A couple of months back a few of us were talking about friendships in these difficult and trying times. There seemed to be what you can call a general consensus that we used to call real friendships in those bygone days aren’t what they used to be. Not much argument there. Of course, such things are not easy to justify with real examples because our concepts friendship are usually custom-made and personal. I mean the idea of real friendship taken by some as being there for each other in rain or shine and even stepping in as the sacrificial lamb isn’t universal.
“Look, we might be best friends. That doesn’t mean I am obliged to stick out my neck for her!”
“But, say she is in rough waters and needs some lifesaver, would you jump in or just watch her drown?”
“If trying to pull her out poses the slightest risk for me wouldn’t jump in.”
They say real friendship is tasted not when the sun shines and the coast is clear but when the waves come rushing in. Isn’t that nice idea for a sci-fi blockbuster? After all the sci-fi is becoming reality and the real nicer things are so rare these days that they’re almost becoming sci-fi material.
So in that group of ‘friends’ talking about friendships we were a hell lot of far apart when it comes to what we say were the reasons for real friendships to be on the decline. It was at this time one in the group out of the blue asks me; “How many friends do you have?” Now that it is a very strange question if you really think about it. Can you really say you have so many friends! I mean friendships go all the way back to your childhood days and friends of those days are still friends even though they are in other parts of the world and rarely contact you. It’s a little difficult to categorize any friendship null and void just because life has gone your buddies across the oceans. If one childhood chum comes home after three decades and you guys run into each other you’re sure to introduce him, “Meet my childhood friend! We were in primary school together.” So friendship still persists! So with so many ‘friends’ out it’s difficult to remember all of them. In addition as I was saying it seems our concepts of what real friendship consists of aren’t universal.
If you describe someone “he’s my friend” it means a hell lot much than saying “I know the guy,” or something like that. So no wonder the question “How many friends do you have?” the guy threw my way caught me off guard. But then before I could reply the guy was smart enough to realize I was somewhat confused;
“I mean how many Facebook friends do you have?” Aha; call that a life jacket saving me from even more confusion. So he was talking about ‘those friends!’ Now how many social media friends do I really have!
Look let’s be positive for a change, shall we? I mean in a world that is so messed up and negatively charged some dose of positivity goes a long way in doing nerves some justice. Now ‘thanks’ to Facebook and as far as you are on that social media platform you’re never out of friends. Hmm… I used to hear guys saying things like, “I have already the five thousand friends Facebook allows me to have.” I mean had it not been for that rule people could have five thousand or even five million friends! (The ‘confirmation’ button would have been ‘worn out’ with overuse!) Look at all the Ronaldos and Messys who have tens of millions of Instagram and other social media platform followers. Now apart from the social media platform how can anyone get as many as five thousand friends!
In a world that is becoming increasingly unfriendly thumbs up for those social platforms for allowing us to have so many ‘friends.’ I mean ‘conventional friends’ are in short supply so these days. A childhood friend with several decades of strong bonds between you two could no more be a childhood friend. I’ll tell you what I’m trying to say. The guy with who you have been spending so much time over the past few decades, a guy with whom you have faced nicer and difficult times together, a guy with whom you have vowed to put your wellbeing in line if he ever either of you faces any problems suddenly changes skin! I mean the other day you two had your usual beer or two a talking your hearts out. Two days later you all him and say, “Hi, Saturday the beer would be on me.” With beer costing forty and fifty birr a bottle in the most uninviting of places such an invitation., or the promise of one, is enough to bring the smile back to one’s face! But then the ‘friend’ acts so strangely. All of a sudden, not only his tone his words too have changed;
“I’ve other matters on Saturday.”
“Ok what about Sunday?”
“Sunday too I’m engaged. I’ll call you when I can.” believe me and that is the end of the road for you two. He never calls. The mystery here is most of the time you wouldn’t even know why the other side has suddenly broken a friendship that was supposed to be some “…until death do us part!”
By the way I tried to see how many ‘Facebook friends’ I have; a couple of hundred would be great; Surprise, surprise! Facebook tells me I have almost six hundred! So, my index finger had been itching for nothing! Isn’t that very nice! And I have been around Facebook for quite a while.
People send you a request for friendship and that is real nice. Anyone asking you to be friends on Facebook or wherever else must have a nice person; but then some friend requests could send you practically running to the nearest pharmacy in search of painkillers; Imagine your ex sending you a friend’s request! No, it is not that I’m a firsthand witness. But then the very ex who threw you under the bus and boarded it with someone you call your best sending you a friend’s request! Someone should come up with ways how we can prosecute such a ‘devastating weapon.’ Reading the request you can also imagine your ex having the laughing like hell!
The Ethiopian Herald 26 February 2023