Let’s be patently clear: We’re friends, I already like you. I like you a lot, I like having you in my life. I enjoy our conversations and our lunches and our brunches and our late nights. I enjoy running into you when we see each other out in the world. I like having an uncomfortably long hug from you at a party or our occasional, very personal one-on-one conversations. I think about you very fondly most of the time, even if we got into it over something stupid that we later resolved. Remember that time before I got sober when you dragged me, seven shots of Jameson deep, screaming out of a bar threatening to kill a bunch of snotty, fratty “you can’t hit me my daddy’s a lawyer”-types for smacking you on your ass and then you tried to make out with me in the car? Good times.
But listen: in spite of that, I’m really starting to become worried about you. I don’t know if it’s just because you’re bored, but you’re posting and expecting me to be reading all these terrible listicles and fat-burning tricks—Upworthy and BuzzFeed and Playbuzz and Candy Crush Saga and other game-related or clickbaity links you’ve been pumping into the world on social media lately in-between posts about family and the project you’re currently working on.
- “What ‘70’s Sitcom Character’s Brother-in-Law Would You Be?”
- “The 10 Worst Ideas for How To Start a Conversation”
- “20 Uses for Mayonnaise You Never Thought Of”
- “The 100 Best ‘Finding Nemo’ Memes”
- “A List of The Most Common Pet Names for Genitalia”
The list, of course, just goes on and on. Because I like you very, very much, I have to call you out. I thought maybe I would be stating the obvious, but I surmised that if it were obvious to you it would have stopped already. So, look: I can’t keep liking and favoriting stuff like this and I hope you understand why.
It’s because I take myself way too seriously.
It’s fine, you’re probably sick of mine, too. You probably secretly think I’ve become a total weirdo who’s into the weirdest, randomest collection of things of anyone you’ve ever known. Some of your friends call me “eclectic” or “eccentric,” and thats fair enough: The older I get, the weirder and more eclectic I become. When I posted about my favorite ginger-turmeric tea, one of them asked, “Are you an Asian witch?”—even though they know I’m neither Asian nor witch. Meanwhile, I don’t call them anything because I don’t care about them at all. I care about us, and I care about you more than a series of likes and favorites on a bunch of social media sites.
For the past I-don’t-know-how-long, I’ve been favoriting and liking and clicking on all the links that you’ve been sharing like a good friend does. Then, like the Jameson hangover once did, a sobering realization grabbed hold of me.
I started asking myself: Why am I doing this? Am I afraid that you don’t understand how important you are to me? Am I failing to demonstrate, in every other area of our relationship as friends, that I care about you and want you in my life?
Well, yes. I probably am. I am not able to physically be where you are far too often, so I overcompensated for this by liking and favoriting all of your “things.” In the past, I probably called you too often on the phone, back before it was easy for me to like and favorite your every move. What’s worse, I am able to know your every move based on your social media posts. I know so much about what you’re doing, I sometimes don’t have room in my brain to think about what I’m doing.
Am I a richer, smarter, more interesting person as a result of your posts? In a lot of cases I am, particularly when you occasionally share an article from which a good debate between us ensues. But then, everyone else piles on and exposes themselves on the matter, and I start to feel like our conversations become cheap.
Truth be told, I always preferred for us to have these debates face-to-face rather than on the Internet. Even though I know I can set my posts to “Friends Only” or “Private,” I don’t like intentionally shutting people out and neither do you. But then, when you hit a raw nerve, everyone’s gloves come off & people say things they have to live with that they later regret—me included. I don’t want to get into a liking and favoriting war with a bunch of people—most of whom I barely know—who are split off on different sides of an issue, all acting like angry sheep. But that’s what we seem to do these days instead of actually conversing. It starts out as intelligent, healthy debate followed by someone trolling the thread to get a rise out of everyone & from there, it’s a litany of combative expletives. And then, when those people see each other (or me) out in public, they shoot dirty stares and say really messed-up things about that non-faving, non-liking bitch/a-hole/some-other-word under their breath.
Worse than that, the people around us aren’t discussing the issues after they stop arguing and trolling the comment thread; they’re discussing the Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram thread itself and who said what about whom.
Add all the people who hop on these comment threads vying for attention with tons of emojis and $$$$$’s trying to market their idea, product, service or themselves because they see lots of people communicating in one place & the meta-ness of the whole endeavor becomes banal and frustrating.
How is social media ever actually social at this point?
I’m not upset with you for wanting to curate your own weird, random vision about the world because, look, I know I’m out there doing the same thing. I’ve been doing it for years. Between sharing music with people, writing and publishing my own blogs, writing for others and even writing this, I’m a feather bed of internet content and not everyone “gets” it.
Am I being selfish because I still hope other people like and favorite my stuff? Not at all. Just like you are, I’m grateful and appreciative of people liking things I share. I probably care a bit too much, and I don’t just share anything. I take time to consider carefully what I put out in the world. I don’t share things just to share them. I treat click bait and games suggestions the way a diabetic without an insulin shot treats a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch: The temporary joy it brings me could ultimately do more harm than good.
What I don’t know is this: In the process of publicly connecting myself to you in this way, am I improving our relationship, or am I simply opening up an opportunity for others to forge loosely-affiliated relationships with either of us? Am I unintentionally attracting people with whom I actually have very little in common simply because we all like or favorite the same things? Do people get the wrong impression about either one of us—good or bad—based on that connection we have via social media?
You can think I’m a jerk for saying all of these things right now. I am prepared to accept that reality. I know, believe me: It feels so good to get that like or that favorite from someone, to know that they care enough to send the very best—and by that, of course, I mean clicking on a thing on a screen. But I want to do much more than like or favorite your posts on social media.
I mean, I want to do that occasionally, too, but I actually want to like you as a person. I don’t even want to like you as a person, I already do like you. I don’t care what our friendship “looks like” to a person whom I only know well enough that I can easily detect they are inelegantly focused on preening a precious, bullshit, phony, uptown social media reputation.
I wish I had back all the time I spent liking and favoriting all of your (and everyone else’s) things on the Internet. We could take the trip to Tokyo that we planned. I could volunteer at St. Jude. We could go on a bicycling and camping trip. We could try to climb Mount Rainier, build our own laptops from scratch, hit a bunch of estate sales, finish recording that album or writing the screenplay we started, or maybe we could organize and throw an incredible party for all our mutual friends. “The Top 9 Things We Could Do if we Stopped Liking and Favoriting All The Things.”
It is possible that I’m asking you to understand too much. Whether or not that’s true, is it alright for me to tell you that I will always be in your corner and I always want to hear from and talk with you, even if I’m not spending all my free time to like and fave all of your wacky Internet whims? If your friends want to be my friend, we should actually hang out in the real world and talk. If they want to be friends just because we’re Facebook friends or Twitter friends or Instagram friends, I’m not sure I want to be friends with them at all, and I hope the same is true for you.
You, though? My relationship with you is bigger and more important to me than a favorite or a like. Our relationship with all of its ups and downs and sideways moments can’t be summarized in a series of clicks. It might seem cheesy or weird to say it, but I really don’t care. I would much rather like and favorite you in real life despite what anyone else thinks.
I don’t need to show anyone how great of a friend you are to anyone except for you. And if you don’t like this post, I’m not going to blame you for it. Unless, of course, you stop returning my phone calls and text messages.
For that, I’ll need a dislike button handy.
E.J. Friedman is a content advisor and producer. He is the voice behind the music blog Loudersoft, former editor-in-chief of political/social satire blog Cherry Blossom Special and a contributing writer to Medium, Cuepoint, and Consequence of Sound. You can follow him on Twitter at @loudersoft.
This post originally appeared on Medium and has been reprinted with permission.