Abandoning pointless friendships is so much harder these
days. It used to be the case that they simply stopped: no more calling, no more
visiting, over. Simple. Everyone knew where they stood. But nowadays that isn’t
enough. You have to navigate a minefield of socio-political administrative
Let’s say, hypothetically of course, you were in a close friendship that required you do all the legwork. And you were also friends with this close friend's friends, just as long as you, again, did all the legwork. A few times a month. For, say,
ten years. Now let’s say that after ten years you got sick and
tired of doing all the legwork, so you decided to stop and see what happened next.
Many years later you finally hear from this
friend. But only for research purposes. This friend wants you to recommend a band for his girlfriend’s surprise thirtieth birthday party. A girlfriend
you’ve never met. And there’s no mention of you being invited. Or any action taken
upon your suggestion of going to see any of the bands. And having a catch-up, maybe. Instead
there’s more silence. Because you just recommend bands now. That's what you're for.
Maybe a year later his Best Man includes you in a group
message organising the stag do. He’s getting married you see. You saw it in your
friend’s newsfeed. It was news. You decline because you can’t really justify
spending the money. Maybe you would have gone if your friend had bothered to
contact you himself at some point. But probably not. You just don’t know. You’re too
Months later the fiancée sends you a friend request on
Farcebook. Without introduction. But you know it's her. You recognise her from his newsfeed. It was news. And now you have to consider whether or not to ‘accept’
her. To give her the same equidistant status in your life as your friend. The
friend with whom you shared years of experience. Experience that now amounts to nothing more than a face popping up on a screen occasionally. With some humblebragging. The fiancee wants the same thing from you. The same computer administration protocol. She’s
really into Jesus. They both are. You saw it in your friend’s newsfeed. It was
Let’s say you accept her. You do
this in case you bump into them somewhere, even though you haven't seen him in years and probably never will. But you get yourself in a
twist about it despite the fact it’s really utterly meaningless. Still, it'll reduce the awkwardness. Won't it? Probably not.
start getting messages from her. You’re grouped in with the other friends. You
remember them? The ones who were friends with your friend and friends with you
just as long as you did all the legwork. Yes that’s right. Them. The fiancée is trying to get you all in the same minibus (which
wouldn’t be awkward at all) for the wedding reception. Presumably
you’re invited. But no-one’s asked you. Certainly not your friend. Apparently you’re
not being communicated with directly for some reason. Maybe he was too busy to address you about the stag do. And the wedding. Or anything else. For years. At this point you are offended. Finally you break the silence and contact your
There is an intense watershed exchange of messages. Your friend says that you had the kind of friendship in which you see each other when you see
each other. You indicate that this required him to make some effort in the last seven years to see you when he sees you. You make it clear in the most diplomatic terms possible that it’s not a
friendship anymore. Your friend seems genuinely regretful and suggests you meet up for a meal to smooth things over. But you decline, graciously. Because the damage is already done. And there is far too much of it. You wish your friend all the best for his wedding and for his future and you assure him you’ll say
hello if you see him in the street. But otherwise, take care. Done.
Now you see the wedding in the newsfeed because you weren’t
thorough enough with the Unfollow function: the friends who were friends with your friend and friends with you just as long as you did all the legwork; they were there. That’s right; them. You forgot about them. You thought they were gone. But there they are. Blundering into your newsfeed. Bringing you news. News that you don't want. So you have to do more socio-political administrative tinkering to your social media edifice. Then, at last, you're free.
Or so you thought. Because you see the fiancée's relationship status become 'Married to'. Somehow, even after all this, you forgot to complete some torturously-obscure, god-forsaken sub-menu. Eventually you find it. Then you click what you need to click and breathe a big sigh of relief because now it really is all over, finally.
Months later, against all odds, this wife whom you have never met makes contact with you. This wife who is apparently oblivious to the message you sent to your friend. The one in which you specifically stated that you would say hello if you crossed paths in the street, and nothing more. Presumably she doesn't know about the message. About this watershed moment that ended 15 years of friendship. Maybe it wasn't worth mentioning. Or maybe he mentioned it and she just ignored him. Or she forgot. Because now she's inviting you to an event. A 'Bring and Share' barbeque. 'Bring' and 'Share'.
Perhaps it's a mistake. An oversight. Maybe she's accidentally lumped you in with one of those group invites that include everyone on her list of friends. You can forgive that.
But upon further investigation you realise it's not a mistake. Because it's been sent to a select group. No more than twenty people. And the people on the list are the friends who are friends with your friend and were friends with you just as long as you did all the legwork. Them - again. Unwittingly shuffling back into your life like rubbish ghosts. And despite your refusal to attend the wedding, despite the brutal finality of the conversation with your friend, your name is on the list too.
There is no escape from this stupid, inconsiderate insensitivity. And it is all of those things, for one sole reason: she invited you. Your friend
didn't. So why, after everything that was said in those uncomfortable messages, after you drove a stake into the rotten heart of what was left of your relationship, why is this invite not coming from him? Why, in the name of this god in which they believe, is it coming from her? What madness is this? You, at a Bring and Share Barbeque. With them. You would never go. Not in 6000 creationist years.
But just imagine if you did. Imagine twenty people you used to know asking you why you weren't at the wedding. Imagine your first spoken words to these people after seven years being an explanation that your friend is a bad friend. That he's been absent from your life during the hardest times. With an effortless disinterest. For so many years you wish you'd lost count. Friendships are about being around. Plain and simple. So that when something happens, you're there. When people need you and when you need them. You explain that this barbeque is a farce. You are offended that the wife had the nerve to invite you. You are even more offended that your friend didn't. After everything that was said. That's what you've chosen to 'Bring and Share'. Imagine having the balls to go there and say that. Imagine hanging around afterwards for dessert.
If you did, one of those rubbish ghosts bereft of anything interesting to report would definitely tag you in a status update. But you wouldn't see it. Unless you got the socio-political software administration wrong (again) and found yourself reading a poorly-spelt tirade about your uncharitable cruelty. OMG! SUM PPL R SO RUDE ULTRA!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It would appear above yet another shared post with an uplifting quote on it. Something about peace, plastered across Gandhi's face. Or beneath a picture of a cat doing something funny. It would make the newsfeed. It would be news.
When you stop fantasizing about what might have been, you wonder what on Earth she was expecting when she invited you. Did she envisage the corpse of your vague acquaintance jolting back into life, reanimated by the simple greatness of her touch? The Creation of Adam amidst cans of Stella and Kraft Singles? Does she really believe she has that much power? That she could prevent your attendance at the Bring and Share Barbeque from being anything but the most hideously awkward social event of the year? Then it hits you. Of course she does. Miracles. She thinks she can perform them. This goddess who you have never met.
Maybe she'll invite you to something else. Imagine that.
There is only one word to describe this stupid inconsiderate insensitivity. It was once only an adjective. But now this adjective has evolved. In the name of social media it now contains an adverb. A software-functionality-relative adverb that suggests a best course of action.
It is unfriendly.