Podzilla 1985

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Why Can't We Be Friends?

The popular belief is that Shannon L. Young is one happening dude. Sure, I'm strong, charismatic, and ruggedly handsome amongst other excellent traits. It's only natural to think that I'm the center of the social circle and the glue that holds together entire societies. Getting the picture I'm painting for you? I'm a popular guy. I have a large circle of friends and easily win over most of the people I come across.

A week ago I would have agreed with you. I was definitely under the belief that I meant a hell of a lot to the world than I now realize. Thankfully a little bird, or harpy if you will, made me question the bonds between myself and my fellow man.

I did not like the answers I found.

What is friendship, anyway? Are there different levels or is it all black and white with no room for grey? At the most basic level of consideration I guess the argument could be made that I have quite a bit going for me in the friends department. My Facebook list, which I purposely only included people I know IRL, was nearing two hundred people and I considered each of them a real person. You see, I had convinced myself that because I had known them in person that somehow we were all closer than we really were. Just because you know someone personally doesn't mean you mean a damn thing to them.

Before social media came along, friendship used to be based on real emotions and togetherness. As a kid I had a handful of true friends that I would see often, and we would go bike riding and play video games. Sometimes we would just sit the fuck down and not do anything at all. We would just lounge around on each others furniture and talk about the dumbest shit until the morning sun came up.

Did I ever tell you about our idea for a flying carpet? Well, nevermind, I'm getting off topic here.

My point is that it was easier to gauge who was really your friend and who you were just friendly with back then. Nowadays you have friends lists, texting, extended circles, and a hundred other ways to make sure you never have to make any direct contact with another human being ever again.

I think back to an episode of King of the Hill, or as we call it around the office (aka my apartment) "the greatest animated program of all time." Strickland Propane joined the online community by putting their business on MySpace before the site became a giant ad for indie bands. Donna, from accounting, got a little bit nuts and fell back on her online friends when everything fell apart. It wasn't until Hank, who was always weary of an online community, talked some sense into her and made her realize who her real friends were that the situation was defused and life returned to normal. Sure, Donna is a woman and that can explain a lot of her insanity, but I think that social media is just as to blame.

We have tricked ourselves into thinking that just because you see a name on a list and that person likes something you say that you're friends. You're not. You're just names on a screen. That's all you are and that's all you'll ever be until you break the down that cyber wall and get back to actual humanizing.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think that Facebook is a terrible thing. Social media sites can be very handy at helping people far away from each other keep in touch. As a tool it is harmless and helpful. As a basis of socializing it is the wool being pulled over all of our eyes, and it's just growing and growing every day.

I've seen entire groups of people standing together and every single one of them is texting away on a cell phone. I've been sitting on the couch with my roommate and we're both messaging other people and not interacting with each other or even watching the damn movie!

Why do we do this to ourselves? When did we become so dependent on being so lazy? We're all busy, for one. It's a well known fact that Americans especially are busier than we've ever been. Studies show that we're taking less vacation days at work, we're working longer hours, and we're spending more time in school or studying for it. We're filling the days of our lives with back and forth monotony and the prospect of keeping all of our social circles together with the mere click of a button liking someones dumbass status that they thought was hi-goddamn-larious or agreeing with their insane right wing views on gun control is very attractive. Minimal effort for what we conceive is a maximum payout.

But you're wrong, my friend...er...acquaintance. You're paying the price the moment you cut off your virtual ropes and see who actually reaches out for you before you fall. That's what I did. I deactivated my Facebook and, minus the initial "WE'LL MISS YOU BRO" comments from some genuinely nice people, I haven't had any contact with anyone except for my fiance, my roommate, and my coworkers.

I realized that when I'm not forcing people to pay attention to me, no one cares enough to do so of their own free will. That's a hard pill to swallow but I choked that fucker down.

I actually felt a little bad today when a coworker asked me if I was okay, as they often do when I'm not dancing a jig for their entertainment, and she made a reference to me being her friend. I told her we weren't friends, because we're not, and she had the same look on her face that I had on mine when I was hit with the truth. She's a sweet girl and all, but we don't hang out when we're not at work. We don't text each other to check up on each other. We don't make an effort. We never have and we never will.

I have few friends in this world, far less than the hundreds that I thought I did days ago. But, surprisingly enough, I'm okay with that. The only friends I have are the only friends I need. I'm a writer, a creator, and an imaginative mind. People like us work better without friends, anyway. They just get in the way and distract me from what's really important - the worlds I create for myself. It may sound odd to you, but that's okay. You wouldn't understand because you don't know me. We're not friends. See that? Full circle.

If you care about someone, care about them. Show them. Don't let your bonds become shackles and don't fool yourself into a false sense of security. Real friendship is great, after all, and much better than anything your phone has an app for.

It's true what they say - Friendship is magic.
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