I discovered the other day — purely by accident, I swear — that someone I had once been very close to unfollowed me pretty much everywhere on social media. I don’t think that says very much since this person isn’t really active on social media to begin with, but when I saw a lone tweet, my mouse hovered over the username and I didn’t see that “follows you” box. A quick search on other platforms showed that yes, we were no longer social media mutuals, and quite likely hadn’t been for some time.
I’ve been unfriended/unfollowed before. I won’t lie and say it hasn’t hurt in the past, but in this instance, I was surprised to feel nothing. No hurt, no anger, no confusion… nothing. I puzzled over this for a few days, as I would have expected to feel something considering we had once been very best friends. But no emotion of any kind ever came to me, and I forgot about it after a few days.
Then, several weeks later, a notification popped up on Facebook when I logged in one morning. According to the site, that day a few years ago, we had gone to a house party and posted the photos to Facebook. Our arms were linked and our heads were thrown back in laughter. We looked like the very best of friends — because we were, then. We were best friends, before. Before life happened and we chose other people instead of each other and we let half-hearted attempts and excuses drive a wedge between us until it divided us clean in two.
They say relationships take work, and that includes friendships, too. Relationships are based on mutual attraction and chemistry; there is a magnetism that keeps you coming back even when the going gets rough. But friendships? There is a connection there similar to relationships, yes, but it’s not the same. No one has to stay in a friendship, the way some might feel like they have to stay in a relationship. And that’s what makes close friendships so special. That two people are there for each other and stay there for each other, because they can and because they want to, simply because they are best friends and that’s what best friends do.
This isn’t the first time I’ve drifted apart from a close friend; moving around a lot as a kid meant that I was always losing touch with people I was once close with. The major difference between losing touch with someone now vs when fifteen or twenty years ago is social media. We weren’t linked to people when we lost touch or decided to walk away; we couldn’t find out the latest happenings in their lives with just a few clicks of a button. (Sometimes, when I think about how weird it is that I know about what’s going on in people’s lives without having to actually talk to them, I’m prompted to go through my list of Facebook friends and make sure that everyone on that list are people I am comfortable knowing about the details of my day to day life.)
I’ve thought about reaching out to all of the people I considered friends, before. I’ve thought about doing so long before I discovered any social media unfollows or realizations that it’s been years since we’ve talked or even seen each other. I usually think about it on days when Facebook reminds me of a memory, or I come across something that reminds me of them. But what would I say? Maybe it’s odd that I feel more comfortable reaching out to a friend I’ve made online regardless of how much time has passed since we last talked, but there’s a reason I haven’t reached out to people I once knew so well. Mainly it’s because these days, there’s nothing to say.
And the fact is, most of the time, it’s been so long I don’t really miss them anymore. At least, not exactly. It’s more that I miss the memories of when we were friends, before.