Losing a Friend on Facebook
Have you ever lost a friend on Facebook, and have no idea why?
The current juggernaut, Facebook isn’t the only way we connect with people around the world today. Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, YouTube – all popular avenues that are easily available and complex in their reach. First you find people who have similar interests as you, or perhaps you share a friend, and over time, a bond can form by virtue of that connection.
We haven’t actually met face to face, yet the bond is strong.
Think of Pen Pals from the past. People would advertise in national or international magazines looking for a pen pal in a chosen country, inviting correspondence. This was a way to learn of different cultures, reach out to ‘the other’ and understand them, and share things about yourself. Today we call it the internet, and the ‘pen pal’ concept is alive and well. Our ‘letters’ come in snippets, exchanged with strangers, who can, over time, become friends and important people in our lives.
Here’s my story:
Through watching a You Tube series on a subject I was interested in, I learned of a person who was looking to connect with people like myself, people who needed his services, and of which he was an expert and came highly recommended by the You Tube series hosts. Interested, I reached out to this man–I’ll call him Joe–and introduced myself, mentioned the recommendation and asked if he and I might work together on a project I had in mind.
We struck a deal and began our first project.
Having Joe in my life was invigorating, and kind of inspiring, actually. I found him to be intelligent, and funny and very good at his job. Over time we worked on more projects and the correspondence between us became warmer and more personal, and I counted him as a friend as well as a colleague.
I learned that Joe was a very emotional and opinionated man, who stood firmly behind his convictions. He was a rage against the machine kind of guy, and I liked that about him. I knew of his wife, and some of the challenges they were facing together, we shared jokes, funny lines, pictures of our dogs, personal goals reached, next stage life choices, the fact that we were tired, or stressed, or distracted by life. You get the idea. These are things you do with a friend. Life came and went, we worked on projects together and got comfortable with one another. Through Joe, I met others like myself who he worked with, and formed connections with them as well. It was a good space to be in. I did notice his turn around time became slower and slower as he took on more work, but I was willing to wait, as I valued his work and knew he was struggling to meet all his commitments. I didn’t want to pile on, demanding my pound of flesh from the guy.
Then somewhere in the world –I don’t know exactly where this interview happened–Japan, maybe?–a famous actor said something he shouldn’t have. I read on MSN this man’s abject apology for his gaff and the accompanying comments were something to the effect that at least this celebrity’s apology actually sounded real, that he was actually sorry for what he had said. I thought, huh? Wonder what he said? and moved on to my work for the day
A couple of days later I received a private message from my friend Joe (in the Unite States).
It started with “I send this with a very heavy heart.”
Alarmed, I sat up. What was wrong? Was he okay, was his wife okay (she’d been ill)? Was he so over burdened with projects he wouldn’t be able to work with me any longer? Something bad was coming.
He went on, “Did you really think Harry’s (A mutual Facebook friend) joke was funny? Do you know, do you have any idea, that my wife is black???
Of course I knew his wife was black. It wasn’t a secret.
I answered (From Canada) “Yes, I know she’s black. What joke? Did I miss something?”
Nothing. I heard nothing more.
I quickly went on Facebook and searched out Harry’s posts, and found an on-line argument between Harry and Joe concerning some comment that Harry had made concerning the famous actor’s stupid comment. The upshot was, Harry apologized to Joe and said he’d taken the joke about the actor down. So now I couldn’t even see what they were fighting about, but I could guess it was racist in nature.
I private messaged Joe again. I said, “I can see you are very upset about something. Please tell me what’s happened, etc.”
I private messaged Harry (in Great Britain), telling him “Joe is very upset with me and I don’t know why, but it had to do with his argument with you.”
Harry answered, “I really don't want to rehash the thing.”
A few hours later, I private messaged Harry again, saying “Joe won’t even talk to me now, you have to tell me what happened.”
Harry answered, “I made a joke about (the famous actor’s) comment that Joe didn’t like. I took it down, and apologized for it, which only seemed to make it worse.”
I answered, “But how did I get involved?”
Harry answered, “I don’t know.”
And that was the last of it. I had lost my friend, my trusted project partner.
I couldn't process the feelings of loss that flooded me.
Helplessness. Powerlessness. Injury; indignation. I really didn’t have any way to process all these emotions of losing a truly valued friend, or was it the idea of a friend? Had I been deluding myself? Would a face-to-face friend at least speak to me, tell me what had occurred, and let me defend myself, if indeed I needed to defend myself?
Was a virtual friend different or the same as a face-to-face friend? Were on-line connections ‘unearned' and therefore easily disposed of? Why was it so easy to cut off the virtual friend, forget the virtual friend? It is because in our heart of hearts, they remain ‘the other'?
In a world so desperate to come to some understanding of one another, this is a tremendous loss.
I can't help mourning the loss of meeting another human being, perhaps from across the world, and joining with them on a real, emotional level. Instead, for now, at least, I'll hold myself apart, protect myself, and miss the opportunity to really connect and understand ‘the other'. I'll be the poorer for it, I know.
That first night, I cried. It was so hurtful. I cared for Joe, and missed him. I miss him still. I found a message he’d sent only a few weeks ago that struck an arrow through my heart. It felt like a death.
I’d had such plans for 2015! Yet I know it’s done.
Life happens while you’re making other plans.