I’ve been taking a bit of a Facebook break. Originally I’d planned to deactivate my account until after the holidays but circumstances made it to where I really could not do that… I needed to be able to get into my account to deal with a few things related to upcoming field trips/events. So, I logged out. Normally I stay logged into Facebook all day long. I’m not sure it’s an “addiction” as much as it’s something I do out of feeling obligated. The bottom line being… “If I don’t keep talking to all of these people they will think I don’t care about them, they will forget about me, they will think I’m rude.”
What I’d hoped would happen as a result of my withdrawing from Facebook were the following items:
- I would stop obsessing over what many people who aren’t actually a part of my life thought about me, my children, my writing, and the things I say.
- The folks who really matter would still be around, helping me to better define what a friend truly is to me.
- There would be more time for things like needle felting and blogging and drawing.
So far, all of these items have come to pass. In the past eleven days, I’ve felt myself changing. I’ve been to Facebook a few times to deal with some of the outstanding matters I needed to deal with, but for the most part, I have no idea what is really going on with the people who are my “friends” over there. Instead, I’ve remained connected with my nearest and dearest outside of Facebook.
Three of my closest friends texted me while I was at the hospital with my son… just checking in. Two of those people continue to text me, email me, and keep in touch via Instagram. As I said to one of them, removing myself from Facebook has helped my vision become clearer. The people who are my actual friends have come into crisp focus and the rest have sorta faded into the background.
Now let me be clear… I don’t think it’s necessary for me to keep “everyone else” out of focus permanently. A lot of these folks who don’t take a front row seat in my life are still people I like, love, care about, and enjoy keeping in touch with. But what has happened here lately is that I have become overwhelmed, overstimulated, and overly obligated to WAY too many people. Taking a few steps back to gain some perspective on what are true friendships and what are not can be very helpful, especially for people like me.
People like me who have a very hard time knowing who their friends are.
I’m taken back to first grade. I had a sweet friend and she had a friend. I guess you could say that she had two close friends and the other girl, well, as an adult I can see she was scared of losing her friend to me. Probably she was feeling threatened. No doubt she was jealous. At the time, though, I didn’t see this. I just experienced everything as it was presented to me.
The threatened girl convinced our teacher to let the two of us move our desks behind hers so that we could be alone. During class, the girl clawed my arms until they bled. I believed all of this was normal and just let her do it. I remember thinking that I wanted to be her friend and I liked the attention she was giving me so I would have let her do anything to me. My mom talked to the teacher and my desk was integrated into the normal classroom arrangement once more.
During Christmas break, my friend called me. She was having a sleepover with the arm scratcher and I was being accused of having called my friend a bad word. A word so bad I’d never dare to even utter it. I still won’t say it. The dreaded “n” word. I remember crying and crying, begging my friend to understand me, to believe me. I loved my friend, dearly. I’d never dream of calling her anything like that. In fact, I’d never spoken an ill word against my friend. I’d never even spoken an ill word against the scratcher either. The last words I said before she hung up on me were, “Why would I even call you that? You aren’t even black!” I was so desperate for her to believe me. I was so scared. I was so broken.
My dad yelled at me and told me that they weren’t really my friends. I would have no more than five real friends during my life and I’d better get used to it.
I suppose it is experiences like this one which took place in my formative years that make it so difficult for me to know if a person is truly my friend. Then there are the people who seem to be my friend for weeks, months, even years and then, when things are hard, they disappear. That’s confusing. I never know if a person likes me or not. That is my reality.
I mean, I pick up on signs. They text me, ask me for advice, come to me when things are hard, depend upon me for help, like my posts on Facebook… I start to assume that a person likes me. Then, sometimes that stuff will stop and I don’t know if it’s something I did or if the person is going through something… I just know that I am not so sure anymore if they still like me.
The past week or so I’ve been mentally making a list of all of the times I failed in interacting with people. There are the times when I now, as a more mature adult, know exactly what I did wrong and I’m kicking myself and feeling ashamed that I was ever so idiotic. But there is this other set of interactions, however, where I have no idea what I did wrong. Like not being asked to teach Bible class anymore, losing a major customer for our chocolate business because of a phone call I made with the sole purpose of trying to help, and the friend I wrote about recently who unfriended me, stopped following me and my kids on Instagram and still hasn’t told me why other than that I hurt her feelings.
A whole lifetime of feeling hurt, scared, confused, worried, and betrayed. Is this an aspie thing? Because I trust and love too easily? Because I can’t read the signs that this type of behavior is coming? Because I doubt myself so much that, when I do get that gnawing feeling in my gut, I ignore it and assume I’m wrong or, worse, just crazy?
I remember years ago, on my old blog, writing a post about my trouble with friendships and receiving an anonymous comment about how I’m too critical of my friends and that is why I can’t keep friends. Am I? I don’t mean to be. And if this person was willing to make this statement, they should have been willing to tell me their name. Maybe it was a person who knew me and had felt criticized by me. Maybe it was an internet troll. And maybe it was the opinion of a person I don’t respect anyway and I could have thought to myself, “Consider the source.” I will never know. But the comment haunts me.
New friendships are a gamble to me. I invest time and energy and 9 times out of 10, they don’t work out and I end up scratching my head. It’s happened again… people I thought I’d become friends with just kinda dwindling out of my life. It’s okay. I’m okay with it.
Honestly, life would be so much easier for me if I could give every person I befriend a note. On that note it would say:
Do you like me?
Because really, those notes were so useful when we were kids, weren’t they? Once you got the answer, there was no question. The person liked you. Or they didn’t. Or maybe they did and you could work with that.
Why did we ever stop writing those things exactly?