On January 1, 2016, I un-friended most of my Facebook “friends.” It wasn’t because I was angry with them, wished them any ill-will, or sought to cause any of them to “feel the pain.” In fact, to date, I would (if I were a betting woman) lay odds that not a single one has yet noticed that they are gone…
“What happened?” you ask. Of course I’m referring not to those I un-friended because as I said, I doubt they’ve yet noticed. Well, as with many people, the end of one year/beginning of another is a time of reflection for me. And what I’d noticed was that not only were “we” not in anything that could be defined as a relationship, much less “friendship;” but also that I had been not a “Facebook Friend,” but a “Facebook Flunky.” I had become merely one of a constellation of others revolving around those who were more interested in talking about themselves, and their concerns, than they were interested in talking about others’ concerns, or at least, mine. And to a large extent, they were very successful in maintaining that imbalance of power…
So, I un-friended everyone who had:
1. Never so much as “liked” anything on my page in 2015;
2. “liked” only the posts of theirs that I’d shared on my page;
3. “liked” only the comments of mine that I’d shared on their page, and/or
4. never indicated that they shared my interests in social justice, good books, poetry, good humor, rescued animals, good recipes, music, movies, international politics, or the like.
Here would be a good place to indicate that I’ve never posted vulgarity, updates on the progress of my post-nasal drip, embarrassing photos of myself or others, chain letters, hate speech, or anything else from anyone else that I’ve considered to be the equivalents of the aforementioned, or worse. The exceptions to the group of people I un-friended were a group of Buddhist nuns whom I consider “sangha,” and can hardly expect to engage in bull sessions about such topics as my unhappiness with Governor Rick Snyder and his “water crisis” in Flint, MI. I’m from Flint, MI, though I now reside in New York State; and of course people whom I either consider a friend, potential friend, or with whom I simply have a well-forged, longstanding, true connection.
The Buddha taught that true friendship is not only beautiful, but extemely rare. In fact, one of his suttas (pali)/sutras (skt), titled the Sigalovada Sutta, gives an extensive description of friendship. Additionally, the Buddha identifed two specific types of friends:
1. Kalyana mitta (good friends) and,
2. Papa mitta (evil friends).
Now, please note that I am not saying that those I un-friended are evil! Far from it! I simply un-friended them because we were not friends. And I can guarantee you that those with 5,678,982 Facebook “friends” probably don’t know most of them, much less regularly correspond and show love, caring, or concern for each other, either.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that even though blood is thicker than water, many of us could use a transfusion, and there is still much more water than blood in the world. I’ve come to realize that a true friend is a rare find. And finally, I have come to understand more about the depth and breadth of the Buddha’s statement, in the Khaggavisana Sutta as translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (c) 1997:
“People follow & associate
for a motive.
Friends without a motive these days
They’re shrewd for their own ends, & impure.
like a rhinoceros.”
Now, it’s my understanding that the Buddha used the term “swordhorn” instead of rhinoceros. And that interestingly enough, Indian rhinos, unlike African rhinos, have only one horn, and apparently neither species truly “wanders”… But I digress, however purposefully…
As the years have passed, I have become very particular about whose company I keep. The Buddha said that true friends are a vital part of our spiritual path; but he did not define them as those who get drunk with us; those who hate the same people we hate; those who tell us only what we want to hear, or even as essential. He said that for some, “traveling alone, like a swordhorn” is the better path. Yet, fear of the solitary, of alone-ness, is why people keep bad company from running buddies to spouses…
I’d like to close with a quotation, attributed to motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, of which I’m paticularly fond:
“We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.”
In 2016, I decided it was time to do the math. I believe, with the Buddha, that people are either your friends, or they are not. This doesn’t mean that not-friends might not be on the way to becoming friends, but only that a lot can happen between those two points. And if you’re not my friend, you’re not necessarily an enemy. But enemies are truly overrated, anyhow. No one can do as much damage to a person as him- or herself. So, as far as I’m concerned, if you’re not my friend, you’re an acquaintance. And as for relatives, many of mine are how I learned the meaning of the saying, “Sometimes, you’ve got to make your own family.” Not only is that possible, it’s the damned truth. And yes, I realize that that has to do with my karma, but we must bloom where we are planted…
Finally, I’ve unfriended many folks because I tired of reading “updates” like “Just made myself a ham and cheese sandwich, and boy, does Velveeta make a difference,” or “My dog just puked,” and my all-time “favorite” (and the reason I actually once completely left Facebook for a period of time) had to do with someone’s report of a vaginal discharge. And she wasn’t being “educational,” she actually admitted that she just felt like venting. And bless their hearts, a day-long discussion ensued. I mean, honey, they blew up my cell phone. Yet, people have posted suicide ‘notices’ to Facebook and not received a response. Seriously?
Friends are holy and rare. I refuse to cheapen that fact in any way, anymore…
Everyone Hates Facebook, But We Can’t Leave from Washington Post.com
Khaggavisana Sutta: A Rhinoceros from Access To Insight.org
Making Friends: Buddhist Style by Vijay Menon on Medium.com
Sigalovada Sutta: The Discourse to Sigala – The Layperson’s Code of Discipline from Access To Insight.org