There is something horrible about friends. An insidious tie that binds. Something about friendship is so weighted, so socially requisite (look to current cinema to see how people who don’t have friends are treated—with a mix of pity and disgust, as aliens who need therapy or to ‘get out more’). It’s always the solitary individual that’s the problem—not ‘friendship’ or a repetitive, monotonous society. Friendship reeks of maintenance—constant phone calls, emails, text messages, letters, and periodic face to face encounters over beer to “check in” are necessary, the sole purpose of which can be summarized with four words—“You good? I’m good.” Friendship has been proven to have physiological benefits. Scientists have found that positive human interaction causes opiate-like chemicals to be released to the brain, similar to the kind released during orgasm. But perhaps we have become addicted to the narcotic bliss of constant social interaction, and the mild endorphin buzz that can be attained by getting together to ‘hang out’. The stated goal of most innocent friendships is to attain a kind of spit-swapping stasis, a mutual social masturbation couched in terms like “trust” and “support.” But so many friendships today are dead-in-life: dead relationships, bodies barely animated, sleepy gatherings over coffee or beer or TV on DVD. All maintenance, no near death experiences, no action, no growing, no true discourse—none of the true things that bring people together—nothing to test the true mettle and see if people are trustworthy and loyal in a stressful condition. No risk, no growth—a kind of predictable stasis sets in. Conspiratorial friendships, the kind vaunted by modern day radicals (‘DO things with your friends’ they say with a wink, secret code for ‘go out in the middle of the night and glue the locks at Mcdonalds, liberate some mink, and then have sex in a dumpster’) are indubitably more purposeful than modern day existential friendships, which have no purpose other than for people not to feel lonely, but these conspiracies remain empty husks at the end of the day. Sure, you can organize with some other dreadlocked individuals to stop police brutality with someone, or make foolish plans to blow up some SUVS, but at the end of the day, it is unlikely that this is the person who you can truly open up and share with. This has been shown by how former radical eco-activists often rat each other out ten or so years down the road at a Grand Jury testimony, when they no longer even really know their former ‘comrades—they’ve ‘grown up’, ‘calmed down’ and no longer have much to lose by snitching and saving their own asses.
These ‘activity partners’ associations are not revolutionary—they are friendships with a crutch: a purpose, a reason, a direction is always provided, so the two action-oriented activists never fall into that existential dilemma that leads them to smoke pot and watch Beavis and Butthead. The activity partners always have a discussion topic (books, magazines, work, the upcoming protest) and want to be constantly making plans. The conspiratorial activity partner is the cousin of another genus of friendship: “work friends”—relationships arrived at by the social necessity of being polite and sociable in close proximity with other people. Work friends similarly benefit from a readymade discussion topic: the absurdity of the workplace is always up for discussion, bosses, vacations and co-worker gossip dominate. Work friends aren’t necessary but like a pressure steam valve, they keep everyone cool and prevent workplace rebellion or any solitary individual from going postal: social niecities keep us clued in with an ever-diminished and ridiculous ‘reality’. But far worse than all of these forms of friendship—the most blighted form of social relationship that is based on shared identity—the adherents of a certain subculture or sect freely digress on the interpersonal minutia of their little group, ramblings that would be incomprehensible to other groups and demographics. These are the friendships of the vegan bicyclists, the journalists, the analog recording enthusiasts, and the crazed religious sects, all groups where most conversations take on a repetitive Groundhog Day quality frivolousness—chosen diet or lifestyle, reports on the other members of the culture, shittalking, the minutae of recently acquired cultural commodities. If you seek to avoid these friendships, you are wise. But watch out! You might end up in the through-the-looking-glass mirror world on the other side of the incestuous social milieu—the blaise, indefinable mid-to-late 20s crowd, filled with individuals who dwell on the dark side of the moon from their former selves; instead of talking about bikes and bands and veganism, conversations revolve around how ridiculous these subjects are to talk about, forming a kind of meta-anti-subculture, an embittered big kids table of the punk rock omniverse. This requisite mid-twenties post-identity crisis often happens as a natural part of development, not necessarily along with a pointed ‘growing up’ A friend of mine told me stories of what happened to her vegan-diet microcosm as the straight-edge men in it began to get older—these individuals, previously judgmental moralists who had built entire identities upon their refusal to eat meat or use illicit substances, began to soften and give off a kind of patronizing acceptance, becoming curiously interested in formerly contraband products…the image of marijuana suddenly became very seductive. They began to espouse a very obtuse, adult line of “Do what you feel…whatever makes you happy” while at the same time maintaining their own strict personal moral code.
Friendships are a minefield—it demands the utmost of social finesse and concentration to maintain them—the incessant, mosquito-like nagging responsibility of making sure people are ‘feeling appreciated’. Compliments must be doled out and bills at bars must be paid with one person smiling and waving their hand saying, “It’s on me” and pulling out a debit card, to give off this fake feeling of friendly reciprocity. Why? To what end do we fellate each other so desperately? What does it all lead to? With technological progress, the state of the social has become obscene—we are in constant sticky contact with each other, social pornography, but like masturbating several times in succession, it’s draining and disheartening.
Telling each other witty anecdotes, drinking, watching movies together, eventually flatlines and one can’t help but wonder, “What am I doing here?” as the sweat begins to pour from the brow. “Why am I even with this person? Do we have anything in common?’ We’re just wasting time together. Desperate lonely people here at the apocalypse, grappling out into the void for someone to hang out and watch LOST with, for some sense of ‘shared experience’. Even friendships with a purpose (the aforementioned conspiracy, or working together on a ‘project’ one can’t help but wonder, is all this just an excuse for the other person to not feel alone? Let me be clear that I’m not lobbying for the abolition of friendship here—just rather a society wide recognition of our paralyzing social disease. I’ll leave you alone, and you leave me alone and we can think and dream of each other fondly, and let our relationships live on in memory or action, but never the place in-between.