“…remember no man is a failure who has friends…”It’s a Wonderful Life
When my girls were younger and life was full of friendship drama (never with my son, interestingly), I was fond of telling them that friendship was “sometimes for life and sometimes for a moment.” They had evidence of the former in their “Auntie” Mary, my best friend of 45 years and counting. The latter was the hard part because friendships amongst young girls can be so important and then so devastating. Today it’s even more complex because you have to add in the digital world when talking about friendship and all the impact it has on relationships. It’s a holy hot mess out there sometimes for young people. Hell, it’s a hot mess for all of us. So friendship in the cyber age… it has me thinking… are there rules? I mean, new rules? For friendship in the digital age? I think maybe there are, or at least there should be. So here we go…
Rule #1: Read It Again… Before You Hit Send
What you say in a text or on social media posts has the potential to be easily misunderstood. It’s not a face-to-face conversation, where you can see someone’s caring eyes or hateful glare. I can’t state this strongly enough, especially if your angry when writing it, please reread what you write before sending… take a breath… wait five minutes… make sure you want to say it that way… to your friend.
The other thing to keep in mind before hitting send, is that phones and iPads sometimes have a mind of their own. You think you are sending something to your BFF when in actuality you are sending to another friend who texted you earlier and it’s actually about them. It happens all the time. I texted my friend the other day: “Hello, my love. I will be heading home shortly. Do we need wine?” Now, I do love her, but I was not heading to her home, nor was I bringing her wine. We both laughed about it, but you can see where I’m going with this? Had it been a less-than-flattering comment about another friend, it could have spelled disaster… and don’t even get me started about how friends SHOULDN’T speak ill of each other anyway!
Rule #2: Don’t Share Unflattering Pictures on Social Media
Do you hate pictures of yourself? Or you one of the lucky ones whom the camera adores? Either way, people have a lot of feelings, good and bad, about pictures of themselves. Go ahead, post your own pictures of your face, but be careful about pictures you post of friends: make darn sure that they are going to like them! Sure, maybe it’s hysterically funny that they walked out of the ladies room with toilet paper on their shoe, but they might not think it’s kind or flattering. Posting to social media sites means that way more than a few of your closest are going to see these pictures… and people will share it.. and pictures on social media then grow exponentially. It can be a complete wreck. Good friends want good things for their friends, including nice images online.
Rule #3: Don’t Share “Helpful” Online Articles That Aren’t
Did you ever have someone say to you, “you know what would look good on you?” It’s kind of a backhanded way of saying that what you are currently wearing is not exactly flattering. Friends don’t do that. Friends are direct. If you ask me, “do I look fat in this?” and you do, I will kindly tell you about all the other outfits I love you in. Well, sending someone a “helpful” article online is in the same camp. I’m not talking about sending your friend a recipe for carrot cake that you found on Pinterest. I am talking about sending her that article after having carrot cake at her house that tasted like shoe bottoms. Sending weight loss articles to your friend who’s struggling to shed a few or that article about getting over divorce when he’s still reeling from it. We have such easy access to information in this cyber world that we live in. Just because we see it or read it, it really doesn’t mean that we have to share it. Think about how it would make you feel if the favor were returned before filling your friend’s mailbox with unwanted “helpfulness.”
Rule #4: Remember… This Stuff Lasts More Than A Lifetime
My Mom used to say that I should never do anything that I wouldn’t be proud to have published in the newspaper. Well, I wish I could say that I have always followed this advice, but that notwithstanding, I do hear her whispering in my ear from time to time. Having friendships in the cyber age is tough and we would benefit from heeding this advice. Anything you put out there… a post… a tweet.. a Tik or a Tok… stays out there. If today I can look up my old house, that I sold back when Charlotte was in high school, and see all the rooms, with my furniture in them, from our sale posting, all those years ago, I can see that nasty thing that you said… forever. Even if you remove a post, there are ways to retrieve old info posted online. So, once again, you want to think before writing that comment or posting that pic, because being nasty in person is one thing, being nasty for decades in the digital world is a whole different level of mean.
A Final Thought…
To have a friend is a precious thing… guard it closely… show it respect… and be thankful ever day that that friendship is in your life. The rules of friendship in this new, digital world that we live in may be even more complicated, but when it comes right down to it it’s all about that gratitude and kindness.