Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Friend in Need....

So who needs friends? Well - all of us, we are told. At least I think we are. I'm not sure exactly what it's supposed to do to you if you don't have them, but I had supposed it is a kind of "good mental health requirement" or somesuch, to have a friend or 2, or more.

Personally, I've never been one for the "more the merrier" school of friends, preferring one or at most 2 close confidante friendships. These are the friends you can do anything with, say anything to, reveal your innermost secrets or fears, and who will accept you, warts and all without question. And when you are in trouble, they're there - no if's or but's. And your secrets stay secrets.

The problem these days seems to be that society has responded to the greater urgency of life - "hurry hurry hurry - make that fast buck, make another and another, geddit while it's going now now NOW" (etc - you get the picture) - by becoming a bit flaky on the friendships side of the coin. I think everyone thinks that we are not allowed the time these days to become really knowing and accepting of another person. And besides, we seem to have got really shallow as a society, and it seems our moral code seems to have slipped a bit.

What do I mean by this and what does this have to do with friends? In the "old days" which really don't seem that old, but to a bunch of sub-30 somethings are really really a long time ago, morality seemed to mean something, at least to many ordinary people. When we said things, we did what we said. If we were forced to change our plans, we informed the people thus affected as a matter of good ethics. Sure, we told the occasional lie, but we tried to limit the number of unnecessary lies and deceits, and we tried not to hurt people. And we tried to go to sleep at night not having anything worrying our consciences.

These days, we make plans with people which we don't keep. We don't bother to contact them and apologise. We tell whoppers of lies to suit our own agenda, not caring who gets taken in by them, and some of us believe our own lies. We deceive others and we think this is a sign of strength. We take credit for others work and we think this makes us smart. We call this "playing the game" and we're proud of it.

Then you get dickheads writing crap like the "48 Laws of power" which contain such gems as "Be wary of friends - they will betray you more quickly, for they are easily aroused to envy", or perhaps "Learn to destroy your enemies by opening holes in their own reputations. Then stand aside of let public opinion hang them". Or perhaps my favourite sickie "Once your selective honesty opens a hole in their armour, you can deceive and manipulate them at will".

Q.E.D. - I rest my case. Which of you would like to call either of the authors of this nonsense, "friend"? I most certainly wouldn't. Both these gentlemen go out with my personal pile of exceptionally nasty things that get thrown in the garbage. Besides, I've seen enough gutless, brainless smartmouths taking the credit for the good things others have done, and then smartly stepping out the way and convicting by innuendo, those who aren't there to defend themselves, should anything go wrong. These geniuses become tomorrow's business leaders. It's no surprise of course why business ethics have gone down the tube and satisfaction of the needs of the client, exists in word only - and only in order to con the next bit of business out of the unsuspecting sucker. It's also no surprise why so many businesses are foundering these days, if the smartass that got to the top did it by "cribbing" from somebody else's hard work. "Look ma - the boss doesn't have the brains to run the show, or the honesty either". Would I do business with him?

So why are our friendships flaky these days? Because we don't trust anyone, anymore. We think everyone else is like ourselves - smartass conmen out to take as much as they can from others and give as little back. People ready to walk over anyone in their way, in order to get to "the top" - wherever that is.

Sophia Dembling noted the following in The Introvert's Corner :

Researchers from the University of Chicago noted that loneliness has nothing to do with the number of friends a person has. Loneliness isn't just about being alone; it's how we feel about being alone.

We probably all know what it's like to feel lonely surrounded by people at a party. And to feel fulfilled in an empty house. And we agree that quality trumps quantity in our friendships. People with just a few friends are not sad and lonely. As long as our friendships--however many or few--are close and meaningful, we're good.

The word "friend" is tossed around too freely these days, anyway. I prefer to distinguish among friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. Also between real-world friends and Facebook "friends."

"Dunbar's number," proposed by anthropologist Robin Dunbar in 1992, is a commonly used assessment of the number of relationships we are cognitively capable of keeping straight; that number is 150. I probably have a network of that many people in my life. I certainly wouldn't call them all friends, though.

In fact, I'm an avid Facebook user but I'm starting to feel like I have too many "friends" even there. I'm not terribly far above the number at which people might judge me desperate. Research reveals that the ideal number of Facebook "friends" is 302. That's enough so you don't seem pathetic, not so many that you seem needy. But I have accepted "friend" requests from people with whom I feel no particular connection. In some cases, these strangers have become virtual friends. Some have even become real friends.That's cool. But others have just remained little faces in a box. We have nothing to say to each other. And having lots of "friends" doesn't make me feel better about myself. It makes me feel kind of...phony.

And that's one of the reasons I gave up Facebook - because I have no desire to communicate one-way with a bunch of people who really don't give a tinker's cuss whether I live or die. I'm definitely not going to share my innermost thoughts with those people. Sorry guys - out you go. Next garbage collection is on Wednesday.

Do we know what real friends are these days, or are we all in the business of collecting acquaintances? And what for - to make us feel good? To be seen as part of the crowd? Shame, that you might have such a shaky self-image that you have to conform to other's expectations of you in order to feel good about yourself. None of these people is ever going to lift a finger to help you in a jam - a friend in need is a pest. And they probably talk about you behind your back, in none too complementary terms either.

Nope - I've found that with the uptick in distrust and emotional dishonesty, I have little desire to try and sift the wheat from the chaff in trying to work out my friends from my foes. I'd rather be in a battle on my own - at least I know who I can trust.

And do I have someone other than my family that I feel I can today call "friend"? Sure - one person. Let's keep it like that. And tough on you if you think that makes me seem "pathetic" because it's less than 302.

I prefer to think of myself as discerning.

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