Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Real Live Friends vs. Invisible Internetties

I was thinking about friendships the other day and how they can change throughout your life.

I still have one or two friends from childhood, though we rarely see each other.  One close childhood buddy moved to Florida and I haven't seen her in years.  I doubt I'd recognize her if I saw her on the street.  Another friend who attended the same elementary school, high school and college lives about 30 minutes away, but our paths never cross and we only keep in touch for birthdays and Christmas.  One very dear friend from high school died about 20 years ago, probably from AIDS, the cause was never disclosed to those of us who attended his memorial service.  I remember how shocked I was at the time to learn of his death; how could that possibly happen to someone my age, I'd thought.  And in my mind I relived happy moments we'd shared, recalling funny things he said and did.  And I pondered whether I had told him often enough how much I liked him and how good a friend he was.

I have two very good friends these days, women I met at two different jobs I held years ago.  Somehow we've kept in touch over the years even though we don't see each other on a regular basis and don't share the common bond that brought us together.  They're both single which hasn't mattered much even though I'm married with kids.  I guess the fact that we share a love of books, music, movies, dining out--things like that--kept us friends, kept us united.

But lately I've found that even those common bonds haven't been enough.  Sometimes when we talk, the conversation falters, leaving too many silent pauses.  Where it used to be so easy to talk on the phone for hours, now there are awkward moments.  What happened? I wonder.

How do you stay connected with friends in a time when people live such separate, busy lives?  Does friendship really matter to people these days?  And what about virtual friendships?  Do some of us "talk" more to people we've never met (via the Internet) than to flesh and blood, real live human beings?

What are your thoughts on this?


  1. Hells yeah friendship matters or we wouldn't seek it out from anyone who'd listen :)

    But cultivating friendship takes work--listening from our side, giving time, remembering to be in touch. But I know what you mean, life around us intervenes, and because some of our good friends aren't around us, it's takes specific focus and initiative to connect with them.

    Maybe we aren't as good at it as we ought to be. Too many things happening in our lives. Shifting communities. The American way.... Or maybe the Western way. Not sure.

    Anyway, interesting topic :)

  2. I speak to my online buddies more often on a day-to-day basis, but I'm incredibly blessed to have "real" friends I see regularly. While I see my best friend once or twice a week, those friendships from school and such get picked up every month or so. And there are some pauses, finding our groove again, but I think it's more because of our absence from each other, from that snatch of time our lives didn't cross. We push through it, eventually finding our comfort - and our voices - again.

    And I'm sorry for the loss of your friend. Stuff like that is never easy.

  3. Thanks for the comments!

    I think what I've always found weird is the TV shows where women have best friends they see every day. I've never had that situation. My sisters are probably my best friends of all. I see them once a week when we get together on Sunday night. But outside of family, there is no friend I see on a regular basis.

  4. My best friend and I have known each other since third grade. We're night and day politically and spiritually, but we still get along great as long as we stick to golf, beer and talking about women. He lives several states away, but we still try to get together once a year. I love him like the brother I never had.

  5. Jim, thanks for giving the male perspective. I've always wondered if men see friendship differently than women. My husband doesn't seem to care about maintaining friendships as much as I do. He will talk on the phone if somebody calls, but he doesn't go out of his way to call people or keep in touch.

    About the politics and religion stuff--I have one longtime friend who has quite different religious beliefs than I. It has caused problems and made me uncomfortable hanging out with her.