How long have you known your best friend? A year? Five years? More than ten? Most likely, you’ve seen each other through everything significant: first love, first fuck, tough times with family members ― or, perhaps they were the first person to put up with your sarcasm and shitty attitude, which, up to this point, most people couldn’t stand. The love between you two is strong because you have seen one another, since the earliest days, at your worst, and neither of you are afraid to share painful truths. And you, knowing they come from a place of compassion, accept their feedback, expressing your gratitude with tears of joy.
But, beware: this nice shit is over.
The days of humility and compassion are dwindling; fading into a machine world of bytes, swipes, and data. In this so called “Information Age”, we are obsessed not with technology as a means to connect to others or to gain knowledge. We instead use phones, tablets, Macs, and their corresponding apps to do two things: lust over people and things we cannot have, and cater to others’ strengths/weaknesses to get the most “Likes” on our pictures and comments.
I’m certainly not innocent of this ― I can’t express the amount of time I’ve spent configuring my dream cars online, ticking and un-ticking the options boxes to get the best price, then calculating what the monthly payments would be. Perhaps worse, people are hyper-obsessed with pointless, brain-melting games like Kim Kardashian: Hollywood because it only takes two hours (honestly, in real-time) to meet a famous “idol” (Kim), gain a manager and publicity guru who start a Twitter-fight with another celebrity on your behalf to, you know, boost your followers, become a model, and buy whatever clothes and jewelry you want.
In this Insta-Age, we use the information that is readily available to give ourselves and others a new perception. Running late? I can order an UberX driver and pretend to be timely. House a mess? I can tap the GetMaid app and order someone to my residence within two hours to clean that shithole right up. Diplo once liked and retweeted a comment I made a few years ago, and my first instinct was to take a screenshot and post a picture on every social networking site on which I had an account. “LOOK AT ME! I’M IMPORTANT! MY FRIENDS WHO LIKE DIPLO WILL SEE THIS AND LOVE IT (OR, BE JEALOUS AS FUCK, WHICH WORKS, TOO!)” We no longer want to help others or share valuable information. We want to buy for ourselves and pretend to be someone we are not. Insta-uh-oh.
Our friends, the ones to whom we should have the most loyalty, are now the most disposable. As magazine covers increasingly showcase chiseled bodies and Instagram features the rich, famous, and most-liked, we try and hide our flaws as much as possible, fearing they make us unworthy of attention or front-page stardom. The secrets of our past, or any association with a D-list lifestyle, has to be eradicated in order to build a new internet personality ― An Insta-Me, capable of on-demand feelings, looks, and emotions based on what our followers want or what we want to show them. Tinder, Instagram, Grindr ― these tools let us find new friends instantly based exclusively on how they look and our perception of their personality. “Shit, he has 4,000 followers, a boyfriend he loves, and is very stylish! ADD!” I met this person I’m describing at a bar recently. He was hanging out with a crowd notorious for shitty and immature behavior. He did not look like the man I saw in the pictures (which isn’t bad, just not what I expected). And, much to my dismay, he ended up pulling me aside, kissing me, and asking me to leave with him. I ran (literally) out of the bar. His poor boyfriend; oblivious, just like I was.
This song isn’t new; “We All Want What We Can’t Have (Right Now).” Fortune. A car. Perfect sex. Beyonce’s “talent”. World peace. So, we drop people, our close friends, because they know our flaws; they’re old news; they don’t have a big following, so their views and opinions must not really matter. We believe we can change the perception of our followers enough to take us with them to stardom. Imagine this scenario: Instead of spending your weekend with your best friend who’s visiting from the east coast (whom you haven’t seen in years), you spend your night drinking and fucking some dude you’ve only known for twelve hours. You oversleep and miss breakfast the next morning. Seven hours later, you are STILL hungover and don’t make it to dinner. Your friend, the one visiting, has typically stood by your side during altercations of this severity, but not this time. This was your last chance to show compassion..your love. But, you blew your chance ― just to blow a stranger.
Long-lasting relationships ― the ones built upon trust, loyalty, and honesty ― are precious. Cherish them. The beautiful person you find on Instagram, the Tindee who also likes Humans of New York and the movie Amélie; while they may be someone worth your time, your longest-lasting and genuine friendships are worth more. More than clothes, sex, or fame. Once these friendships are gone, they’re gone. And what’ll you have? You’ll have 900 followers on Instagram, 875 of whom you’ll never meet, and 850 of whom think you’re someone else.
View more awesome illustrations and photographs by my friend Josh Zoerner at slowguilt.tumblr.com.