Just because you are on my friends list, it doesn’t make you my friend. And if you aren’t on my friends list, that doesn’t mean you can’t possibly be my friend. Livejournal may be a reflection of life, but it’s a skewed one, the sort of reflection you get when you walk into a house of mirrors – illusions, perceptions, misconceptions, and indecision, caught up in a maze of unreality.
First, there is the question of why I put someone on the misnamed ‘friends’ list. It’s not a list of my friends. My friends are not limited to those on my livejournal friends list, and while I would love to say that all 89 names on my friends list are, indeed, true friends of mine, there is no way for me to say that truthfully – it just is not the case. If there were to be more appropriate labels, then I would have to categorize as follows: Some of the people on my friends list are complete strangers to me. I share with others a kind of acquaintanceship, and some have made it so far as to be called favourable acquaintances. Very few of them, however, are given the label of friend. I’m also quite positive that the people that have me listed on their friends lists don’t necessarily consider me their friends.
There are also plenty of people who I consider friends who are not part of the livejournal community. This is to be expected, of course, assuming I have a life outside of livejournal… which I obviously do, otherwise all I could ever write about in livejournal would be the intricate process of updating my livejournal.
Then, of course, there is the never-ending dramas that you find scattered throughout the livejournal community. This seems to have happened in every online community I have ever been a part of, without fail. There are internal politics, cliques are formed, relationships are developed, friendships forged and torn apart, and an uncountable number of virtual *hugs*, *smooches*, *kisses*, *snugs*, and other meaningless words are thrown around with careless abandon. And yes, I had every intention of using the word meaningless in relation to virtual hugs and the like.
In the years that I’ve been online, virtual emotives have come to mean less and less to me with each one I receive. I can barely bring myself to type those words in that context to someone. It feels false, it is not real, and it’s just too easy to type the words… far easier than it is to actually offer real, physical comfort. And while I understand that distance doesn’t permit most online people to be able to offer physical comfort to each other, that doesn’t take away from the shallowness and ease with which people feel they can toss around *hugs* at the drop of a hat. I know it, I used to do it myself. More recently, I find a note with actual content, honest concern for my well-being, even an email to distract from the issue at hand, is far more effective than a comment from someone that they’re sending me
I would guess that this sounds harsh to a lot of people… likely to those who offer the aforementioned *hugs* in complete sincerity, and equally to those who accept the same. Keep in mind this is only my opinion, and applies only to me, as with most things that go on in my own mind. If you decide to be hurt or insulted by this, it has little or nothing to do with me, other than my being a catalyst to your reactions.
I find myself distancing myself more and more from online community situations. With the endless dramas, love stories, hate stories, politics, and ongoing saga of pain and depression, I find myself growing colder to people I meet online. This has also led me to stop posting so much of my own life online, which is a strange feeling for me. I have been sharing my life in journal entries online since 1997, and yet I feel that no one knows me strictly through my journal. People may think they know who I am because of something they’ve read in my journal, or maybe they’ve been reading my life for the past few years, but I would not believe anyone who said that they thought they knew me fairly well through my online writings and nothing more.
My journal is exactly that – my journal. Sometimes I sugar-coat things. Sometimes I lie to myself. Sometimes I only give part of the story, or I make myself look good, or I make myself look bad. The tale I weave in my journal is always one-sided – it’s my side of the story, it’s my perception of how things happen. My journal is my own personal house of mirrors. If you look to the left, the reflection is short and fat, and if you look to the right, it’s tall and sickly-thin. Everything in my mind is subject to change without warning, including my own decisions and opinions. And I may well not even talk about the fact that everything has changed, or why. I may hide how I feel about something from myself because I don’t want to admit it. I may change my mind, then change it back over and over again. I may look like an idiot and not want anyone else to notice. I decide what parts of me go into the journal, but there is no way that every aspect of who I am could be there, even if I wanted it to be so… which I don’t.
You don’t know me through my journal any more than I know you through yours. Virtual *hugs*, while nice, are virtually meaningless when real emotions are at stake, when a person needs physical hugs, or words of comfort that have more depth behind them than shallow phrases thrown around equally no matter the occasion, event, or emotion.
Online communities have grown immensely over the past few years, but some things haven’t changed. Since I started spending time online, there have always been dramatics, and people who represent themselves as something they aren’t. There have always been misperceptions and miscommunications, secrets, rumours, and lies, love, sex, friendship and hatred… It seems far more rampant than in our own day-to-day lives in the offline world, mostly because it’s so easy to hide behind the screen, and to misinterpret things that are said. It’s easy to hate someone you’ve never met, just like it’s easy to love someone you’ve never met – they fit your perceptions of who they are. It happens in the physical realm as well, when someone turns out to be something other than what you thought they were… it’s just easier to hide online, so it seems to occur more often there.
I hide behind my words, but so does everyone. We all paint pictures of what we want to see, and what we want others to see of us. Maybe I have no idea what I’m talking about, and maybe you don’t care. What does it matter, anyway? We all believe what we want to believe, and we’ve all been let down before. Chances are it will happen again.
A friend is more than someone I’ve listed on my friends list. Everyone is there for a reason, and I think none of them are exactly the same. Getting upset over being dropped off someone’s friends list makes no sense to me, because for the most part, they were never really my friend anyway – it’s not like I’m losing someone I value greatly in my life. Friendship is not a popularity contest.