Opinion

Working at being a friend

Joan Lau

Joan Lau has worked with words all her life – whether as a journalist, copywriter or even editor – and would love nothing better than to live between the covers of books.

MARCH 4 — Much has been made about how relationships have been redefined by social media; people make fast friends (and even fall in love) without having ever met, and most famously they end relationships just as easily using SMSes, email or even over Twitter. I used to think such things only ever happened to other people. Till it happened to me, of course.

The thing of it is the already gnarly landscape of relationships — sometimes like a thick undergrowth and hard to navigate or arid like a desert and so unfulfilling or a combination of both — is often times made more difficult because the rules of engagement have changed.

The most recent case involving a friend had this other person leaving a message informing her that she would soon be “unfriended” on Facebook. Now, what do you say to a message like that? Play it cool and say, “Sure thing, whatever you like”? Or do throw dignity to the wind and ask, “Why?”

The way I see it, there is simply no correct way to deal with such behaviour. My friend went with the former but it did not leave her any less bewildered. What I don’t get is not the “unfriending”... it’s the informing the person you are about to “unfriend” that you intend to “unfriend” him/her.

Like I said, these are strange times.

And then I look at my best friend and think, “Thank goodness, it is so much simpler for us.” I guess this has to do with the fact that we have been at this friendship thing longer: 30 years,

She told me the other day she can let go of certain things and feelings about people who have hurt or upset her because she knows full well that I won’t.

Does that sound weird?

Let me see if I can explain this better. You see, I find it quite hard to forgive people who have hurt the ones I love. You hurt me and I will probably in time forgive and very likely forget about it. But hurt my family or my friends, and well, I am likely to carry the grudge for a long, long time.

I laughed out loud when she told me the secret to her “saintly” demeanour. What a neat trick, eh?

The truth is she does the same for me although I am much less “saintly” and much more vocal about whom I like or dislike. And why. Yes, she is most definitely more forgiving and less critical than me.

In case you haven’t figured it out, we are quite the opposite of each other and, probably, this is another reason why we get along so well.

Yes, we know each other well but there are still surprises in this relationship. We are not done learning to know each other yet. After all these years, we are still a friendship in progress.

And that’s the thing isn’t it? Instead of “unfriending” someone or deleting them from your Twitter timeline, maybe it is better that we think about whom we want to “friend” in the first place. These days, it’s too simple and simplistic to call acquaintances “friends.”

After all, it is just as easy to “get rid” of them. People don’t seem to put in the effort and the work into relationships anymore. She pissed you off? Just delete her from your BBM or block her from your Twitter timeline or just “unfriend” her.

Whatever happened to talking it over? Learning from mistakes and growing stronger from the experience. Too much work huh?

* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.

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