Gone are the days when making friends was as easy as walking into a classroom at school. Even for someone like myself, who is basically shy, I was bound to connect with one or two people and be able to call them friends.
Gone are the days of walking out the door, jumping on a bicycle and finding the gathering of neighborhood kids to play with. Some of them I even called friends.
I know those neighborhoods still exist, but not where I live, and some of the freedom of those days has disappeared in a world where people seem to see a child molester around every corner. We often hole up in our homes, barely knowing our neighbors, and certainly not inviting them in for a cup of tea.
As an adult, it seems to becoming even more difficult to make friends. Sure, there is the instant camaraderie formed by people in work places, especially when you have interests in common. But what happens when you don’t have an office? What happens to people, like myself, who work on a project by project basis, or are only there one day a week, so don’t intermingle with office politics/celebrations/meetings?
Well, there’s always the PTO for parents. Or perhaps joining a gym or volunteering for an organization. Great places to meet people and make friends, right? Maybe, but I think even that has changed recently. Too often people have their own agendas for these types of activities, and there is really no way in the midst of planning, organizing, campaigning, and focusing on our own health to allow time to simply get to know each other. There is no time to make friends.
We have learned to hide behind our busy schedules and technology.
Yesterday, Nancy at Spirit Lights the Way wrote a post called “Disconnected Connections & Distractions” which, in addition to a few events this week, got me thinking about this topic. How and where do we make friends in the 21st century.
Last Tuesday I went to someone’s house for a cup of tea.
Shocking, isn’t it?
We had a lovely conversation, which turned into a light lunch before I headed back to do some more writing before Sarah got home. Nothing strange about this scenario, right?
“I’ve never met someone this way,” my new friend said. “You know, where we just chatted for a minute at a coffee shop and now you came over my house. I was wondering if you left my address by the phone in case you disappeared today. I mean, you don’t know me and basically came to a strangers house.” We both laughed, but I admit that as I was driving to her house I had a moment of doubt . . . what am I driving to, I asked myself?
We have become a society of distrust, and that’s sad.
Before Christmas, I met another woman with whom I felt an instant connection. We started chatting as we dropped our daughters off at their musical theatre class, and I got the courage up to see if she had time for a cup of coffee. We went to the nearest coffee shop, and talked for almost an hour and a half, until it was time to pick the kids up again. Great, I thought to myself, I’ve made a new friend.
We saw each other again briefly the next week at the musical theatre performance. Everything seemed great, and I thought, there’s a couple that we could become good friends with.
After the holidays, I sent an e-mail to her (she had given me her card when we first met) explaining that I was about to head to Slovakia but would love to meet up when I returned.
Her response? Nothing. Nada. Zip.
A few weeks back I read the “Candle Lighter Award” at If I Were Brave’s blog, and Dory gave me the courage to try a second e-mail. Maybe the first got spammed, I thought to myself. So I wrote a second one, cautious with my wording so I wouldn’t come off like a stalker:
“I just thought I would drop a note and say hello, as I haven’t seen you at the Music Theatre drop off. If you ever feel like meeting up for lunch or coffee sometime, let me know.”
Again the response was nothing, nada, zip, zilch.
I gave up.
Yesterday, at the drop off, just as I was about to leave she and her daughter come swooping in. “Hi!” she says, a huge smile on her face. “Hold on a second while I get her in.” She says goodbye to her daughter and turns to me, “I’m sorry I never got back to your e-mails, I’ve just been swamped . . . “
“That’s ok,” I said. “I just figured you thought I was a crazy stalker.”
“No, of course not . . .” and the conversation went on from there.
We didn’t extend the conversation for coffee as she had errands to run, but we did leave open the possibility of meeting up sometime next week (school vacation) or at least starting on Thursday’s when classes meet up again.
All this is a roundabout way to getting to my point. We are instantly connected with so many people now, through technology that we can even carry in our pockets. Yet, somehow that technology has made making friends more of a challenge. We are surrounded daily by threatening stories, that terrify us as we cocoon ourselves behind the four walls of our safety zones. We have lost the ability to trust each other, and to simply say I want to get to know you better without the feeling that somehow we are invading someone’s privacy.
We hide behind the safety of communicating in our own time. We respond to questions when it suits our needs. We read at our leisure, carefully crafting comments before we hit send.
While I feel like I have made friends through blogging, I am still cautious about extending the “let’s meet in person” invitation. I remember my heart beating quickly with nerves as I was about to meet Kathy from Reinventing the Event Horizons. I was honestly scared that she would think I was some kind of freak. But why should I feel that way? We already knew each other through pictures and words. We already knew each other through technology.
My fear stemmed from my general shyness, and a protective wall I’ve built around myself after being burned one to many times in friendship. But it also came from a pervasive loss that exists in our society–a loss stemming from continuous hiding behind technology. We have lost the ability to make friends simply by saying hello. We have lost the ability to trust. We have lost the idea that most people are good at heart.
We have become a society of lonely people.
I think that’s sad.
What do you think?