Hollie Grimaldi Flores: What are friends?
How do you define friendship these days?
There was a time when if you had a few good, true friends, you would count yourself lucky. It seems that Facebook has taken the word and somehow redefined it. Minimized it, if you will. I have over one thousand Facebook “friends.”
Daily, I see the lives and times — both good and bad — of many people I don’t really know. My newsfeed seems to be filled with faces and names I only knew in passing, until this application became part of my day to day.
I was talking with my brother recently about a post I saw from our aunt only to find out this woman was not our aunt at all. I had the wrong Sue. Good thing I didn’t show up for the reunion. The photos looked fun and I am certain I recognized a family member or two. Hmm.
I feel bad “blocking” perfectly nice people, but the truth is I don’t necessarily care about their dinner plans, politics or other “Pinterests.” I really want to have my feed filled with the people I care about and am genuinely interested in, but I find myself checking out vacation photos from more than one person I do not have a personal relationship with at all.
More and more often, I find myself alarmed by the inappropriate posts and shares I see in my feed. I keep yelling at my computer screen, “Keep it off social media. This is none of my business.” And, I am sad to see long time true friendships ending over political and social differences. But I also see how this part of our culture helps the lonely feel less alone and the socially awkward more engaged.
I admit I am getting to know quite a lot about people I would never have considered inviting into my life without Facebook, but the bigger question is, do I really need to? Isn’t that what high school reunions were for? The wondering whatever happened to that boy from freshman English has gone out the door.
Unless he is of the (seeming) minority who cannot be bothered or does not want to be found, I already know what he is doing.
Last week I was in my hometown to meet up with a couple of friends for a newly formed annual get together. One lives in Indiana, another in North Carolina and, of course, me in California.
After mentioning the trip on social media, we were told (via social media) that a few of our former classmates would be gathering at a local watering hole while we were in town and we were invited to stop by. Upon arrival, we were greeted by no less than fifteen alumni. I did not recognize at least three of them, but felt I had come to know another half dozen simply from our near-daily posts on Facebook.
There were a couple people there who are not part of the Facebook community and it was a genuine treat catching up with them and finding out about their families, interests and career choices. There were also a couple who I was not friends with either in real life or on the world wide web, but have since made a social media connection.
We had a face-to-face “twenty questions” to fill in the decades that had passed since we graduated and went our separate ways.
It is amazing the number of times we passed each other in the halls without a sideways glance, never invited one another to parties or other social events, never gave each other the time of day, but given the advances of modern technology now share activities, successes and even failures with abandon.
I have found myself finding kinship with some people I would not have otherwise given a second glance, and that is a good thing.
Also at this gathering were some of my faithful friends. Longtime confidants and partners in crime who know and love me through and through. We don’t need computer applications to keep track of our comings and goings, but it does make it easier to keep up.
I have a close friend who just doesn’t get it. Why are we all so fascinated with the lives of people we would otherwise not spend a moment getting to know? My former classmates are all fine people, but the truth is, without social media I would have long forgotten many of them. I would know nothing of their whereabouts, offspring or recent vacation destination.
While it is interesting and does give a sense of belonging, they are not among those I would call on in an emergency. This new brand of relationship is a long way from friendship.
Might it more adequately be described as acquaintance or something even more casual like a passing interest, or simply voyeuristic? Still, my sense of empathy has me sending condolences to someone I passed in the hall nearly forty years ago whose dog lost its fight to cancer. It’s an interesting phenomenon.
The truth is I know who my real friends are. The ones I would call in a crisis. Those I turn to first, in celebration and in sorrow.
There are a scant few I know I could call in the middle of the night for help, knowing they would come to the rescue no questions asked and I know the ones who would probably be in the cell beside me should we find ourselves in real trouble.
That kind of friend is sacred. It’s important to be able to make this distinction.
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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