Friendship in the time of the internet

Sprog has really been struggling with friends, or rather the lack there of, his high school years and especially this past year. We’ve had many, many conversations about this topic and my heart breaks for him. I annoy him with my unfailing conviction that it’s not him* but something else. He thinks back on the early years when he had to go to someone’s house to ask if they could play or hang out. When they actually did play or hang out. When things were simpler…easier. He’s sad. He’s lonely. He’s not alone. It’s so hard to be strong for him when I am going through the same thing at the same time but I try to point out how easy it is to get lost in the social media shuffle. So many people have amassed great numbers of “friends” online that maybe it’s just easy to not see people anymore. Comments get missed. Right? Or at least that’s what I tell him and frankly tell myself, because when you are the type of person to notice things? It’s hard not to see. It’s hard not to see that you weren’t invited to things when multiple pictures are posted and people are tagged so that it shows up all over your news feeds or your Instagram feeds and then those included people comment or post pictures so it just keeps showing up? Or people post that they are “so bored” and yet not so bored as to contact you to hang out? “Because I’m SO AWFUL that you’d rather be bored than hang out with me?” How do I answer that? With a resounding, “Babe, of course you aren’t awful”. But, obvs it keeps happening, so he’s not really listening to me anymore.

So I push him to maybe contact them. I ask him what he’s doing to reach out to people. I ask him what they talk about, what he texts about when he texts them. I ask him what he’s doing in this dynamic. I give suggestions. So he tries. He tries so hard. He feels that he’s making all these efforts and then people just use him for a ride in his car or to hang out at our house where the mom bakes brownies or fills the pantry with snacks when the friends come over. He feels like he has to bribe people to want to hang out with him. He’s always there for them in times of crisis. He’ll drop anything to be there for someone but has anyone ever done that for him? No. His friends made a big deal about his birthday and then disappeared. So that confused him further. It was like a tease. Why even do that if it wasn’t real? Was it out of guilt for being assholes? Was it like some squaring of a debt they feel they owe him? He feels so burned and gunshy and LONELY. All the time. So lonely. Gah. It hurts to see him so sad. And I don’t know what to tell him because I am not some shining example of friends as an adult. It’s not like this hasn’t happened/isn’t currently happening to me either.

He actually brought that up to me and what do I say to that? I tried the tack that life is busy. Adults have jobs and kids and those kids have activities and scheduling conflicts and so on. He responded that if people have found the time to do things with others and chosen not to include you, that isn’t about the kids and the scheduling conflicts (damn smart child, talking to him is like a trap a lot of the time). So he’s deleted his FB again because it was too hard to see his friends interacting with others and not him. It’s hard to have people tell him they want to do something with him, like go to a specific movie then he hears nothing from him and yet there they are on FB checking into that movie with different friends. It made things too easy to see in black and white and he’s threatened to get rid of his phone for the same reason. Unfortunately for him, he’s driving so I require that he have a cell phone.

He’s really scared of college and trying again to make friends even though we’ve tried to assure him that he’s going to have the chance to meet all new types of people and surely people that have things in common with him. He really doesn’t believe us. He’s convinced he’s never going to get another girlfriend. He’s never going to have good friends or any. That he’s going to be a man and his dog forever.

He’s such a great guy. I don’t know why this is happening to him.

I’m hoping that our trip to Europe is going to get his mind off things for a bit. We joked about him picking up an English girl because he’s American with long hair and he just rolled his eyes at us but at least it made him laugh some.

*not him entirely but I have suggested that maybe the type of person he has chosen to hang out with isn’t serious friend material but more jokester type and perhaps that’s why they just aren’t around much, serious friend isn’t really the class clown style.

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