I remember the first day of first grade, riding the bus to school. A few stops down from mine, Tess G., a sprightly first-grader, with dark red hair got on the bus. Without hesitating I asked her to sit next to me, even though I'd never met her before and there were plenty of other places to sit.
She plopped down next to me and since none of our legs were able to touch the ground, we started swinging them with growing giddiness, our little hearts fluttering from the thrill of it all.
"Do you want to be best friends?" I asked, grinning.
"Ok!" She replied instantly. And so, from that day on, we were best friends. She later moved away and we lost touch. But at that moment on the bus, nothing else but her newness and proximity were in consideration.
This was before I got really cranky at seven o'clock in the morning, before making friends and sharing seats got way more complicated. Some of my friends, like Tess, have had their run in my life. Some are on layaway, some on pause, while others have remained steady for years. I have enjoyed seeing my friendships grow and deepen, while I've mourned others that I've lost.
Still, I really miss this time, when making friends was just so simple. In a lot of ways programs like Facebook impart on me that same leg-swinging giddiness. "Wanna be friends?" "I ACCEPT!!!" Instant, un-complicated.* But then that feeling fades (as that initial, love-at-first-sight electricity often does in relationships, making the relationship turn into something deeper and more interesting, or alternately more superficial and intermittent.). Maybe occasionally I'll drop a comment on their wall, or poke them or whatever, and that'll be that.
That said, even Facebook's drop-down menus have a subtext, and making new friends is pretty daunting to a sensitive little flower like myself. I find myself thinking back to that first day of school, before my feet could touch the ground.
*As an aside, this French comedian, Gad Elmaleh has this great skit where he actually acts out this scenario ("Can you imagine if we spoke in real life the way we speak via MSN chat, texting or Facebook? Can you imagine? A guy walks into a bar directly to another guy and asks, 'Will you be my friend?' and the other guy answers, 'No, I ignore you.' Or you walk up to a pretty girl and plead, 'Add me...' It's absurd!") I still like it, though.
notes - Mel Chin talk at MCAD
4 weeks ago