sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

November 18, 2009

the economics (and semantics) of friendship
posted by soe 5:13 am

I’ve recently switched to a new cell phone plan. For years, Rudi and I were on the same family plan and I didn’t have to think about it one way or another so long as we paid the bill. But then Rudi got an iPhone and I didn’t. He switched over to AT&T, but I had enjoyed our days with Verizon and saw no reason to change with him.

However, this meant that it was now going to count against our minutes for me to call him. A plan where you can call x numbers for free seemed to make the most sense to negate the cross-carrier dialing I expected to do.

My plan went into effect last night and my phone prodded me to select myFave Five. I added Rudi’s cell and my folks’ landline and a friend with whom I can spend hours talking about all those important nothings that make up our daily lives.

Then, I was stymied. I decided to sleep on it. Clearly I would have my answer in the morning: Who were my other two “faves?”

In the morning, it was a bit clearer. One chatty friend usually calls me on my landline, but when I initiate the conversations I call from my cell. Clearly he’d be #4.

But still no clear-cut answer about my fifth slot.

My mother-in-law? Rudi and I talk to her once a week at least, but shouldn’t she go into Rudi’s list, rather than mine?

Someone here in D.C.? I send them lots of texts, but don’t actually spend a lot of time on the phone…

One of the friends I used to be able to spend hours with on the phone but who no longer seem to be around when I call … ? It could be a temporary situation caused by life changes or maybe it’s a portent of a change in our relationships….

A friend with whom I don’t talk very often but who can talk for hours when we do connect?

A friend I talk with on IM with practically every day? We don’t converse on the phone a lot, but might that change?

It shouldn’t be this hard. I should just pull up the last five phone bills and assign that fifth spot to whomever accounts for my largest chunk of minutes. But it’s the terminology that snags me: “myFaves.”

That suggests that there is an emotional hierarchy that I’m assigning here. These should be my five favorite people. The ones I want to talk to more than anyone else, irrespective of how — or whether — we converse.

That’s not, of course, what T-Mobile is expecting from me. (Or maybe they are. I don’t know.) They, I assume, figure this is just going to be an easy semantic-free decision.

It’s part of why I don’t join FaceBook. The term “friend” is bandied about there with such ease. Just because two people occupied the same space for a year or four or thirteen doesn’t make them friends. Acquaintances, sure. But friendship suggests more, and the FaceBook usage merely diminishes the value of the term.

I want certain words to mean something. Friend. Favorite. Love. These are words with big emotions behind them and to toss them about cavalierly suggests that they aren’t important to us. These should be words we use with care and caution and with only a few people. I’m not tossing those words out there to anyone I’ve ever met. I want you to understand that when I say that I love you or when I call you my friend there is a power behind those words.

Call me old-fashioned. Call me the English major I was.

Or just call me.

And then we can talk about who should have that fifth spot on my phone…

Category: life -- uncategorized. There is/are 2 Comments.

I resisted the temptation to join Facebook for a long time. It’s nice to see that the people with whom you went to high school are still alive and are either happy or at least able to pretend to be happy, but it’s a huge stretch to call them friends when you haven’t spoken to them in over 15 years. Facebook etiquette says that it’s OK to refuse a friend request, but I can’t do it. I think it’s because I, like you, take the word “friend” a little more seriously. It would seem cruel to refuse an offer of friendship, particularly when it’s from someone who was overlooked or poorly treated by their schoolmates way back when. Now I have a slew of “friends” with whom I never actually speak and whose updates I have blocked because I don’t care about their lives.

On the other hand, I also have most of my closest friends and family members as Facebook friends, and it’s a great way to stay in touch and update everyone on the progress of my beautiful baby boy. So, though Facebook is guilty of all sorts of stupidy, including the trivialization of that wonderful word “friend,” I like it.

Comment by Karen 11.18.09 @ 9:18 am

@Karen: I understand your point, but I dislike the passive updating. I actually like reaching out to people to stay in touch, rather than just putting out (or receiving) news updates.

Saying this on a blog is silly, of course. But that’s why I don’t want to rely on it as my primary means of communication. I actually want to see people, to talk to them on the phone. To, heaven forbid, write a letter. Tone and nuance are important and there’s just no way you can get that adequately from a blog post or from a status update.

(Although getting to see photos is nice. I do like the ones Rudi shows me of Marshall on Facebook.)

Comment by soe 11.18.09 @ 12:48 pm