I think about friendship and the people in my life more these days than I used to. I started thinking more about it after my mother's stroke. People came out for her --work colleagues, friends from the neighborhood, from the women's club --all kinds of people.
People came out for me, too --A few were those I'd known since I'd first come to Charleston, a couple from work, a few college friends, one or two others from High School and most amazingly, my two dearest, childhood friends.
It was in comparison a paltry few, but my mother was a teacher for 35 years, the president of the women's club and even considered once as a potential candidate for the local school board (she turned it down). The number of people I see or work with is small and many of my work relationships are at least a little adversarial. I probably wouldn't be doing my job properly if the folks at Mountain Stage loved me, but they don't and it's not tragic that they don't.
The stroke made me start looking at Facebook differently or maybe it just made me look at it again. It seems like the more people I know on Facebook, the fewer people I know in real life, the fewer real friends I have. The presidential election sort of fine tuned that. People weren't looking for conversation on Facebook. They were looking for converts to a particular way of thinking.
It got worse after the Newtown massacre. Out came the gun lobby supporters, the conspiracy theorists and the folks still ramped up from the election noise machine. The things they posted disturbed me to my core and I spent a lot of time trying not to convince them what they believed was wrong, just that the proof they were using for they believed was wrong.
It was foolish and didn't make a difference.
I had an old fraternity brother kick me to the curb after I pointed out that by posting these things he was posting, without any sort of disclaimer he was endorsing them. I showed him evidence that discredited what he was echoing and said that if he was comfortable propagating lies and distortions for political gain it was morally reprehensible.
I deserved being dropped.
Since the new year, I've been trying to cut back on my usage. It's not easy, but of course, not a lot of people were coming around to find me with the service. They just stopped in for a laugh when I was being funny or maybe to read something I posted that I wrote if it happened to be something they were into. Not a lot of people were checking on how I was doing; you know, "Since your mother had that stroke?" or "After that divorce?" or "Since you started seeing that hot librarian?"
Actually, only two and I can't really say I've been following the real lives of anyone I know either. So what's the fucking point of participating in the social network if it's not really social?
So I'm slowing and hoping to stop.
Meanwhile, I'm learning to stop thinking of everybody I work with as a friend. Some of the people I work with do not want what is in my best interests, but rather have interests of their own they want to serve. Relying too much on the people you work with for your community, for your circle, your tribe, is ultimately self-defeating.
I think you if you want to be part of the world you have to go farther than the keyboard on your computer, farther even than the farthest cubicle at the edge of the room. You have to leave your home, leave your yard, leave even the mailbox at the end of your drive and find your way on some road somewhere.
There are no digital shortcuts an few professional pathways. You've got to find your own way to each new person you add in your life and usually one leads to another leads to another and so on. It's funny. There was a time when I knew this already, but I'd just forgotten.