At the risk of sounding incredibly self–deprecating, I can say (slightly hyperbolically) that I am the worst friend you will ever have.
That is, I suppose, if consistency is a benchmark by which you measure and value friendship, which for most people (most fairly), it is.
I am a self–confessed flake. This is to say that I have amassed over 200 unread texts, 53 unread Facebook messages, and a staggering 1,600 unread emails. In my defense, I have clicked ‘mark all as read’ more times than I can count—at present, my inbox does not seem to possess the function of masquerading as that of an organized person.
I cannot count the number of times those around me have called me out on what they sometimes refer to as 'poor communication skills’ if in a conciliatory mood, or alternatively, ‘awful friend potential’ if they are not. Although I possess sufficient social skills, I am unable to maintain prolonged contact over any form of social media, or facilitate friendships across distance and temporality. I speak to a minimal amount of people from my high school (although how we got through four years of petty conflict and unresolved tension but immediately wavered at the mention of ‘timezones’ is beyond me). Even my immediate family is disdainful of the way I manage my ‘online’ relationships: my mum has taken to texting me images of sad dogs to communicate her chagrin in order to ensure some sort of response.
I feel I should clarify—in no way, shape or form am I opposed to social media. I spend a ridiculous amount of time online. The issue is I tend to procrastinate conversations the way most people procrastinate schoolwork or assignments (though I partake in that behavior too), putting them off till later to respond. More often than not, I eventually forget to reply. In times of stress this behavior is only amplified. Lags in conversation, read receipts and late reply times often put people off any form of conversation or, sometimes, relationship with me altogether.
Then I moved to college. University, in some ways, was a blessing. Social interactions often arose in the most organic of ways: running into someone in the hall or on Locust was the perfect setting for quick catch ups, and often allowed me to set dates for later conversation. Once most of my conversations occurred in person, I worried less about the (accurate) perception of me.
This, of course, is where the obligatory literary pause occurs. A one-liner intended to emphasize the emotional weight of the content it delivers—but frankly, mentioning the implementation of quarantine during the coronavirus pandemic is not something that needs to be stressed or afforded any more attention than it already gets.
In an era of social distancing, the sole way to maintain every relationship not occurring within the confines of your households has become the internet. I now have to master control of a medium I have been fairly subpar at using my entire life. Unfortunately, as most people who are decent at anything will tell you—I did not pick up this skill overnight. I have yet to pick it up a month into quarantine. Despite the fact that I had practically nothing else to do (other than online classes), my traditional patterns of abysmal social contact returned just two weeks into quarantine. Notwithstanding the first couple of weeks—quintessentially referred to as the honeymoon period–where I would stay up past two in the morning to FaceTime my friends, or log onto the beloved Houseparty app at the nudge of one notification, I regressed fairly quickly. I still stay up until the sun peeks through my windows—but it is usually because I have neglected to watch my lectures for the day, or alternatively because I finally started that new Netflix show everyone was talking about. And you know what? After the first few dull episodes, it wasn't that bad.
I could attribute this quality to a lot of things. I’ve moved a fair amount, so I believe a lot of friendships and relationships hold an inherent sense of transience. I hate small talk, mostly because I’m awful at it and furthermore because in quarantine, ‘nothing’ is genuinely an appropriate and probably true response to ‘what’s up?’. I can explain and explain, but I don’t ultimately believe explaining something justifies it, or its ramifications on the people around me.
So to all the friends I’ve lost before on account of poor communication, I genuinely apologize. And to all the friends I have now, that I may be on the precipice of losing without even realizing, don’t hesitate to remind me of my own poor tendencies. I can’t promise I will change overnight—but I can guarantee that I’ll try.