Our generation is kind of screwed up about friendship. I’m screwed up about friendship. We’re all suffocating in the false-climate of having a million best friends and no one to hang out with on a Friday night. Why do we all feel this way? What has happened to our social life, and why is it nonexistent? Here are three enemies that screw us up:
1. Our Walls and Newsfeeds have screwed us up. We’ve accumulated an entire database of friends, retaining names and facts but omitting relationships and memories. “Hey, remember that one time we chatted on Facebook and shared the Google Image of that beach we both want to go to?” Yeah, neither do I.
The Internet has afforded each of us to live dazzling lives that aren’t ours. One scroll through my Instagram will show you California, Oklahoma, and Colorado—outdoors, mountains, weddings, and playgrounds. However, it won’t show you Netflix, lonely Friday nights, textbooks, or that one night I spent three weeks ago sick in the bathroom. It leaves out the run-of-the-mill so that we look like some sexy-adventure-seeking-friend-getting machines. We are all mad scientists creating Frankenstein when it comes to social-media modeling: the life we create turns its head, opens its eyes, and becomes a monster.
On top of all of that, am I trying to be a cool, relevant Christian on social media just because I want more followers? After all, there’s nothing like being affirmed by a few hundred Twitter followers that I’m a good Christian. I tweet because I’m self-conscious.
2. The everyone-is-my-best-friend-and-I-have-to-know-everyone idea has screwed us up. I grew up thinking that because I was a Christian everyone had to be my best friend. I had to like everyone, and everyone had to like me and know my life story and be my accountability partner. By the time I made it to college I couldn’t do it anymore. My inner circle was as wide as the Pacific, and I didn’t have the relational energy to build a bridge across it.
I’ve since realized that Christians misrepresent friendship when they claim that everyone is their friend. Jesus was not friends with everyone. Christ had his three, his twelve, and his 5,000. He did not suffocate with FOMOOF (Fear Of Missing Out On Friendships). There were probably some great men and women in the crowd of 5,000 who sat eating the fish and loaves, but Jesus was purposeful about being with the twelve.
Today there’s an extreme pressure to get to know everyone. We feel like we aren’t being fair to others if we grow deeper with one person and not another. We feel the need to spread ourselves out among 5,000 rather than with three. I can only be friends with so many people, and I waste my time trying to be everything for everyone and end up being nothing for no one, sitting alone watching Friends re-runs on a Friday night.
In order to understand how to have real friends, we must learn how to start small and remain intimate.
3. Air conditioners and Netflix have screwed us up. Before the invention of the air conditioner, families would spend hot summer nights sitting out on their porches and talking with the neighbors. Before the Internet, there was a sharing of communication through printed books and interviews (R.I.P. Borders). Before cell phones, there were landlines that only talked and didn’t text. Before GPS there were maps and gas stations. And before Netflix there was Blockbuster (R.I.P. again). The modern world is becoming more and more efficient with work and less and less meaningful with friendship.
No friendship is based on efficiency. Friendship is spending time with someone, intentionally setting aside time to look someone in the eye, to hear their voice and to watch their eyebrows furrow or cheeks get red. It is not an efficient exercise; in fact, friendship necessitates inefficiency. It is days spent gazing at ocean waves rather than writing job applications, evenings spent drinking coffee with a friend rather than an essay, school nights spent watching sports or movies or playing games rather than studying or reading or sleeping. Jobs are practical. Getting good grades is practical. Networking is practical. Friendship is not.
If I were being practical, I would be in bed every night at nine and only read books because they can’t let me down or call me out or be busy. But friendship is not practical.
If God were practical, I think He should have given up on me a long time ago. But He calls me His friend. And friendship is not practical.