When the virtues of having friends is being discussed, love and support are usually mentioned at the top of the list. Camaraderie is another. Someone to do things with or to go places. One of the underrated virtues of a friend is ideas. You may think, as I often do, that you’re reasonably clever and can handle your business, but a friend is terrific for offering things like, “Why don’t you try this?” Or “Maybe you could say x next time that happens. ” Or “Here’s what works for me.” Or “Try spicy mustard on your grilled cheese.” Ideas. A good friend comes with them and makes your life the better for it.
Loyalty. It’s a loaded word. I understand when its meaning is you will stand by the people you love and care about when times are tough, when people get sick, when they get divorced, when they’re isn’t money. I get that. You show up when they have a birthday party and you show up when they need help moving. You listen. You offer a hand or a ride to the airport. You keep their secrets. When they are wronged, you support them. You don’t befriend their enemies or if you do, you never betray your loved person as a result. You have their interests at heart. All this makes sense.
What does not make sense to me is offering loyalty without strings. Giving loyalty that crosses your own ethics, your personal sense of right and wrong. Not speaking up when someone you care about is doing questionable things, or is hurting other people. When they’re being dishonest and not necessarily with you – maybe you know they’re being dishonest with someone else. Exactly how loyal should you be when someone is crossing lines? Even if you are not personally and directly affected?
A prime example that comes to mind is how you approach someone else’s extramarital (or extrarelationship) affair, especially when you also know and care about the person being cheated on, or “cheatee.” This situation is one of life’s truly sticky widgets. I think minimally, a person of integrity doesn’t help facilitate the affair – that being one skeezy kind of loyalty. But I know plenty of people would disagree, not the least of which are many of those roping their friends and family into their affairs under the auspices of loyalty.
Blood is a big one in the loyalty annals. There are those who believe if someone is kin, you must be unfailingly loyal matter what they do. Or if you are married to them you must give total loyalty. A whole lot of crappy things have been done based on this thinking.
It’s been a surprising 20 years since David Kaczynski turned in his brother, Ted, the eventually-convicted “Unabomber,” and I still remember that there was public backlash and debate over his action. His brother was responsible for killing people! And there was no reason to expect his mailed bomb exploits were over. I really couldn’t believe – then or now – that anyone could question the rightness of David Kaczynski’s choice, one he says he did not make easily. What would the naysayers have had him do? Go give Ted a “good talking-to” and extract a promise he wouldn’t do it anymore?
Of course, most situations where loyalty comes into play won’t be that extreme. In fact, some may be a good bit more abstract. I find it difficult to be stridently loyal not only to those who I see doing things wrong (in my opinion) but who also hold potentially damaging and/or hateful beliefs.
If I turn the tables a bit, I can offer that I wouldn’t want people close to me to be loyal no matter what I did. I’d hope they would stay awake and alert, true to their own ethics. To speak up if they thought I was headed the wrong direction or missing important points.
I know that’s what I do; speak up when someone close is making iffy decisions, most of all when they impinge on or hurt other people. That doesn’t necessarily mean they change what they’re doing, but it does mean there are and will be times I hold back loyalty.
All my life, I’ve had people try to reconnect with me; this while blatantly ignoring the smoldering bridge between us, the one they poured gasoline on, tossed matches onto, roasted marshmallows on, for chrissakes. “What? That there? That’s nothing. Look away. No big deal. Nothing bad – or all that bad – happened here. You misunderstood. What are you making such a big deal about? I miss you. I want to be friends.“
I read once that throughout their lives, people tend to have the same age relative to their friends. It’s an interesting idea. In my case, for example, my friends have tended to be my age and older, a theme which has run fairly constant till now, even as the specific people have changed.
On the other hand, starting in childhood, one of my older sisters leaned toward people her age and younger for friends, and, pushing forty, even married someone younger.
If there is anything to this, it must have to do with the nature of the dynamic we prefer in our social relationships. I thought about that and realized I’ve wanted peers and people I can learn from.
With my sister, it’s pretty easy to understand too; she liked to be in charge, the ringleader of her friendships.
I am thinking that my way could eventually hit snags. Suppose I’m 90. Will I be looking for 100-year-old friends?? I can see where the pool of eligible contenders might begin to dry up a bit!
I do need to say that in sometimes being drawn to older friends, I have never looked for someone to “take charge” of me, i.e., tell me how to think, live, etc. Not all all. I have always been my own person and pretty capable of thinking for myself. Being interested in someone’s mind has consistently been the impetus for my friendships and relationships as well. I’ve seriously dated a man 10 years older and another 13 years older. I can think of two younger guys I seriously dated but both were long ago and have proven to be exceptions (so far?).
Another aspect to the friends business independent of age, is that my friends have typically been single, like I am (whether they never married, were divorced, and in one case, widowed). I don’t seem to befriend couples – or vice versa. Theoretically I’m not against it, but it hasn’t been part of my experience.
How old are your friends relative to you? Does the age theory seem to hold true to your experience?
I ain’t got no Facebook friends. Yeppers, not a one, although I do have a page. I wonder occasionally if there are others like me, but there’s really no way to know. Not a way I can tell at any rate. A couple internet searches, phrased a few ways (like: How many people have no Facebook friends?) primarily turned up cases of people having no friends and wanting them. That and a Southpark episode I assure you I never saw and never will see.
You gotta understand me: this is a deliberate refusal on my part that I can see no reason to change. Lord and Mr. Zuckerberg know, Facebook would like me to. They are hell-bent that I should have me some friends. They’re not all that fussy about who either. I’m constantly shown photos of people to befriend. Facebook has gotten a bit desperate about it. I’d swear they’ve “experimented” with putting Add Friend buttons where I’ll accidentally hit them. (And I HAVE accidentally hit them, gone into a panic and quickly found the Cancel Friend Request button. Geez, close call!) Mostly, the photos are strangers with no connection to me whatsoever, but once in a rare while they’ll be people I actually know.
In case you wonder how I handle receiving requests, as opposed to extending them, I found a way to remove the “Request” button from my page. (I put Follow up because I view that differently, although there’s admittedly little to follow. Does anybody care if I “like” Dollar Tree or the “Curly Girl Handbook” or a local online yardsale group? Yeah, I think I rest my case.) I did get a surprise when I saw that someone I’d “followed” was able to throw a Friend Request my way. He was an author who was just doing it automatically; he has 3700 friends, so I don’t think he’ll lose sleep that I didn’t accept. Anyway, I was already following him!
I took my sweet time before signing up for Facebook and when I did, the primary reason was to have a page for an art hobby. To me, Facebook very much looks and feels like a college-aged guy designed it. (Friend and Unfriend? C’mon! Why not add a Cooties button??) I am still surprised so many grownups have taken to it as they have, especially in a time it feels wise not to throw a lot of personal information around, but maybe that’s just me. If I was in high school, or college now, I bet I’d be all up in it. However, I’m long past those demographics and moreover, I’m a private person – blog not withstanding – and have no desire to share the details of my life, be they petty or profound, in that setting. I’ve always found it a bit weird in real life when social worlds collide. I really don’t think I’d want people from grade school, friends, relatives, co-workers, old neighbors, and sundry others all mixed up in one stew on a public site. Yes, I know you can divvy people into subgroups, and I’ve noticed the fairly recent divisions on my home page for Acquaintances, Family, and Close Friends, but just thinking about doing all that and staying on top of it so I don’t make scrambled hash out of my life, makes me want to take a little nap.
I have no patience for a lot of what I see on Facebook. Bear in mind I don’t much enjoy a lot of small and/or surface talk. I don’t want to hear what a friend of a friend of a friend had for lunch or what someone else did on a fake farm. And at the other end of the spectrum, it feels inappropriate to hear that somebody I barely know or don’t know has cancer or has died. It’s not mine to know or react to. The trouble is that many posts are served up and responded to in much the same tone. That is, a complaint of a cold or a tumor can both get responses of, “Feel better!” It doesn’t sit right. I don’t believe in feigning or manufacturing responses to situations I shouldn’t be involved in, and certainly not through such a casual forum. It isn’t the place, not to me. Not to mention all the fighting and misunderstanding and offending. The things people write can get so ugly. There’s a lot of one-upping and trolling. And it’s not clever or insightful most of the time. These are not Shakespearean insults. I think people assume too much about others on Facebook, when in fact they’re often dealing with strangers, or acquaintances, or people they used to know and no longer do. (There may well be sound reasons you haven’t stayed in touch.) That’s a recipe for problems.
Trying to have a conversation, let alone LOTS of conversations with a group really isn’t my style, in life or in print. I’m a one-on-one sort of gal. My favorite conversations are long, meandering and at the risk of sounding pretentious, deep. I prefer one or two very close friends to scads of acquaintances, and I’ve always been wired this way. That’s not exactly what Facebook is about. I’m not saying there aren’t people having quality, meaningful interactions; just that the framework isn’t wildly geared toward them. It’s a soundbite venue. I mean even I get turned off when someone drones on & on in that tiny comment box. Facebook isn’t meant for thinking or communicating in paragraphs. Can you imagine trying to express a thought like this one, i.e., why I don’t want Facebook friends, with all its detail and nuance, there?
So why be there at all? Aside from my initial reason, the other is to be found, to have a way for people – from my past or those I know now – to contact me through private message if they want. Interestingly, few do. Not complaining, mind you! Beyond that, I like following certain people, authors for example, or joining groups of interest. The nice thing about that is if I follow or become a member and subsequently lose interest, nobody is going to be offended. A best-selling author isn’t going to even notice I’m gone. I like dabbling or reading, tossing an occasional “like”. It was fun to hop onto the official Olympics page leading up to the recent games and to get updates on the new version of Cosmos. I can check out what’s ahead on American Experience or Frontline. Get a boatload of recipes from chefs/cooks. (Geez, there’s even a page called Food Porn! Be still my palpitating heart. I can’t join it – the photos were full of sugary, creamy, rich, fattening foods and I don’t need the tease. After all, the page isn’t called Healthy Food Porn.)
When all is said and done – and I’ve been on Facebook several years – I like having the kind of balance I do. I’m not totally in the loop and I’m not totally inaccessible and out of it either. I do waste some time there, but my self-imposed limits keep me from wasting the kind of time that I’d feel uneasy about. After all, how addicted can I get? I could always change my mind and rustle up a few “friends,” but given everything I’ve seen already, I doubt I will.