I’ve realized over the years that many people prioritize their friendship in two very distinct ways.
They have friends who become a priority for the things they do. They are mostly seasonal. Temporary. Prone to spoil. They last for as long as their unique action or mere presence is meeting a particular need. They are a convenience. Once they cease to be useful, they are discarded. For instance, some people become friends because they work together for the same company at the same location and can spend most of their time together… but only at work. As soon as either one of them is promoted, transferred or finds another job, all of a sudden maintaining that connection doesn’t seem as important or necessary. It was seasonal and the season has passed. Like a summer romance.
Then there are those people who become a priority friendship simply because of who they are. These are the people who are kept around because they push you to improve or encourage you toward success. They offer you hope in pursuit of your goals. They can be mentors, counselors or people who share a life experience. They are usually permanent fixtures. You talk on the phone, connect through email, IM and text messages. You invite them to parties and celebrate milestones together. They are, for all intents and purposes, here to stay.
Sometimes the difficulty with establishing friendships is knowing into which category you fall. One of the worst feelings is finding out you were temporary when all along you thought you were permanent. I don’t think anyone ever wants to feel as if their friendship is disposable. But the reality is that as deep as you think the well of connection may run, the other person may consider your friendship as shallow as a rain puddle. Temporary in the worst way. I’ve become very careful to quickly identify my position in someone’s life. When you know where you fall on the friendship list, it’s easier to deal with the inevitable conclusion.
I think the ambiguity of this process is exacerbated when it comes to online friendships. You put yourself out there and try to show yourself friendly in hopes of making a real connection. But some people can not reconcile the black box nature of technology and the internet with the fact that there are real people with real emotions at a particular IP address. They’ve convinced themselves that these people only exist online and when they sign off, they’re essentially on pause until they return. Like a relationship DVR.
Some try desperately to find ways to circumvent the devaluation of their humanity with attempts to email, talk on the phone or meet offline. They want the other person to acknowledge their humanity. Affirm their worth. They hope that by these actions they might win them a coveted spot on the permanent friends list. And they turn a blind eye to the signs of the other person’s changing season.