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Are You Over-friendly?

Sorry I have no room.

No room in my digital little black book for any more. I’ve got those who’ll cry big wet tears with me when times are bad, those who’ll take the piss with me. There are others who are a little opportunistic. I know they’re hanging on in case I should ever be useful to them.

There are those who’ve picked me up off the floor when I was so wretched I could not even stand. I have drinking buddies and bloggy mates, and old school friends, and Facebook extended family and fans (of the blog not neccessarily of me!)

But when do I have enough?

Can you have too many friends? Where do you draw the line and say;

‘Sorry you cannot be my friend, I’m full?’

Of course back in the dusty past, friends were people in your village or related to you. Some friends were also family, but that’s an entirely different blog post! In those days we had a small circle of people in our lives who we’d known our whole lives. It didn’t really change as we rarely travelled out of our circle, or our town or suburb.

These days if you want, you can be friends with everyone with an internet connection.

But do you want to?

Can you really trust that many people?

Probably not. So how do we organise our friendships these days? Do we draw a line under those who we know in real life who know our past and are involved in our current life in some way? You know those friends who have children the same age or who are involved in the same leisure activities. Those people who remember when you ditched that boyfriend who had the unhealthy obsession with cats.

Or do we operate a ‘one out, one in’ scenario where we only accept new friends when a space opens up? How do we operate the cull? Is it when someone has slighted us, or when the dinner party was a woeful bore? Do we send emails to our erstwhile friends telling them that ‘we have to let them go’ as happened to the very lovely Modern Military Mother here.

Do we have a tiered system, with only a couple in the inner sanctum? What privileges does the inner sanctum offer? Are they the people you’d ring at any time and know they’d help?

I know I once did that to someone I thought of as a close friend when I had to take my husband to hospital in an emergency and I needed someone to look after my babies whilst I travelled with him in the ambulance. She said she couldn’t come. Though I must point out we are still close friends!

Which brings me to another point. How do you eject people? How do they lose your trust? Do you simply take sides when relationships split up and say to the spurned one ‘You’ll be ok you’ll make other friends, I choose him!’ as was muttered to me when I divorced?

Do you operate a three strikes and you’re out policy?

I’ve been mulling over this idea of who are my friends recently. Not only because I’ve been reading about how sociologists says we typically have an inner sanctum of up to nine close friends and then spirals of influence that could include several hundred people. But I’ve also been mulling over how friendships change when you move.

Of course they do! Oh you promise you’ll stay in touch as you tearfully walk down through the departure gate, but in my experience you really don’t. A small handful of friends will make the journey with you, but the others will move on.

I’m at that time in the ex pat life when you realise that you’re not ringing your friends at home so much anymore. I woke the other morning and realised with a start that I was not rushing out of bed to catch friends at home in NZ before they went to bed, but rather I was wondering who I could chat with in the UK. Or who I could raise on Twitter.

Not that I’ve forgotten my old friends (though they certainly don’t seem to be ringing me, which again is par for the course for the expat I’ve learnt!) but that I’ve realised that I’m moving on. As the internet and the blogosphere bring so many wonderful new people into my life I’m starting to feel a little socially pressured. Don’t ge tme wrong I love meeting all these new people and I really don’t think I’ll ever close the doors and say ‘sorry I’m full up’, it’s just keeping those relationships alive can take quite a bit of time. Can’t they?

Is it just me, or do you also find it difficult to keep up with all the friends you have, both in the real life and the virtual world?

How on earth are you going to manage being so over-friendly?

Image: Flickr Creative Commons victoriapeckham

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  • Campbelldayton

    I feel like I could have written this. I had the exact same experience with a good friend, whom I asked to take my daughter to the hospital while we were out of town and my mother couldn’t cope as babysitter. We are still friends (she DID take my girl to hospital, but was very unhappy about it). One thing I am so grateful for is twitter, who has brought so many new friends into my life, but at the level that I can deal with them all. I love technology! molly

  • JulieB

    Interesting.
    I too have been more of a “handful of real friends” type of person, most of whom I have known for a very long time now. That doesn't mean that I don't like meeting new people – virtually or otherwise! The strange thing about the online world is that you can think you know a lot about someone without ever having met them. I still can't quite get my head around that one, I must confess!

    Picking up on what you said about “your” friends vs “his” friends in the event of a break-up, this is something that must be incredibly difficult. I think most of our friends are now joint friends – I dread to think what would happen if we ever split up.

  • http://softthistle.net Marylin

    I am awful at keeping in touch with friends if they’re not online. Got that’s bad isn’t it? I don’t like talking on the phone much, unless it’s to my mum. I have a very few close close friends who I could trust with anything, but at the same time my online friends are the ones who are always around to talk to. I have a few ‘virtual’ friends who I consider real friends. People I’ve now known for years, and I hope I’ll keep in touch with them for years to come.

  • vwallop

    I think this is really interesting. One of my OH's worries about the time I spend online is that I'm prioritising new “not real” friends over old friends. I've never been that good at the telephone, which for some people, simply means that I'm not very good at keeping in touch. My new, virtual friends do fill a hole that I sort of knew I had. You're all around for most of the day, and therefore when I need you. OK, so you may not be able to drop everything and help me in an emergency, but you keep me sane when I'm stuck at home with three kids. I have a very few close friends, people who I hope I will have for life. Lots of circumstantial friends, they live near me, have kids the same age, we've gone through stuff together, but I know when they move away, or our kids change schools, we'll drift apart. I think life's like that. You can't have too many friends, but I think sometimes you need to prioritise your best ones. For the record, I would have come round and watched your kids x

  • Sarah, Maison Cupcake

    As someone who's only met you once I'm going to be way down the pecking order if/when you close your address book!!

    I see internet friends as a new layer, it doesn't take anything away from people I've known longer. There are people I've not seen for ten years at a time and you chat away happily like it was last week and there are new friends on Twitter who I know more about what's going on every day than people I regularly see in “real life”.

    There will always be people who you keep up with more than others whether it's 20 friends or 200 so it doesn't worry me too much.

  • http://www.whosthemummy.co.uk Sally

    I appreciate the irony of a blogger posting this on a blog, but I don't think you can have 'virtual friends' – I think it's a contradiction in terms.

    I have people I know from the Internet. Some of them I like a good deal, some I like a bit less, but I reached a point where I realised that trying to act as though 500 people were all my good friends was just too much – I can't take on 500 people's problems and give sensible advice and meaningful support. If I'm having a crisis or need someone to gossip or snigger with, I can't process that with 500 'friends'. You can try but in my experience it overwhelms you.

    I've always been the sort of person who operates better with a small group of trusted friends. So for me, I would only consider myself to be friends with people I meet, who are part of my life. I'm friendly with 500 people online, and I enjoy talking with them and sharing ideas and experiences, but I don't consider any of them – with one or two exceptions being the people I meet regularly offline – to be friends.

    Perhaps we need a new word for those people we know through social networks but who aren't quite true friends – in philosophy we used to talk of a 'karass' – a group of connected people with common goals, not quite friends, but more than a community.

  • http://www.pantswithnames.com Pants With Names

    I only had to 'eject' an old friend once, but I realised that I simply couldn't keep the relationship going, it was getting so unhealthy for me and I couldn't maintain it. I don't think there is a need to tell people, but you will find that you probably won't be in touch as much as you once were, and then the next thing you know you haven't spoken to each other for years.

  • http://www.adventuresofanenglishmum.blogspot.com/ Adventures of an English Mum

    I have a close group of 4 or 5 'real' friends that have and would drop everything to help me out! My best friend lives in Australia and although I love her dearly we just aren't able to be there for each other constantly. I have lots of people that I adore in the blogging world but only consider a couple of them that I've met in real life to be actual friends.

    What I love about the blogging/twitter community is that there is always someone willing to talk, listen or give advice right when you need it and I'm with Maison Cupcake that I see it as another layer of friends that I'm happy to have!!!

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  • http://amodernmilitarymother.com/ A Modern Military Mother

    Thanks for showcasing my dumping ;) My friend card is closed. I am like Marlene Dietreich – 'I vant to be alone'. Actually, that's not true there is always room on the friend bus – I am just rolling on the ocean of life and taking it one wave at time. Interesting post though – I have noticed that I don't spend as much time on the phone as I did when I was younger, I am happy with my laptop and sky plus for company nowadays and Hagar too – if he's here.

  • deerbaby

    Very interesting post. I’ve got quite distinct groups of friends who are a bit compartmentalised. At our wedding it was quite odd seeing them all together. But they all got on famously. I too have had to lose a few ‘friends’ who were toxic, or became toxic, or we just outgrew each other or were fair weather friends. And I’m sure I’ve been outgrown too. It is sad when people split and you lose friends from they being loyal more to the original link.

    I’d like to think that my online friends were real too. I don’t really like the distinction between real and virtual although I suppose it is true in a way.

  • vegemitevix

    Sometimes I wonder whether our OHs concerns are fuelled by the feeling that they're missing out. They tend to meet our real-life friends so there could be an almost 'who are these people' suspicion playing on their minds. I would definately drop everything and come up and help, but then I've met you and count you as one of my real-life friends also. x

  • vegemitevix

    Just thinking also that when you start on your travelling adventures I think the blogosphere Facebook etc will be really helpful in helping you stay in touch with your old and newly made friends!

  • vegemitevix

    Nah I'm not really closing the address book! I agree though irrespective of how many people I call friends some will always be closer than others simply because we have a connection. I've found that how we met doesn't tend to have any bearing on that.

  • vegemitevix

    Glad you enjoyed the irony! I love that word 'karass', great idea. What language does it stem from? Thanks for commenting Sally it's an interesting subject isn't it.

  • vegemitevix

    I've been there done that too. Sometimes circumstances change. Sometimes people change, not always for the better. I like to think of myself as a loyal friend though and have even prided myself on remaining close friends with old boyfriends.

  • vegemitevix

    Same problem here, English Mum. Many of my close friends live in NZ, my family live in Australia and my new friends from my time here are in Lapland (Hi Heather!), Israel (Hi Susie), the US, Canada and other parts of the UK. I have two friends who live in my town of all those people I've met in the past two years. Personally I can't compute the old 'I have too many friends don't need any more' attitude. I have found it to be prevalent over here and think that the English (maybe more so in the country than the city?) are very standoffish and reluctant to open their established social circles.

  • vegemitevix

    Some of the best hallmarks of a close dear friend is that you may not have rung them or spoken to them in ages (sometimes years) and yet when you make contact you feel just as close as you did then. I have a dear University friend like that and a number of friends from Mum and Toddler coffee morning days.

    Splitting up is hard work. It's the one time I have felt completely alone. So many people couldn't readjust to the idea of a single me without my other half. Then of course there were those who took his side and those who saw me as a threat to their marriage. I know it's not just me, I believe it happens frequently in breakups. That's not to say it wasn't hurtful. It really was.

    There are people I've met in the online world who I've seen around and haven't had a chance to really develop a closer friendship with. It is weird knowing so many intimate things about someone else's life and yet not knowing the everyday things. Some people you just like the look of and think you'll have something in common. I've found you can tell that quite accurately from their writing on their blogs.

  • vegemitevix

    Sorry about that chook, but actually I also show-cased my dumping too! I notice I don't spend as much time on the phone either! I think the t'internet and Skype are going to come in really handy when Hagar's deployed.

  • http://bloggertropolis.blogspot.com/ Steve

    I have a small group of true close friends who tell me like it is and don't pull their punches. I'd trust them with my life and vice versa. Outside of that are work colleagues, family friends, even bloggers who I have regular interactions with. I'd class these people as friends. Outside of that everyone is a stranger.

    And yes. Even with a relatively small group of close friends I still find I lose touch with them all too easily. There ain't the hours in the day nor the energy… which is sad. But I know they're always there if I need them.

  • vwallop

    Tried to reply to your comment, but was Disqus being silly bugger. One of things I'm really happy about is that I'll be bringing all my online friends with me on my travels. I've made a real effort recently to get back into FB and connect with RL friends that way, so that I can bring them with me too!

  • vegemitevix

    Disqus is having a strop! Just found about ten comments it had assigned to spam!!

  • http://twitter.com/tafagirl Tatjana in NL

    You inspired me to get thinking about friendships as well! I'm on the brink of moving form the Netherlands to the Czech Republic and am currently saying my good-byes to the people I spent a lot of time with the last 4 years …

  • http://newdaynewlesson.com/ Susie @ Newdaynewlesson

    I think different friends float in and out of our lives at different times.

    I have friends who I can not see for years and then speak or meet up and it's like nothing ever changed.

    I have made a number of friends over the year on the internet. Some I feel very close to.

    I am lucky that my circles of friends (in real life) are in many ways intertwined.
    If i needed something in an emergency I can easily think of more than a dozen people who would pick up and help me without thinking.

    I am blessed i think.

  • http://www.expatmum.blogspot.com Expat Mum

    I have always been really good at keeping in touch with people, to the point where I have sometimes had to “let go” when it wasn't always reciprocated or when it felt like it was all on me to keep the relationship going. I've been an expat for 20 years so this was mainly done by writing letters at first – which I did religiously. It was quite sad when the letters from home started drying up, although I'm now back up with many UK friends by virtue of Facebook.
    With two teen children and a 7 year old, I often find myself thinking “Gah – I don't want to meet any new parents, I can't keep up with the friends I already have”, but there are definitely different types of friendship so I've learned to make friends and see where it goes.

  • Notes From Lapland

    I find it so much easier to keep up with my online friends than my RL ones. the online ones are just there at the touch of a button and you can quickly pop by and say hello and then bugger off again without seeming rude, you can hold 2 or 3 conversations at the same time or just ignore people if you're not in the mood to talk. you can chat to them whilst getting on with your life and you dont need to make special plans to do it. the RL ones are harder, they require your full attention often for hours, for you to make plans and do stuff, organise and drive places. It probably sounds awful to some but I much prefer the ease of my online friends.

  • http://www.didyabringyablogalong.blogspot.com/ aussiejazz

    Really good post and great subject. I have an inner sanctum of trusted friends – we actually call each other the inner sanctum! – and then I have a circle a little further out from that which includes the dear ones. There have been a number of people who seem to think that, because they 'know me' from my blog, I am a near and dear friend of theirs (and that they are as special to me)… this has created a few awkward situations, including visits to my home city and expectations of meet-ups which I am usually obliged to attend, even though it's the last thing i want to do – largely due to my shyness. One of these one-sided internet 'friendships' ended up in an unceremonious 'de-friending' of me on Facebook by the person. Problem solved with that one, I guess! ;) but it wasn't nice to think I had offended, simply because I basically said 'Sorry…. no more room here in the friendship inn', in terms of face to face catch-ups.

    I also tend these days to leave room for my favourite blogs to read. I consider them 'friends' and I do take time to read them and give comments – this takes the place, somewhat, of any more friends 'IRL' and I am perfectly happy with the balance I have at the moment. But some of those I have now will come and go, as new interests and directions happen for me and them. I like the fluidity of it all :) Makes life interesting.

  • vegemitevix

    Ooooh does that mean I'm fave blog being that you commented and all? LOL! I know what you mean about the internet friendships and people thinking they know all about you from your blog. It's this allure of intimacy isn't it…sometimes it's hard to remember it is an allure.

  • vegemitevix

    It may seem strange but I have a lot of empathy for this perspective. It's as if online friendships offer us the drive in McD's version of intimacy. x

  • http://newdaynewlesson.com/ Susie @ Newdaynewlesson

    I think the problem is that people reading feel close to you, but since the readers don't always share their own lives as openly you don't have that same sense of connection to them.

  • hpretty

    Gosh i was thinking of writing a post just like this.
    Having just had a google reader cull, it occured to me, do we need to a similar cull of “real” friends at various points in our lives? Just so we can manage them, and to get rid of any of those that aren't doing us any favours. (you kinow the ones).
    I'm someone who always clings on to friends, so i have quite a few. But i don't have a best friend. Other than my husband.
    The pure logistics of it can be very difficult!

    M2M

  • http://twitter.com/tattooed_mummy tattooed_mummy

    sorry no time to comment I have over 400 blog posts to read – and they are all by 'friends' would hate any one to be left out! LOL

  • jfb57

    Really interesting post. I think time & distance can remove them for you. It takes a consertive effort to keep them in those circumstances.

  • http://twitter.com/Nataliemlue Natalie Lue (NML)

    Excellent post. It is impossible to have many genuine, meaningful connections with lots of different people both on and offline. This is why we have acquaintances, friends, colleagues, close friends, associates etc. I can't apply blanket trust to everyone. I have a reasonable level of trust and increase or roll back based on each person. I've known some people via blogging for the best part of six years who I may have met or have kept in sporadic contact with. Much like an offline friendship, these people have been consistent in terms of their character so the friendships even if we are not bezzy mates, is authentic. To be fair, I don't need lots of best friends – I barely have time to do what I need to do! Online I find that while I am not cautious, I don't subscribe to the transient, inauthentic friendships that some do. I've been shocked sometimes that I have thought some online peeps were tight and then realising that it was all 'mwah mwah' and they actually don't like each other! Never assume eh! I do have some very good online friendships but what's interesting is that they're people I'd be friends with anyway in RL.

  • http://kyootycenter.blogspot.com kyooty

    I struggle with time to spend on laundry when all my friends are calling :P

  • Vonnie

    Excellent and thought-provoking post as always, Vix!

    Earlier this week, I had a qwitter update telling me that someone I considered to be one of my best friends had removed me from twitter. I checked, and yup she'd removed me from facebook too. I emailed her wondering what was going on and was told that we simply saw the world too differently and that she was 'taking a break'. This woman read at my wedding and was almost godmother to my youngest.

    I was devastated. Didn't understand – and still don't – how it could have come to this. As I thought about it I realised that I think I've only seen her once since Christmas. So I thought about it some more and I think that I try hard to be everybody's friend because I was so actively disliked & bullied as a child by my parents and my schoolmates. It's almost like I have to prove that everyone was wrong about me when I was a kid and I'm worth knowing now. So yes, in answer to your question I definitely think I'm over-friendly!

  • PrincessL

    I've been pondering this too! I have a considerable amount of people who I would consider good friends on twitter but trying to keep up with them all, all of the time, is really tough and it makes me wonder if they realise how close I feel to them. I imagine life would be easier with a Sex and the City style friendship group; a couple of really close friends who are there whenever you need them, but I just haven't found anyone like that yet!