I had a very odd interaction the other day. I ran into an acquaintance, who I hadn’t seen in ages, and we hugged and exchanged pleasantries. She then asked me for a favour, a contact that she knew I would have and I said “of course. I’ll flick it to you on Facebook.”
She sighed and put her hands on her hips and looked at me in a way I remember the nuns looking at me at school and said the following words. “I deleted a heap of people who weren’t paying enough attention to me a year ago and only added them back when they asked me why.” I was still trying to unpack that sentence when she said (without taking a breath I might add), “don’t worry; I’ll add you back now... OK Bye,” and was gone.
She was almost 100 metres away before words came out of my mouth. Those words were “what are you talking about; you total Muppet.” I did, at the same time, feel totally rejuvenated. I had been walking through the world thinking I was a middle-aged mother, but apparently, I’m in primary school. I hope I get a really good seat at recess (please picture here, my massive middle-aged eye-roll).
It wasn’t that she had removed me from Facebook - because I obviously had not even noticed and didn’t care. Let’s face it, we have all had that moment where you see something in your news feed and think to yourself, ‘and I’m friends with this fool why?’ It was the phrase “enough attention” that stuck in my ear. I was unaware that everyone on earth required attention to live. I require food and water; my lifeline does not hinge on other people recognition of whatever inane thing I did that day.
I use social media a lot for work, looking after business pages, and I understand from that point of view wanting to get a lot of attention for things that you post because you are selling a service or a product and want as many people as possible to see it. From a personal point of view though, I questioned when our sense of self-worth and well-being became a product, the worth of which is determined by how many people “like” some random thing that you did, thought or photographed?
I have been very lucky in my life. The people you choose to have lasting, meaningful friendships with are these solid, grounded, sensational humans. Real people who know that we all get busy with kids, partners and life circumstances but also understand that lack of contact is not a reflection of the depth of our friendship. When shit goes down in my life, these are the people I want to talk to. Posting something on Facebook and having people send you a sad face emoji, is not human contact.
There is a guy that I have been friends with for more than ten years who I’d have contact with on average twice a week. We are not “friends” on any form of social media. I laughed even writing that sentence because I was thinking about the “one hand clapping in the forest” hypothetical. If you’re not friends on social media, are you really friends. Just because Mark Zuckerberg does not officially sanction, it doesn’t mean the relationship ceases to exist.
As much as I thought this whole encounter was ridiculous and slightly amusing, it did happen in the same week that I binge-watched season two of 13 Reasons Why. Looking at the world in a way where outside influences are more important than your internal voice is so dangerous. How can we look our kids in the face with any moral authority and say “use your words” or “just ignore them” if we, as adults who are meant to have fully formed brains, can’t manage to do that? Let’s get back to reality, shall we?