Who doesn’t love a good “Golden Girls” reference to start off your day? I do, that’s for sure. But how apropos for this edition of “the world according to Fanny” to use that as a jump off? To answer that myself, very apropos, thank you. The inspiration behind this blog is my best friend, Manpreet. It was her birthday last week and so besides the typical card and phone call, I wanted to have a discussion in her honor.
Let’s address the obvious modern day juxtaposition: social media ‘friends’ vs. human interaction. Imaginary vs. real. Fake vs. genuine. Inconsequential vs. consequential. Unimportant vs. important. A world where quantity is applauded vs. the reality of quality being what really matters. Here’s my self-determined mathematical formulation: the amount of ‘friends’ you have on social media is INVERSELY related to the amount of quality friends you have in ‘real life’ (take that Pythagoras!)*. But here’s where the theme of this entire project keeps coming up: don’t be fooled to think that one’s social media persona = their authentic personality. So you can’t say you’re ‘friends’ with someone based solely on the persona they concoct. Everyone has 2 versions of themselves: who they present themselves to be and who they really are. In that realization is where you can weed out who is a true friend.
“But Fanny, aren’t you doing the exact thing you’re criticizing others for doing by undertaking this whole social media experiment? You want ‘likes’ and ‘friends’!”
How observant of you. But false, I don’t think I am. What I’ve done for most of my life is just not divulge intimate details (then again, social media only took a strangle hold on our society less than a decade ago – thank sweet baby Jesus! – so I grew up in an age where we actually had to forge real relationships…and walk to school uphill for 10 miles both ways, in the snow, with no shoes on!). I’m not naïve enough to think that everyone that engages with me on social media is a true ‘friend’. I want to inspire others with my message; that’s not to say I’m inviting everyone into my circle of trust. I’m not begging people to be my real ‘friends’ through this experiment. I want people to value their own self-worth and to determine who is worthy of their time and consideration.
I’m guilty of presenting myself in a different light sometimes (as we all are) but what ISN’T duplicitous is my treatment of my relationships; I won’t tell you I’m your friend and turn around and dog you when I think you’re not looking. I think most people that know me can vouch for that: you always know where you stand with me. I’ve never compromised my morality for ‘likes’ (as evidenced in my last blog). You think you know people via social media. But you don’t. You only know what they want you to know. I want people to read this and ‘friend’ me and follow me and understand my perspective, but I’m not under the false pretense that everyone single one of those clicks is my friend friend and care about me. Get my point? That’s not to be offensive at all. You can’t have 1000+ ‘friends’ because sustaining a meaningful friendship takes time and effort. I enjoy having a social media presence – I want my message to inspire others and I hope this project grants some form of social permission to accept yourself and to value who you are enough to let others in on your real self without having to devise an alternate ‘perfect’ image. Amid all the phoniness, a real friend doesn’t just believe everything they read or hear about you. We do live in a digital age where it’s so easy to have an inaccurate or unfair depiction of who we are blasted everywhere but it’s a real friend who cares enough to get involved in your life and care about your perspective. I think having a true friend is one of the greatest gifts this lifetime could give you so I don’t want to dilute its meaning by asserting a friendship can be created, sustained and then abruptly deleted from memory with the click of a button. It can’t and it’s extremely disheartening to think that it can.
Ok, ok…we’ve established that social media doesn’t create and sustain genuine friendships. So let’s get back to what having real ‘friends’ means to me. I truly believe it’s a matter of quality vs. quantity. As I moved to a new country, I met a lot of new people and since my son’s started school, I’ve met even more (the school community is such an integral part of our lives now). But I don’t need to be friends with every single of them. Sure, I don’t ‘click’ with a lot of them but I also can’t assume they like me enough to call me their ‘friend’ (in case you haven’t noticed, I’m a lot to handle and some people just don’t jive with my personality – imagine that?!?!). Having acquaintances is great; doing lunch, breakfast, shopping, sporting events, school events, etc…that’s all fine and dandy. But would I pull every single person I’ve met in the last 9 years aside and confide in them my darkest truths and insecurities? Nope. Not even close. And I don’t expect it of them. Being a friend is a commitment and I don’t need to like everyone enough to make an effort. And vice versa. I don’t need everyone’s approval (never have); I’m ok with doing my own thing. We all know those people who appear to be ‘friends’ with everyone, know everyone’s business and get off on being the socialite who camouflages themselves within different groups so everyone likes them. That’s not me. I’m cordial and friendly to everyone (unless you’ve given me a reason not to be…then, proceed at your own risk!) and even though I’m a ‘people person’, I can’t pretend to be your friend because I understand what having that relationship entails.
As I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog, I had quite the reputation in my community (my name, my attitude, my look, my personality all came together to create this larger than life persona to some). I had a ton of acquaintances and a ton of people I could go out with (more on my extra-curricular activities at a later time…when I figure out how to prevent my parents from reading it). But I always did take pride in my close circle of friends, those that I could really trust. I learned there are definitely different friendship tiers. As I grew up and through my teenage years, I confided in a select few that I considered to be ‘best friends’. I told them I have CF. I told them I had to stealthily take pills every time I ate, or would need to do breathing treatments if we went away for a longer period of time. I told them I had regularly scheduled doctors’ appointments when I would miss school. I told them I couldn’t be around smokers in confined areas. And as teenagers, that’s a lot to take in but our friendships never really suffered (though they probably didn’t understand my condition anyhow since for all intents and purposes, I appeared perfectly healthy). It’s not headline news that teenagers are fickle with their relationships though: all of those friendships fizzled out for different reasons (I’m better off having figured out they weren’t worth my time and energy while we were still young). Except for one. And her name is Manpreet.
We met when our parents were building our homes across the street from each other when we were 8 years old. She wasn’t really part of the group that I would go out and “party” with, nor was she part of the group that would play sports or attend games. She wasn’t really a study partner of mine as we had completely different commitments to academics. Our cultural or religious traditions don’t even come close to being similar. We graduated high school and she moved 4 hours away to attend college but got married just a few short months after that and moved overseas. Distance separated us physically at the age of 18.
Soooooo…..I know what you’re thinking. And yes, once I write it down our friendship does look like it has a pretty shaky foundation, doesn’t it? WRONG! We are the strongest friends I know. She’s the only one that I confide everything in without fear of judgment. She’s the only one at whose wedding I hyperventilated/ugly cried during my speech because I knew she was moving away (which meant we couldn’t yell for each other out of our bedroom windows to meet up and watch “Melrose Place”). She’s the only one that would contact my husband as I was going through my medical hardships asking for updates when I wasn’t up for speaking to anyone. She’s the one I called on my way to the hospital to get transplanted and cried with me. She was the only one I emailed pics to when I lost all my hair to ask how sexy I looked (which, by the way, was NOT AT ALL!). She was the only one who jumped on a plane to attend my son’s baptism (from the Toronto area to Chicago). She was the only one who jumped on a plane and came to visit us when we bought a new house. She was the only one who ever made good on the “yeah, our families should go on vacation together” pleasantry that so many others make so haphazardly (my 1st trip to Disneyworld at the age of 35! And my son’s too but he was 4! ). She’s the only one who sincerely means it when she says “I’ll help anyway I can, just let me know” because she’s proved it (we all have plenty of ‘friends’ and even family members who think that’s the appropriate thing to say, but would you really be there for us if we called? Have you been? Nope. Empty offerings with no intent of following through are worse than not offering at all, in my opinion). She’s a busy mom of 2, with a job and commitments and a husband who travels for work a lot as well. And yet, she still finds time to always be the friend that I need her to be. I wish I could show her the type of friendship she deserves just like she’s shown me.
And yet listen to this…she doesn’t always ‘like’ my posts. She cares enough to ask me about things rather than dismiss it as ‘none of her business’. I don’t resent her if her honest opinion is something I don’t want to hear (which is more often than you’d think!). We don’t talk every day, or even every week. But almost 30 years later I’m still as comfortable with her as anyone else in my life. She has always known the ‘real me’ and loved me regardless. She has always told me that I had nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of even when I was convinced I did. She’s been my biggest cheerleader and I wouldn’t have trusted this new found adventure to be in my best interest without her.
That’s the distinction between friends according to me so again, don’t be offended when I say social media doesn’t = real friend. It’s a different type of relationship and I’ve come to realize in today’s society, one who’s importance cannot be understated. Social media is a very strong influence in our modern world but we just can’t make up definitions to words because it fits our agenda. ‘Friend’ means something specific. Just like ‘blue’ can’t be ‘red’: one’s not wrong, just different. So connect via social media, share memes and pics of your kids, spread your message, use your voice for good but don’t assume that everyone loves you like you want them to because of it. Not everyone can be your friend and you can’t be everyone’s friend. I’d even venture to say not very many people have a friend like Manpreet (thank your lucky stars if you do). As shady and messy as social media can get just trust in the foundation of your real friendships and dismiss the nonsense. Let it remain the background noise that it is. Do yourself a favor, when you can, pick up the phone, call someone and thank them. After they’ve told you how stupid your latest social media pic is, laugh, hang up, sit back, appreciate their friendship and just…breathe.
That said, please invite all of your friends to be my friends. I’d appreciate it.
(HAHAHA! I’m a pretty funny gal…)
*I put the term ‘friends’ in quotes because that’s not a legitimate use of the word; a social media ‘friend’ isn’t a manifestation of the true meaning of ‘friend’.*
Prom 1998. Yes, we were THAT cool. What a classic little gem…