtually or in person. We can commiserate and laugh, but the connection is limited by circumstance. Work friends often are amiable, but when work is over for the day, or the employment ends, the tie is broken. The same thing happens in neighborhoods or as “band moms,” or any number of other occupational or locational connections. And it happens on-line, as well. We’re happy to be together for a time, but we are only tenuously bound.
Real friends are different. Real friends are available when needed to offer support and comfort, to share a laugh, to tell stories, and to sit quietly. They are true beyond circumstance, and emotional connection continues, even when a particular occasion or employment does not. I don’t have a lot of friends like that.
In my opinion, friendship takes some effort, and most of us simply aren’t willing to make that effort for just anyone. No matter how much someone “likes” me and enjoys being with me, unless they and I have time and energy to invest, we may not become friends.
I read an interesting blog post recently, discussing internet friendships. The question at hand was whether friendships that are online only are “real.” I believe they can be; I believe they are for some people. My experience is mixed.
In the past couple of years there have been people I would have counted as friends, who I only knew from online contact. Now I think my understanding of those relationships was wrong. For one, in particular, I was completely off base. It turned from amiable and warm to quite hostile, much to my surprise. Another, I thought, deepened over time.
The quilt you see above, a labor of love made by me, was a gift last month to that friend. Since then he acknowledged my gift in an email, only after I inquired as to whether it had arrived. Other than that, I have not heard from the receiver. It’s hard to express my disappointment in words. But I get it. Though I was available to him for comfort and support while he went through a traumatic event, I am not truly part of his life. Though a big part of my world was rocked from related events, he is not available to me, when I need comfort. I am not part of his life. I get it. But it hurts.
And based on these experiences my guard is up. I’ve built armor I never had before. Though I am open, and will continue to share my thoughts and emotions with others, I’ll be wary of becoming emotionally involved with anyone I only know online.
For the most part, I’ll save my attachments mostly for my “real world” friends. I can see their faces, touch their hands. Some of them I don’t see often, but the context and contact has a different basis. I know their affection is real, that each of them would help me if needed. And I am there for them, too.
Friendship is a tricky thing. But even given disappointments in that arena, I have good friends. In that regard, I’m very fortunate indeed.