Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

friends  §

It’s tough to have anything other than local (to your immediate area, i.e. workplace, apartment, etc.) friends or indeed relationships in modernity. That’s nothing new, it’s always been that way, we just seem these days to have the expectation (thanks to cell phones, email, etc.) that long-distance is a great idea.

It isn’t. Comparing the hours-of-every-day, every-day-this-week friendships of locality with remote friendships shows just how deep the imbalance is. The odd phone call, which disrupts all activity, or the odd email, which requires that one sit down and type a response, is not up to the task.

Everyone wants to be friends regardless of distance, but they don’t want you to only call them when you’re struggling in life — this tends to make feel put upon. They also don’t want you to avoid making contact for prolonged periods — even if for a very long time you’re doing nothing but struggling and would thus have little to contribute to conversation other than details about, or perspectives that proceed from, the aforementioned struggle. And finally, they also get upset if you are contrived or not completely genuine — especially if they know you’re struggling.

These things do not go together in remote relationships that are constrained by time. When people are together physically, at home or at the workplace, the struggle becomes an artifact of the environment, not a centerpiece for communication, and personalities and preferences can continue to shine through sheer force of time spent together. Not so with communication “episodes” as necessitated by modern communication, in which dialogue must be prioritized according to the third rule above.

So if you’re having a tough stretch:

– Call and be sad and you’ll hear “You only call me when you’re sad!”
– Don’t call because you’re mostly sad and you’ll hear “You never call me!”
– Call and play happy and you’ll hear “You’re not being real with me!”

And in the end you’ll always hear (and probably think about others as well):

“Why don’t you just cheer the f*ck up? You never call me and when you do, you’re either sad or you’re preoccupied and just pretending to listen and either way you’re a rotten conversationalist. I’m tired of being friends with you.”

Add to this the complexity of trying to actually time things so that you can both take a moment for a phone call (or are in a position to place or receive one) at the same time or place, and add to it your bills, your living arrangements, you job, and everything else that’s stressing you out to worry about. Ultimately you’ll bitch about the general brokenness of the arrangement to those people who are actually sitting beside you without giving it a second thought, and they’ll listen without giving it a second thought, because you’re both there already anyway as you each grapple with your own lives, and conversation of any kind is better than silence when face-to-face.

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