Virtual Friendship and the New Narcissism
Christine Rosen tackles social networking (especially Facebook), asking [d]oes this technology, with its constant demands to collect (friends and status), and perform (by marketing ourselves), in some ways undermine our ability to attain what it promises—a surer sense of who we are and where we belong?

Single-Serving Friends

Richard defines "single-serving friends": “People you meet on an airplane or bus or wherever. You don't intend to talk to them...but sometimes circumstances cause you to need to. Or like on a plane you're sitting next to them so you kinda have to talk to them. and then you never see or talk to that person ever again.”

I get that all the time when I take the bus down to Portland. Never on the Canadian side, mind you, but if Americans don't keep exercising their lips, their mouths probably seize up. My favourites so far are man who was sent back from the border because he neglected to alert the Canadian officials of his felony conviction and the cute black girl on the trip from Portland to Seattle. Even on public transit in Portland, people just start talking to me, and I try to disregard any feelings of insecurity in exchange for someone to talk to. (Try talking to a stranger on the bus in Vancouver and observe their confused facial expression.)

The trick, it seems then, is to figure out how to turn the strangers on the bus in to single-serving friends, and then, once that has been achieved, turning single-serving friends into multiple servings.


Micah: “what is the true nature or purpose of guy-guy friendship, "brotherhood" so to speak? I know that networks of girls/women friends provide emotional support as a main benefit. Are guys different? Should they be different?”

Friend of D

d: “why does it bother me when i find out that people that i really like are friends with people that i don't like at all?” It's probably more common than d thinks. It was pointed out earlier that Friendster gets friendship wrong because there's the whole "friend of C" problem: Friend A likes Friend B, Friend B likes Friend C, but Friend A doesn't like Friend C. Plus there's the whole degrees of friendship business as well as variance of friendship over time. One network of friends is almost an entirely seasonal affair: dragon boat practices, which I fully plan on attending in 2004 (finances be damned!), happen in the spring and summer months (for my team anyway, there are teams that do it year round). Some friends are year-round friends, some are off-and-on depending on our moods and schedules, and the vast majority of friends through my lifetime seem to have dropped off the face of the earth (or moved to Calgary, take your pick). The last part is due to lack of interest on my part to keep up with what they're doing.

The point, lost in the foregoing, is that it's possible, nay, common to like someone but not their friends. Such is human life. The answer to "can't we all get along?", easily in my list of top-10 clichés of all time, is invariably no.

Friend of C

Michael Erard: Friendster “is built on the premise that friendship is transitive; that is, that if A is a friend of B, and B a friend of C, then A can be a friend of C, too. ¶ But friendship develops in social contexts, Ms. Boyd says; it doesn't just flow through the pipes of a network. "Just because you're friends with somebody doesn't mean their friends are similar in the type of context you are with your friends," she said. Unless the social networking sites adapt to how people need to use them, she said, the sites will not succeed.”

Enjoy The Silence

David Rowell, about his friend David: “We took solace in each other's company, and that we had few similar interests didn't much matter: He ran track, and I played tennis. He was drawn to guns and hunting, and his friends were almost all male. I had plenty of female friends -- my unfortunate lot being the confidant, the good and valuable listener -- and the only thing I shot was basketball.”

This article, which makes for good Sunday reading, reminds me in part of my old friend Brent—who always got the girls but hung out because of our similar interest in basketball. We were the best team playing two-on-two at lunch: we always knew what the other was going to do. The article also reminds me of current friendships, friendships that will last forever and will no doubt have the moments Rowell describes where the silence needs to be broken with uncomfortable questions.

Emotional Affairs

The below is taken from When 'just friends' is wrong, which is a review of Not "Just Friends": Protect Your Relationship from Infidelity and Heal the Trauma of Betrayal by Shirley Glass, from which the following evidently originally appears:

Has your friendship become an emotional affair?

  1. Do you confide more to your friend than to your partner about how your day went?
  2. Do you discuss negative feelings or intimate details about your marriage with your friend but not with your partner?
  3. Are you open with your partner about the extent of your involvement with your friend?
  4. Would you feel comfortable if your partner heard your conversation with your friend?
  5. Would you feel comfortable if your partner saw a videotape of your meetings?
  6. Are you aware of sexual tensions in this friendship?
  7. Do you and your friend touch differently when you're alone than in front of others?
  8. Are you in love with your friend?

I imagine guys don't hang out with their friends—especially their female friends—nearly as much as when the guys get girlfriends because they're worried about what the girlfriend might think, or what the answers to the questions might be (the "wrong" answers would be "yes" to questions 1, 2, 6 and 8, "no" to the other questions) might say about the guy. That goes for women too, I imagine.

Yes, it's the year 2003, and we're supposed to be civilized and mature about these things, and people are supposed to have unproblematically platonic relationships with friends of the opposite sex. But when it comes down to perceptions, well, perceptions, as they always have, matter.

Surviving Well Without the Babe

It's a little mortifying when someone you disagree with on an almost day-to-day basis on politics, technology's role in politics—and even on how to disagree with someone—has something to say that is enlightening. But because partisanship—and especially partisanship against something or someone—is a vile cancer that spreads even among those who, like myself, should know better, it's important to point out something that goes not only goes against what one is partisan to or against, but that actually makes sense.

It's with the disposal of that preamble that I turn to Dave Winer's short essay on friendship. Here's a good bit:

Most people use the term Friend far too casually. But if they had reason to pause, to think if so and so is really a friend, they would realize they either don't know (the relationship hasn't been tested), or they are not.

A rather close friendship of mine, while "merely" an online friendship, was put to the test in the period between December of last year and February of this year. The test may have lasted as late as March, since I stopped keeping records of all my IM conversations around then. To be honest, I thought it was over when she said "fuck you" to me, which was actually the first time someone ever said "fuck you" to me and really meant it. The test happened because of very complicated reasons, but it may have had its origins in September because I was spooked. (She knows why. It's none of your damn business, and I'll thank you to stay out of my personal affairs.)

Friendship is not about always being nice, or agreeable, far from it. A friend will tell you when he or she thinks you're full of shit, but always casts it that way, never as a statement of fact. It's a fine but important distinction. If I say "you're full of shit" to a friend, it must be understood that this is my opinion only. Further, it's more likely that he or she is not the one who's so full, it's more likely that I am. That's why I cringe when someone, in the name of friendship, says this to me. Usually they're wrong, but there's no point arguing, they're in some kind of trance, pedaling hard to avoid looking at something they desperately want to avoid.

I demand honesty and sensitivity from my friends, never eloquence. Eloquence is saying something with dramatic flair and flourish, but being sensitive means pointing out when I'm wrong in a nice way. I prefer to be told facts, because opinions can neither be proved nor disproved, but facts can. (And calling you a liar when stating a fact about yourself doesn't exactly help my situation.) An example: "you're an asshole" will get a shrug from me (partly because I already know that, but also partly because it's your opinion), but if you say "you hurt my feelings when..." you're stating a fact, and more often than not it makes me feel bad to know that and I'll want to apologize and make it up somehow.

All the things I wanted my girlfriend to do, to be like, were actually things I wanted of myself, and of course were tapes I recorded in early life, before any glimmer of consciousness. In the end I survived perfectly well without the babe. But the lesson has stayed with me, vividly. So I'm wary of supposed friends who tell me they know what I need to do to straighten my life out. They're full of shit. Always. (Almost.)

He kind of loses me with the discussion of tapes, but he's absolutely right: I desperately wanted (and to a degree still want, though not as desperately) to change how my friends behave, but it's only recently that I figured out if I love them unconditionally for who they are, and that however badly I think they treat people other than me, it's not my fucking problem, and when I sit down and calmly think about it, my friends are my friends because of how they treat me. The girl who said "fuck you" to me never really wronged me. She has been, on the contrary, rather kind to me, and on at least some level, respects me. I've tried to repay her kindness with admiration, but I suspect it takes me longer than she would like for me to admit it. It's like that for all my friends: most don't know I think the world of them, but that's simply because I haven't told them yet.

It's this line that speaks to me most, thinking about the past 10 months (and how those past 10 months relate to the last 7+ years): "In the end I survived perfectly well without the babe." Babes come and go (okay, for me they just go), but true friends are forever. Pretty close to forever, anyway.