I firstly noticed something different was going on about 15 years ago. A friend that I had not seen for quite some time, called and announced he would like to come for a visit, to catch up and things like that. Not more than 15 minutes after he came he opened up his mysterious bag he had with him and started to show material of some cleaning stuff he was selling. You know, the best available on the market. Ever. After patiently listening to his presentation for half an hour, I told him I was absolutely not interested. I thought we would spend the rest of the evening in a regular friendly chat, but no, he suddenly did not have any motivation to stay and connect with me, and so he left soon after. Gone a half a year or so and he called up again: “Hey, my friend, long time no see, let’s get together and catch up, how about me dropping by for a drink…” I looked forward to seeing him, especially because I thought that it was pretty clear to him now that I was not a buyer of his stuff. How naïve of me. After 10 minutes the mysterious bag opened up again and the presentation started. Only this time to be stopped very quickly by me – and again he left soon, losing all his enthusiasm for catching up.
I thought this was just a unique event, not announcing any sort of a new Zeitgeist, but similar things started to reoccur. Like, for example, an acquaintance calling about twice a year, passionately inviting me for a drink: “Hey my friend, long time no see, we have to sit down and catch up, as soon as possible…”, just to leave me wondering what this is all about when after an hour or so this very same person had nothing to tell me, nothing to share: apart from asking me briefly about what was going on in my life, with a somewhat suspicious look. So it was such a boring drink, no spirit, no flow, nothing. Yet I was invited again in a few months, and again, and again. To be briefly checked out, as it seemed. I was puzzled – why did this person keep inviting me if there seemed to be nothing at all he would want to talk about. Especially since he seemed rather bored, and also perhaps disappointed. And this was not a lonely example.
It started to seem to me that people wanted to sit down in order to check out whether they could get anything, not to share and connect. As if their perception of friendship was not what I thought friendship was all about.
Then I was presented by a very interesting thought through a dialogue with a man of my age while in NYC who said that it seemed to him that nowadays it was really about acquiring friends, not about relating to them. And yes, this was exactly what I was starting to understand through these encounters; that it is all getting so damn goal oriented. Build a network of people, as wide as possible, so that you can get something, career and business opportunities or something of this sort. So you have to regularly check people out and see if anything new – and perhaps useful for your means – popped up recently.
Yes, this is so much the way I am understanding where it is all heading: it is about quantity, not about quality, isn’t it? For instance Facebook, LinkedIn, Blog Catalog… The number of friends some people have on Facebook is bizarre. Also in Blog Catalog: “Hey, I add you as a friend if you add me as a friend, OK?” What exactly does “friend” in this stand for?
It seems it is just about numbers nowadays. The goal is to have more, more, more of them, more of friends, a wider network. How many friends do you have? How many readers do you have? How many visitors do you have? How many people do you have? How many of them?
I really wonder whether this is just a sort of an infatuation with all the possibilities this new social structures and technological possibilities are offering, or is it really a utterly new concept of friendship that is evolving. What will friendships be for our children and our grandchildren? More or less the same or completely different? It seems to me a bit scary that perhaps a concept of having friends and friendships that I know is going to disappear from the face of the Earth in a couple of dozen years.
Anyway, progress and evolution up and down, I myself don’t want to get anything from my friends. I just want to sit with them, share, connect, laugh and cry together, enjoy this link – no matter how illusionary it may be – just share and connect our lives and our lonesome paths through this life. That is what I need out of my friends, nothing else.