Monday, July 6, 2009
The Virtual Breakup
Lately, I've found all the emotions I normally get from actual human contact have been replaced by virtual feelings, brought on by purposeful clicks on a computer keyboard. News announcements come in 140 characters or less. Milestone moments are youtube links. Hugs have become Facebook smiles.
Even more interesting is what we will not condone in the virtual world, when it comes to friendship. I recently was de-friended by someone who I was barely an acquaintance with back in high school. I accepted her Facebook friendship purely because it seemed rude not to. At first, it seemed harmless enough. Although I suspected her of several crimes--owning a reptile pet, listening to 80's heavy metal music, feathering her hair--I stood by our committed, although distant, relationship. Then, when she asked if she would be a "dork" for dressing in costume for a Renaissance-themed dinner and I gave what was the world's most obvious answer, I was banned from all further communications. And just when I finally found something entertaining about this person.
I was never notified of the end of our union; I saw her complaints online later that day about the negative responses to her question. Apparently, I wasn't the only "friend" who would give her the gift of honesty and what I consider the highest form of friendship: constructive criticism. Once I saw that our relationship had ended, unbeknownst to me, I briefly considered making an apology of sorts, one that starts with "I'm sorry you're a complete idiot," but decided against it.
Fairly quickly afterwards, a "real" friend of mine (contracted through person-to-person contact) de-friended the de-friender. I knew our friendship had reached a new level, when I learned not only would she defend me, she would de-friend FOR me. It was even better than the real-life withering stare, because it was subtle and sophisticated. It sent the message, but from the high road. "You are so insignificant to me," her click stated, "that I will now delete you from my life. And you matter so little that I will not even inform you of this action. Instead, later, if at all, one day you will go to look at my latest posting of incredibly perfect family photos. Only you will not be allowed."
It's so cold, this de-friending business.
Several weeks have passed since the whole incident, and I virtually feel that I have grown from it. I no longer go about willy-nilly, accepting Facebook friends like peanut m-n-ms from my office kitchen. If you want to be friends with me, you have to be serious about virtually building a relationship. Will you "like" my posts? Will you ask deeply personal questions which I would never answer in person if I were sober? Will you give me random compliments about my hair/outfit/humorous status update? If so, let's talk. If not, just take your virtual friendship somewhere else. I just don't have the battery for it.