October 28, 2012

Shared Lives

I've watched the Ze Frank clip you will find below, at least five times since I first saw it two days. It  latched on and has burrowed deep inside me. Causing minor bleeding as it dislodged and scraped its way deeper and deeper, forcing me to eventually react and write something. 

Watch the clip and meet me on the other side.

If you are here--and reading and you are bored or skimming or on a phone, then please come back later when you can spend some quality undistracted time. I am here to tell some stories. I am here to delve into emotions and memories and explore places I haven't explored in a while. I need your attention. Not sure where we are headed, but I ask that you sit, relax, grab a cup of tea, play a soft song-- one that fills you with joy and angst, bliss and ennui, one that leaves you perplexed and disoriented--and take the ride.

I felt very alone after I watched this clip. Perhaps it was Ze's somber tone, or his high-lighting of how we (I) often overlook something as essential as my friendships. Ever since I first watched this clip, I have been trying to (re)define friendship. Who are my friends?

I have three very close friends. They are my brothers. That is what I have always said. I have known Anthony, Jason and Ari since we were about fifteen. We have been through two near death experiences, we have shared tears, confessions, drinks, memories--we have walked through fires together. The first ten years of our friendship was intense. We lived together, talked together, worked together, learned from each other, travelled and laughed together. Built and grew and forged a friendship that felt like family. The next ten years, we began to physically drift apart. Spread across continents, we saw each other less and less, but the bond was strong and every time we met things were as if we had never parted. Every few years, we would meet and re-evaluate where we were, satisfied that the friendship had made it.

We stay in touch via email and the occasional Skype. Not one of my closets friends is on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. (Ari is a recent convert and Jason is on Facebook, but from Africa, so it is a spotty connection at best)

Where are we now? This the question I am left to ponder after watching Ze's clip. How do we maintain friendships when separated by physical space and time? Are we still close with friends, if we do not see them for years at a time and only maintain minimal contact? I miss you guys terribly everyday, but what do we really know about each other? Sure we know that the core of what connected us as friends twenty years ago is there and that will never change, but do we need day to day understanding of each other to really remain close? Can friendships last without contact? On faith and memory alone?

This is when things got really depressing, because I realized that many of the relationship I have built online, lack that tight confessional, no secrets strength that I have with Jason, Ari and Anthony. There is little those guys don't know about me. They have seen me at my worst and at my best. No amount of Facebook updates or Instagram shots will change that.

Here is my dilemma:
  • True friendships built over time and forged in experience are difficult to maintain across time and space without direct contact. 
  • Online friendships that are hyper-connected, lack the depth and meaning of friendships build over time.
When put like this, I feel like I have no friends. I feel like I am drifting away from the close friends I  had before the connected, digital, "Always On" age, but I do not feel I am getting any closer to my online friends.

The answer I hear you saying is to strengthen the friendships with the people I see everyday on and offline. That is easier said than done. At some point in one's life, it feels uncomfortable to front load your history to new friends. I know we must sit with new friends and share past stories and like Ze says, "Allow a friendship to grow, " but as an adult approaching middle-age, I didn't think I would have to start the slow build again. I didn't want to face the flush or the fear of allowing another person inside the spaces we reserve for friends. 

It is becoming clear to me that no amount of status updates, instagram pics, Tweets or even verbose confessional blog posts can take the place of the hard work it takes to build friendships. When we were young, exposing our fears and dreams and ourselves was easy and done often--we walked and drank and talked and bled and scarred, but how can we do that now and with whom? Who is ready for our stories? Who is ready to share theirs with is?

I pride myself on how much I share online, but I am starting to see that this constantly vomiting of identity online is not about friendship, it is not about we. It is about me. Friendship is about listening just as much as it is about sharing. It is interactive. Friendship is more than liking snippets of a life. Friendship is the interaction of lives and the beauty of the bonds that are made and how they ebb and flow through shared lives. Friendship should nor feel perfromative. Frank says that friendship is the place where we are who we are in front of each other. It is a rhythm. I feel out of rhythm with old and new friends alike.

If you are reading this through Facebook and consider me a friend, what can I do to be a better friend? Are we friends? Were we ever? What changed? What stayed the same? Can we use Facebook to connect in more substantial ways?

If you are here from Twitter, do you have any tips on how you handle your friendships? Who are your friends? Where does your relationship find its rhythm? Do you dance on or offline?

If you are reading this and you see me everyday and you work with me and consider me a friend, I need you. I need to feel the rhythm of friendship. What can we do to move beyond talking about work and only liking what we do or who we are online? Or is this the slow build and I just can't see it yet. More parties, dinners, long walks along the beach?

If you are Jason, Ari or Anthony, I miss you. What do we need? More email? Skype? Physical letters? Do you feel us drifting? What next? What can I do? I need to see you soon.

Getting that out felt good, although I feel I have offended and upset old friends and new.  I have a knack for that. Thanks Ze Frank for pushing me and making me think and feel.

No comments:

Post a Comment