Spending so much time online has gotten me thinking about friendship. What makes you someone’s friend? When you meet people online, you can only know about them what they choose to reveal.
But isn’t that true for all our friends?
Friendship with Dogs
I’m never quite sure how to describe my relationships with dogs. But I think it fits the term “friendship.”
We enjoy spending time together. We get to learn each other’s habits. We can read each other’s body language.
But there are limits.
No matter how much time I spend with Honey, I’ll never know what it’s like to experience the world of smell. I just can’t understand a very major part of how Honey interacts with the world.
And her lightning fast ability to read another dog and respond accordingly is amazing to me. I find myself watching the ballet of motions between dogs, the resulting tiff, the “calming signals” that follow and I know our friendship will always have limits.
Friendship on Facebook
I recently joined Facebook, reluctantly. I hated the use of the term “friends” for the associations. And I wasn’t sure about mixing up my work life and personal life into one big mash up (which is funny because I’ve always formed closed friendships among my co-workers).
But I’ve started rethinking friendship on Facebook.
It’s allowed me to see new sides of people I only knew casually. So while I’ve always known E was a nice man who did an important job for a business I really admired, thanks to Facebook I’m learning about his love of music and wry sense of humor. And I love learning those things.
Facebook has also made it easy for me to renew old friendships injured by distance and time.
But there are limits.
Facebook is the home of the wise a** comment, the quick snippet, the “like” button. It’s a world of impressions.
Facebook is where you’ll find out who likes Pink Floyd but not why. You’ll discover that absolutely no one you know agrees with your list of favorite films (c’mon, guys, what’s not to like about a 2 hour film of two men talking over dinner?!). And you’ll be teased with information you can’t really follow up on–or if you do, your friend will already have moved onto the next thing.
Friendship in the “Real World”
Even having someone standing in front of you is no guarantee that you’ll understand them or that they’ll understand you.
As someone with the dangerous habit of talking (and sometimes writing) to think, I can hurt people without meaning to. My mouth usually works faster than my brain.
I recently hurt a friend with insensitive comments. I still feel terrible about it. Especially because it wasn’t the first time I’d hurt someone without meaning to and I assume it won’t be the last.
You see, friendship has limits.
Even with the benefits of standing right beside someone and having time to observe them in real life, I’m still me. And I still do all the emotionally retarded (no, I mean it; I’m very slow to process emotions) things I’ve always done.
Friendship in Blog World
Wednesday was the one-year anniversary of Something Wagging This Way Comes. At first, I was writing all alone. But eventually, I formed connections with others writing blogs and who come by here to read mine.
Some folks are like acquaintances. I’d smile at them in the elevator or chit chat about the weather or the news if we met up somewhere.
Others cause me to wonder when I can call someone a friend. I’m rooting for their success and I’m sad to learn of their suffering. I look forward to hearing from them even if hearing from them is just reading their latest post or short comment.
But there are limits.
I realize that I know very little about many of the people whose writing I enjoy. Some protect their privacy and so I find myself caring about people without necessarily knowing their real name. (Did you ever notice how quickly you can guess someone’s age by how easily they reveal their full name online? Growing up with the internet makes a big difference.)
I often don’t know much about bloggers’ lives outside what they write. And yet, is that so different from other friendships?
People become friends with fellow dog walkers and never talk about anything but dogs. I have friends whose tastes are so different from mine that we never talk about movies or books. And I once had a friend I didn’t like so much but whose tastes were so similar to mine that I’d go to a film she recommended without even reading the description.
Friendship with Limits
My husband is my best friend. He’s seen me at my worst and he roots for me to do my best. And yet our friendship has limits too.
I know (although I was slow to learn) not to make blasphemous jokes around him. And he doesn’t always understand what’s really important to me (although he supports me cheerfully once I tell him).
So maybe limits aren’t so bad.
Maybe friendships without limits would be too limiting. We couldn’t seek out friends in different areas of our lives because one or two could meet all our needs.
And maybe I can call someone friend without wondering if I’m allowed to just because I don’t know their real name, or what they like to do on a Saturday night, or what they’re smelling when they approach another dog’s hind end.
“I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space.”
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