The One Where He Talks About “Friends”.

I don’t have a Facebook page, and to be quite honest with you, I don’t want one.

I have nothing inherently AGAINST Facebook, please don’t misunderstand. I just personally have my own little issues with it – the privacy debates are a major turn-off, because I do like to sometimes disappear for days at a time at short notice and the idea of people knowing what I’m doing fills me with dread – heck, even I don’t know what I’m doing half the time!

But perhaps the argument I had with my sister might have cleared up what I really dislike – the “friends” system.

Now, my sister has friends from her schooldays. I say “friends” because in honesty, she hasn’t actually met them in over a decade and most of them live in the furthest corners of the world. They all have interconnected and friended each other, digging up their school photos and intimate schoolyard memories – including the ones where they got bullied. They laugh them off, as two mof them readily confess to being the bullies ringleading a half dozen other girls.

The reality of my schooldays in that regard was far more serious. I attempted suicide in my schooldays due to the relentless bullying I received on a daily basis. Although I was later to be diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, this does not change my view on getting back into socialising with my old school “friends”. Because, in truth, I didn’t really have them. I’m sure many of them have grown up and got families of their own and jobs and careers and have changed, but the nub of the issue for me is they drove me to try to kill myself. And they didn’t give two shits then, so why should they care now? It’s not like it will have haunted them for the past 16 years like it has haunted me.

And what use would apologies be? How can I relive my school days? My school days were hell. I suffered through it. I was so happy when I left school I actually mooned the school and a bunch of the people in it. I hated it. I have no good memories. No fond recollections. Nothing inside me is in any rush to relive it. I have done everything in my power to forget that time of my life.

So my sisters eagerness for me to get in touch with these people makes me very upset. She thinks I’m being melodramatic, and maybe that is possible, but if I have no good memories of my time at school – why would I want to relive it, with a number of people who actually made my time at school such an awful part of my life? I was a loner, I was a teachers pet, I was more interested in quietly sitting in the library reading books and tinkering with the computers than going outside and socialising, because I couldn’t fit in – and no-one would have let me in anyway. I got all the GCSEs I needed, and that was it.

It wasn’t until I left school, and left the sleepy town in which I had lived, that I ever managed to let go of that past and find out who the hell I was – heck, I’m still doing that. And that is important for some of us – my past, as I detail in my short stories and poems, is one I have a complicated relationship with, I am still moving on. I have to. The past is a place that is filled with pain, filled with words and feelings that have done nothing but screw my head up further. What matters to me, in truth, is the present and the future. I WAS fucked up, and bullied, and tormented, and hurt. I’ve spent enough time in therapy to begin to realise that all I needed was a diagnosis and people who would sit down and LISTEN to me, rather than tell me what to do and why.

I move onward to the future. In doing so, I need to put a lid on that past. I need to seal it off. Accept that isn’t the now. And I don’t need to be smacked around the head with the past by people who would wield it like a weapon.

That’s my deeply personal reason for not wanting to get into Facebook. I don’t particularly want to meet them and in the same vein, I don’t particularly want them to find me that easily. I’ve drawn that line under my past for my own sanity. I have nothing to say to them. And they have nothing they could say to me that would make any of it any easier to cope with. Equally, I don’t want my past undoing the progress I’ve made in the last six years since I was diagnosed – it is hard enough to cope with some of the crazy stuff I do now. I don’t need to be forced to relive my childhood as well.

So, I have no old friends I want to get in touch with – except the ones from my student days, who I still talk with privately (sharing a flat with five girls was quite fun!). Do I want to make new ones? Yes. I’d love to make new friends.

But that’s the problem. I think some of us have a different and specific definition of what a friend is, and for so many people, friends have become a number. A tally of visitors that can only ever go up. And the drama when someone unfriends you can be as devastating online as in real life, moreso as the fallout goes from a private matter to a public display of war.

For me, I love visitors to my blog. I do love you. Get to know me, get to know my quirks and my crazy phases and then we can talk about being friends. But I’m fine with acquaintances – people who you casually pass, talk to, influence and challenge and debate, but don’t get to know terribly well. People who you can walk by and smile at, say hello to, that sort of thing.

Friendship to me is a big deal. From someone who struggled for years to make friends, when I got the chance to explore me and others, they became so intrinsically tied to me, such a big part of my core being, that they can’t be undone. These people are. These people want to be. These people can only be described as friends. They don’t care – they saw my ups, my downs, they saw me drunk, they saw me naked, they saw me wear heels and pretend to be Frank N. Further on a New Years night out (don’t ask, I don’t wear it as well as Anthony Head…). These are the people I call friends.

And to me, Facebook cheapens the term. It’s a social nightmare that allows people on limited knowledge to attach themselves to someone else, leeching their friends and family, their traffic, and for what? The majority of people who friend on Facebook barely talk to each other. And yet when unfriended there are almighty slagging matches that do more harm than good. Is this really friendship? Friendship isn’t that cheap, it’s not that picky and it sure doesn’t fade away.

It is when you know the power of friendship that the idea of “friends” on Facebook just seems tacky. And I am sure there are lots of times people are happy to see their past friends, and can rekindle their friendship and have a lot of fun. But we had sites for stuff like this – they’ve just all been swallowed up in a social media bubble, and are becoming inherently omnipresent in our day to day lives. “Remember this person?!” we’re asked. “He remembers you. Want to be his friend?”

In my case, 95% of the time, the answer is no… but my friends don’t care that I’m not on Facebook. They have my e-mail, my phone number, my address if they ever want to swing by and grab a cup of coffee (I know some of us live hundreds of miles from each other but y’know, a break is nice!). We don’t need Facebook to unite us – we’re already united.

The nicest thing though is that we have space. We talk to each other, text each other, e-mail each other stupid crap. But we’re not on a website every day trying to live in each others pockets. When we do sit down to talk on the phone, we have a two or three hour conversation to catch up with everything that has been going on. And we WANT to do that. We laugh. We cry. We gossip.

I know, I know, some of you may disagree with me and that’s okay. Because I don’t mind this – friendship is different for different people. But to me, after a shoddy family and an awful time at school, when I did finally make friends – it was life changing, life-affirming.

They are not numbers. They are the most important people in my life.

And besides which, I will never agree to spam them with anything. Not that they always follow the same line with me, but y’know… they’re not perfect.

And I wouldn’t want them to be.

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