I’m what you may call a “quiet” guy.
Those of you who’ve read my blog long enough will know that, although on the surface I seem quite well-adjusted, sensible and, well, just plain ordinary, I am, underneath it all (or, rather, in my mind), quite seriously screwed most of the time.
I have conflicts and dilemmas most of my waking hours. I find it really difficult to be “close” to people.
I have friends, of course. Well, I should say, people that I quite like and that I speak to quite often. But, what I consider “real” friends – no, not many.
And a recent post from one of my links got me to thinking about relationships with people and friends, in general. More specifically, it took me back to when I was younger (much, much younger.)
When I was 12 or 13 or maybe even before that, my Nan bought me my first record (single). The reason was that one of the members of the group came from where she lived and, this being rural Herefordshire, not famous for it’s proliferation of famous rock stars, was a very big deal. From my Nan and Grandad, I learnt about Top of the Pops – because they used to watch it every week.
Apart from this making them very cool (although we didn’t use that word then – maybe “hip” or something), they got me interested in music and the radio and Top of the Pops. So, then, I used to watch it every week. And I got a radio for Christmas or my birthday which enabled me to listen to Radio Luxembourg under the bedsheets at night.
The thing about this was the charts. All these programs worked on charts. And charts I liked. I was, for some reason, fascinated with charts and the moving up and down of songs based on their popularity and sales. And I wanted my own “charts”.
Obviously, I was young and didn’t have any buying power so I came up with the idea of a chart for friends. To make it real, they were “marked” to different criteria (which I don’t remember now but possibly something like – how nice they had been to me this week, had they shared any sweets with me, did I share any sweets with them, etc.). Each would be given a mark (quite possibly out of 10). The marks would be added up and, from that, the week’s chart compiled. This would mean that I would know who was my “best friend”.
I really don’t remember how long I did this for. I had a little exercise book and dutifully recorded the “chart” every week, watching how people moved up and down. It made me feel better if someone had been horrible to me and they dropped sharply down the chart and better too if someone who had been “middling” shot up to number one because of something nice.
Obviously, reading this now, I was set to be on a psychiatrist’s couch as soon as I was old enough
But, then again, I was at school. And children are quite horrible. Friendships are made and broken on a whim. “I won’t let you play with my toys. I’m not your friend anymore. I’m going to tell my Mum.” These are all the things we say and hear. We’re learning about the value of people, how to trust them, how to read them.
So, let’s bring that up to date. Today we have a new Nursery School. But this one is for adults, it seems. In broad terms it’s called social media. In the olden days, we became friends with people that we met, face-to-face, people that were physically in our own circle.
Then, with the invention of the telephone, we could become friends with people that we spoke to a lot.
In fact, I remember, as a buyer, many moons ago, I became “friends” with a guy who was employed at one of our suppliers. We used to chat a lot and, when I left that company, we arranged to meet up. Of course, we never spoke after that. Not because he was a horrible person in real life but because I think we were a bit disappointed that the guy on the phone was not really like that in real life.
Social Media is another revolution. We can become friends with people so easily. Maybe we like their photo or the things they write or the pictures they post.
On Twitter, a while back, I would follow anyone who followed me. So it was that one person followed me and I followed her back. The problem was that, in real life, given the nature of her tweets, I wouldn’t have ever spoken to her after our first meeting. She was (is), in a word, vile. Nasty, small-minded, arrogant and always making out that she was cleverer than everyone else. I decided that Twitter was the ideal platform for her and that, in all probability, she had been the most hated person at Nursery School – she had (has?) no social skills. Zero. Nada.
How grateful was I when I discovered that she had “unfollowed” me – permitting me to unfollow her! She still appears on my timeline from time to time (being retweeted by others on my timeline) and, occasionally, I visit her profile to see if she’s changed. Needless to say, she hasn’t.
There’s a guy that I follow that reported on the Grillo-Renzi meeting, for example. Now, I’ve been following him because he tweets some interesting stuff about Italian politics and the economy. When I read what he wrote about the meeting however, I realised that he was also quite stupid. But, then again, he’s not my “friend” (I don’t even know if he follows me and, to be honest, care less) and, after the tweet about the meeting, is surely never to be.
Facebook too – I have friends on there that are my friends because we used to (or I used to) play games through Facebook. Now that I don’t, I do wonder why the hell I don’t just purge them. I have other “friends” on there that I’ve never met who have become “friends” via other means (they might be friends of friends that I have at Hay Festival, for example.) Again, I sometimes query why they are there, taking up space on my timeline. But I don’t want to be the first to cut them off! Stupid, eh? But, although they aren’t really my friends, I don’t want them to feel hurt – unless they really piss me off, of course. Then there are “friends” who I’ve never met and know little about but who I have some sort of interaction with. I can class them as “real” friends in that we do interact, of course. Whether they would be real friends in real life is another matter – and I simply don’t know the answer to that – I’ve never met them and don’t know enough about them.
Of course, when V “defriended” me on Facebook a few years ago I was both surprised and a bit disappointed. But not so as you’d know. After all, we’d split up in real life and, to be honest, he was right in one way. Still, it’s a shame.
But I really can’t lose sleep over someone who defriends me nor unfollows me. it’s up to them. They have their reasons. I have a real-life friend who I follow who doesn’t follow me on Twitter. Should I get upset or be offended?
Well, no, I don’t think so. Firstly, it’s not like my tweets are so fantastic. Secondly, whether she follows me on Twitter or not doesn’t actually change the way I feel about her and doesn’t make her a horrible person. In fact, she is one of the sweetest, kindest people I have ever met in my life – and whether she follows me or no doesn’t change that.
The thing I DO know is that a “friend” on Facebook or Twitter is not really a “friend” but more of an acquaintance – like someone you know at work. I really can’t take it all too seriously.
But, people do. People get upset and rant and rave. People follow me on Twitter and then unfollow me if I don’t follow back. Well, like Facebook friends, it isn’t the quantity but the quality that counts in my book. If people have interesting timelines/profiles, I follow them. If not, well, I don’t. It’s really as simple as that.
But it is a little like a Nursery School – or it can be. People take offence at something someone says and it blows up out of all proportion. Someone defriends or unfollows someone else and that someone else feels hurt and “excluded”.
But, it’s not real. It’s over the Internet. A true “friend” relationship takes time to develop – over months and years with ups and downs along the way. Physically being in front of someone smooths those ups and downs as you can see, sometimes, the real person. On the Internet, all you have are words and words don’t show feelings and, worse, can be downright lies.
We’ve a long way to go before we are out of the Nursery School that is Social Media. We have (and it has) a lot of growing up to do – made worse by the fact that in this Nursery School, most people are adult and so have already “grown up” and have their fixed ideas on what is right and what is wrong.
So, perhaps, we’ll never grow up!