I recently moved back to my parent’s house for some personal reasons. Moving back home for someone like me was a huge step. I had been living independently for the last many years. But despite the hesitance, guilt, and even fear of moving back home, the one thing that kept me at ease was the thought of meeting all my school friends again.
In my head, I started planning many weekend getaways and night stays with my old pals from school. I figured that now we were all adults and we no longer needed our parent’s consent for such things. As a vivid daydreamer, I had dreamed of going out on brunches, movies, dinner dates, et al, with my friends. At the expense of sounding a bit dramatic, I will accept that I was playing Sex and the City Edition 2019 in my head.
The day finally arrived when I reached home. I was welcomed with open arms by all my friends, and it was a wonderful feeling. It seemed like the world was back to where it was ten years ago. Like nothing had changed. Our favorite ice cream parlour was the same, our favorite chaat wala was the same, and our favorite sandwich shop was the same. In fact, we also added some nice beer places to our list of favorite haunts.
But then this was it!
We went out on the first day. We drank together, we discussed school, and our current lives, gossiped about our other friends and teachers from school, and came back home. While my friends went back home to their respective lives, I came back home to my old slam books that my mother had still stored carefully.
For every 90s kid, their slam book was once their most prized possession. Come what may, nobody was allowed to touch it, and only the most special people you met were given the privilege of making an entry into your little book.
With a cup of tea, I sat down and started reading my older slam books. To my surprise, I also found some old letters from friends and prospective boyfriends back in the day! After reading entries of about 50 odd people, I realized that none of these ‘best friends’ were a part of my life today. The prospective boyfriends were names I can no longer remember or put a face to. These ‘special’ people who, in my opinion, were privileged to be getting an entry in my slam book, were nothing but lost and forgotten acquaintances.
Where were these people?
Some of them with gorgeous hair, some of them with tiny eyes, some of them with their distant walk, and some with their unique way of pronouncing my name. Some of them existing in an unvisited, webbed corner of my head, but all of them, faceless!
These people that I felt the closest to once, were no longer around me. I wondered why, and then was reminded by my mother, “Baby, life eventually takes over. You can’t be friends with everyone all your life.”
But, why not? Why can’t I be friends with all these slam book entries? Or rather why couldn’t I be friends with these slam book entries?
Dejected by my inability to nurture these friendships, I decided to write these people an email each. And that too, on the email addresses they had all mentioned in my slam book. I thought it would be a nice way of surprising them. My first disappointment came, when most of my emails were left undelivered. Of course, people wouldn’t be using ‘fantabulus_me’ usernames anymore. What was I thinking?
I decided to create my own version of Facebook Memories and took a snapshot of my slam book, and sent it to these ‘friends’ on Facebook. Out of the 35 people that I found on the site, I ended up sending a message to 21 (others had grown up to be creepy). Out of these 21 people, 7 decided to message me back with one-liners that were clearly not conversation starters, 4 ‘liked’ my message, and only 3 bothered to ask me, how I was and what I had been up to all these years!
By then I was convinced that I was now conducting a social experiment and decided to follow up some of these people on LinkedIn.
My profile on LinkedIn seems impressive, and let’s accept that everyone on LinkedIn is hungry for more connections, better networking, and more importantly, more recommendations on their profiles. Would you believe what happened next?
Out of the 29 people that I had tried to connect with on LinkedIn, 26 people welcomed me into their professional world. The 3 remaining were government employees who, I am sure, did not use LinkedIn anyhow. Over the next month, many of these people commented on my job changes, sent me recommendation requests, and asked me to refer them to companies.
My social experiment was now coming to an end with a realization that friendships are not diminishing. They are changing.
Earlier friendships were comprehensive and complete. You did not have to think twice before telling your friends that you failed an exam or that the boy you liked, rejected you. But today, friendships may not withstand the truth of losing a job, because ‘friends’ will fear that they may have to ‘loan’ you some money. Today, friends will not understand that your wife left you because you are impotent, but will befriend you in the gym for better muscle building tips.
The friendships of today are a rat race, where everyone wants to thrive, be better, see everyone as their competition, and be at the top of their game. The rat race has engulfed us all and put us in a spot where we no longer feel the comfort to be vulnerable. Instead, we are all driven by fear. And this fear presents us with a superficial need to overachieve.
Fear is the most active and unfortunate driving force in our life.
Recently, I came across the concept of Schadenfreude. Wikipedia describes Schadenfreude as ‘the experience of pleasure, joy, or self-satisfaction that comes from learning of or witnessing the troubles, failures, or humiliation of another.’ Schadenfreude is exactly what we are experiencing today. The degrees may vary, but the essence is certainly there.
How many of us open social media to only look at other people’s lives? Well, all of us.
Let me ask you a more daunting question now.
How many of us open social media and feel happy for our ‘friends’ who are happy, celebrating, travelling, etc.? We all feel a tinge of jealousy a lot more than happiness. The vicious web makes us bitter. We rather see our ‘friends’ miserable than happy. And no matter how much we miss our real best friends, we are all a part of this rat race, that’s making us foes to one another.
Real best friends come with no conditions attached, and disclaimers. They let you be who you are with no questions asked. They don’t pit themselves against you in a rat race.
Unfortunately, we have replaced our friends with followers, connections, reposts, and likes. It doesn’t matter how hollow your heart is, as long as you are well followed and liked in the virtual world, life is good. Even better.
Crestfallen by the findings of my social experiment, and having lost my trust in friendships, I recede to my bed, switch on the air conditioner and decide to Netflix and chill!
Any guesses for what I ended up watching? F.R.I.E.N.D.S.
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