Brief thoughts on friendship in 2020 or I don’t want to be your friend but I still want to be friends
For the last month or so I’ve been trying to build up the energy to start working on season 3 of Friendless. Season 2 kind of imploded on itself after my initial plans were superseded by this whole, you know, global pandemic thing. I took the summer off to recharge but now I’m finding it difficult to reconnect the motivation to get the show rolling again.
I mean, I’m finding it difficult to find the motivation to do most of anything these days but this is the project I’m fixating on right now.
In an effort to center myself back on the show I was scrolling through my friend list the other day, taking a tally of how many names are left (400 Jesus Fucking Christ) and calculating how long it will take to finish as a series when I had a depressing revelation.
With 400 connections to get through that means if I put out one episode a week every week until there was no one left on my Facebook list it would still take me close to eight years to finish the show.
Fuck that. Fuck that so hard.
As I was scanning through the list, trying to gauge who I could quietly unfriend immediately versus who I’m going to force to listen to me prattle on for an hour versus who I’m going to lump into some sort of manic live streamed unfriend-a-thon, I got thinking once again about what it means to be a friend in the age of social media and Covid-19.
What the fuck is a friend?
Is a friend just someone you call up on a Saturday and have some beers with? Do they listen to you try and sneak free therapy sessions out of them by subtly working in mentions of your childhood trauma between ranking the Marvel movies? Are they the people with trucks whose shoulders sink just a little lower when you mention you’re moving again next month?
Is it supposed to be deeper than that?
Am I missing something? Am I a bad friend? (Don’t answer that)
My therapist says I have deeply rooted abandonment issues which manifest in a lack of trust of intimate relationships. Basically I can’t believe people would want to be my friend because I never felt honest love growing up BUT that is a can of worms that we’re not going to crack into just yet. So this may just be the same old faithful neuroses rearing their head once more, but I can’t help feeling it’s more wide spread than that.
I think we’ve been sold a lie about an idyllic form of friendship that either doesn’t exist or is way too hard to actually maintain on the type of scale that we’re expected to.
I imagine it like we have this echo of an image in our minds that we’re all just going to kinda wrap our arms around each other and grow old simultaneously and never lose connection with anything meaningful from every point in our lives. Like we can just put each other in our pockets and never change no matter where we might wander off to or what life has in store for us. But if the last two seasons of Friendless have proved one thing it’s that it’s far easier to lose touch with someone that keep them in your life.
It got me thinking if friends are even made to be permanent or if it’s just a collection of people being slammed together at various stages of their lives and making the most of an almost always not ideal situation.
Even then I wonder if that’s possible anymore.
Is it possible to be a friend anymore? Is there a statute of limitations on friendship? If you haven’t seen someone in person in years, but still know all their exact movements in that same time frame thanks to Facebook, are you still a friend or are you just some low level stalker?
When you open your phone and spy on all the people you used to drink with ten years ago, do you feel a love for them or a creeping jealousy that they seem to be living a life you aren’t? Do you wish you could be as callous, as cavalier? Do you wish you could be swimming, drinking, hiking, spending frivolously the way they seem to be? Do they have a family? Do they live alone? Are you jealous regardless?
Are you friends with your social media connections or do you use them as barometers for your own personal success?
I don’t want to be that kind of friend any more, if I ever was. I want to cherish the memories we made, and if ever given the chance I would love to make new memories.
This idyllic outlook is probably a dead fantasy in the light of basic human decency being politicized into chaos along with the encroaching combo of American Exceptionalist Fascism and Global Climate Catastrophe ensuring the norms we grew up believing society would perpetually reproduce is now just a fleeting memory of a future we will never arrive at.
But still, a guy needs a dream right?
The thing is while I may want to disconnect from this new system I still don’t want to leave altogether. I don’t want to be alone. Far from it. I want friends, and lots of them. I just don’t want to feel spied on all the time by people I can’t decide if I trust or not.
Now admittedly I’ve spent the last few months in pretty deep isolation. My bubble has consisted of my wife, my playstation and my unreliable wifi connection since March. So most of this is the manifested anxiety of only recently taking steps into public with the certainty that all the work of locking down for these seemingly endless months will be undone by some mouth breather who’s been sucking back daily Big Macs all year wandering by me on the sidewalk and brazenly coughing in my face. Have you ever noticed how many middle aged men love to just cough without covering their mouths as they walk by people? What the fuck is that? Is it some kind of weird nervous tick? Is it them trying to establish some sort of fragmentary dominance over a stranger they’ll never see again? Who the fuck raised these people to be so complacently gross.
But I digress.
I read recently that friendship is built on vulnerability, on the mutual ability to be vulnerable in front of someone. My favourite poet often says vulnerability is power, the truest type of power one can wield. At least this is how I console myself for describing the camera used to diagnose my internal hemorrhoids to my friend’s date or when I ramble on about trivialities as if this brain is full of interesting connective facts and not just b-side Aqua lyrics repeating into the abyss. And also this is just mostly didactically speaking. I mean I realize vulnerability in the face of some ungodly gigaton hydrogen bomb is, you know, laughable but it’s supposed to be deep so just roll with it.
Vulnerability needs trust to thrive. And trust is something that feels harder and harder to come by these days. Do you trust your friends? Who do you trust?
I work in the arts, a sect of society that seems to have stepped into a high school cafeteria, seen all the vitriolic gossip and poor communication being exhibited and thought to itself “Here’s good. I’m going to stop right here.” It’s an insular community that loves to spout platitudes of acceptance and inclusivity and then turn around and reward only the slimmest, most homogenized segment of the room. Trust is a commodity that feels next to impossible to come across. It’s also an industry shimmying out its death rattles thanks to decades of neglect, corruption and then complete abandonment in the light of the pandemic. Shockingly when you put a group of desperate people together, rob them of agency and security and only THEN take away any ability to secure their livelihood from their art you’ll find you’ve got a recipe for shall we call it cutthroatism.
Dicks. Let’s say Dicks.
But I’m getting off my point.
Trust is a funny thing these days. We have aunts who trust targeted memes about Justin Trudeau’s paternity and the existence of giants. We have coworkers who trust that if they sacrifice their time and energy in low paying and brain rotting jobs, their bosses will not only notice but reward them with dream promotions into middle management. We have a society that trusts that it isn’t witnessing itself implode in an accelerated free fall driven by complacency and deflection of responsibility.
Thanks to the ubiquitous insinuation of technology into our every day routines, it feels like we have gradually lost our ability to trust ourselves and the world around us. Do you trust your leaders? Do you trust your news sources? Do you find yourself trying to believe the narratives but still feeling little gnawing rats of doubt trying to get out from under the bucket that has been duct taped to your stomach like in 2 Fast 2 Furious and you’re expected to just lay there and take it and be so grateful that you were chosen to be the tunnel for the new rat propaganda.
Ok that one got away from me.
I’m just saying it’s hard to know what to trust anymore. Making it hard to be a friend.
I feel like I’m accidentally saying I have bad friends. I probably should be clearly saying I’m the bad friend and I’m just refusing to take responsibility for my indulgent ramblings, my snap judgements, my certainty that Canadians just really, genuinely have no fucking clue what they are talking about when it comes to every subject imaginable that doesn’t involve the weather they’re directly experiencing in the moment or where they were when Wayne Gretzky got traded.
Even those subjects are suspect to me.
But what do you think? Are you a good friend? Do you think that’s even possible or do you just want to keep lying to yourself about how you treat the people in your life? Just what the fuck is a friend to you these days? Cause it sure as shit isn’t what was explained to me when I was growing up. And I don’t know if we even can go back to that. I don’t know if we even want to. Because I really don’t want Paul Wilkinson calling me up every Saturday morning and asking if he can come over to play Super Nintendo, we’re in a pandemic Paul stay home! I haven’t had that Nintendo in years!
So here we are. Thinking about friendship, alone together. You reading my words, maybe hearing my voice in your head, more likely hearing an odd facsimile of your own voice as you read this back. Is this friendship? Are we friends now? Is that all it takes? Maybe you’ve been nodding along to the thoughts I’ve been haphazardly forming into some tepid rendition of disposable content. Maybe you’re rolling your eyes at every increasingly ludicrous statement I’ve made. Either way I’m sorry to say I have absolutely no answers for you but I think I’m almost ready to start recording the new season and get on with this mess.
(I wrote this on a whim in my mother-in-law’s basement. Consider it a preview of what will most likely never appear again in the newsletter I’m slowly dragging my ass to develop. Or maybe it’ll be all I write for the rest of the year! Who the fuck knows! We could all be dead next week, might as well try laughing a little before the real screaming starts!)