I love social media, I hate it too. I love the internet but it’s also a terrible place where I can feed my depression and anxiety monster. Social media has made that binge especially easy now that I can experience adult peer pressure even without speaking to or being around anyone. Adult peer pressure is so different from the peer pressure we were warned about as kids. The threat of being “uncool” because I didn’t do something wasn’t a threat at all to me. I loved being different and “non-traditional”; I especially loved being identified as such. My dad always used the word “subculture” on me… I loved it even though that was not the feeling he was trying to elicit.
Adult peer pressure is like CO2, you don’t even notice it poisoning you but if it’s concentrated enough you can feel “lightheadedness, confusion, headache, feeling like the world is spinning” (thanks wikipedia). Most adult peer pressure (besides parenting stuff) lives passively on social media. I’d like to blame it largely on the concept that people only present their “best” or “ideal” selves on social media but my anxiety tells me to ignore that phenomenon and compare myself constantly to other people’s lives or at least the ones they put online. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of candid posts about infertility, divorce, abuse, miscarriages, etc. but they’re all generally in the wake of someone seemingly overcoming the issue. Now that my feed is almost exclusively people over the age of 30, I’m no longer seeing any desperate, sad song lyric statuses that follow a public break up. Besides all of the terrible political posts and articles I’m trying to avoid these days, I’m mostly seeing people getting married, having kids, buying houses, establishing careers, showing off healthy hobbies, eating good food. If you looked at my own SM profiles, you’d see similar posts. But I know that on the other side of that post is the intention of attention. I want people to think I’m well and happy and have things going for me because that’s all I see from them. It’s not about looking uncool, it’s about looking unaccomplished.
Everything we see online can be researched and given a general dollar value (my default measure of success and happiness). I’ve looked up everything from salaries for specific titles, to home values on Zillow, to wedding gown brands to assess what kind of success my social media “friends” are experiencing. It’s almost a compulsion at this point. Oh, they bought a brown stone in Tower Grove… BUT THEY RENOVATED IT BEFORE MOVING IN!? Quick, see if they have before after pictures. That’s her engagement ring?! Let’s see what her fiance(e) does. These tendencies are totally vain and may seem like normal reactions but they’re mostly so I can feel bad about myself and what I have, even though I have a lot to be proud of and thankful for.
One thing my social media hasn’t been short on in the last 10 years is PDA for my best friend. I mean that in the most platonic (although this was constantly up for debate by our families and friends) way. I knew since the day I met her that our friendship was incredibly special and worth bragging about on social media. We always think (know) that ours is more special than most. We’re like sister, mother, friends – many people would (and did) fear that we are too similar to be successful friends but they’d be (were) wrong. Allie summed it up perfectly in her best lady speech at my wedding:
“…it was understood through the mutual friend who introduced us that we probably wouldn’t like each other. Maybe it was because we both have loud, outlandish tendencies and can perhaps be a little too vocal about things we don’t like or people that annoy us or maybe because she was afraid I would steal you away from her (spoiler alert: this actually happened). I was nervous to meet you because of this but we were both in Nashville – a new city that we did not know well nor did we have many friends there. On our first friend date, we ate fried cookie dough together and I knew that she was right – I didn’t like you, I loved you.”
This sentiment gorgeously captures my experience as well (I tear up every time I read the last line).
The best things about our friendship would actually be impossible to list so I’ll use our first friend date as an example of most of them. Prior to our date, I had already stalked the hell out of Allie. Most of her life was available on myspace so I knew what she looked like, what bands she liked, her nicknames for her (stupid) boyfriend, the many ways she was hooked up and plugged into the emo music scene… you know, the usual stuff you know about a potential new friend before you meet them… I was terrified. She seemed so cool and aloof and funny and pretty and way out of my friend league, add to that the fact that our mutual friend told me we probably wouldn’t like each other — and I was basically as nervous to meet her as I would be to go on a blind craigslist date.
With all of her cool music connections (or maybe just with her own money, I don’t even remember), she had two tickets to the Paramore show at Rocketown (I recently looked it up so I would know our actual anniversary date: June 15, 2007). I didn’t know much Paramore but I knew they were cool and she was cool and I had something cool to do during an otherwise super lame freshman orientation week. Allie picked me up from campus in her boyfriend’s car and then drove like a bat out of hell (as she does) to the venue because we were likely running late (as we do). I’m pretty sure we were talking from the moment my butt hit the seat to the moment she dropped me off like 6 hours later. We talked about music and the fact that we basically liked all the same stuff. We talked about her relationship and my weird up-in-the-air relationship(s?). We talked about fashion and joked about hating our bodies (so healthy). We ate an absurd dessert that was probably like 4000 calories because we wanted a sweet and didn’t want to say goodbye to each other yet after the show ended.
Cookie dough egg rolls: chocolate chip cookie dough flash fried in pastry and topped with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce
Allie’s friendship to me is so many things. She’s the only person I can confide in who knows exactly how I’m feeling in any given scenario and why I feel that way. I would attribute this to the fact that we share most of the same emotions and reactions to things. We differ just enough to give each other perspective in our most outlandish, anxiety-ridden nightmares or unfounded anger with our partners. Allie is the only person I can silently surf the net with for hours only to break the silence by “Oh my God!” -turns laptop around- “look at this”. She’s the only person I can shop with who won’t allow me to talk myself out of buying something. I can tell her any gross thing I’ve discovered about my body without hesitation or warning. She shares with me the tendency to be overcome with emotion by the most mundane experiences. We will hate someone we’ve never met just because the other person hates them. We’ve seen each other through so many seasons of life: through terrible boyfriends and weird hookups, through new friends and friend divorces, through school, through jobs, through world travel (unfortunately not together… YET), through death and new life, through health scares, through big moves (3 for me, 2 for her). She has seen or heard about every mental breakdown of mine in the last decade and vice versa. And because of all of this, we KNOW each other. That cannot be said of any other person on the face of the planet. So when I see people on social media (and at their weddings) gush on and on about marrying their best friend, my eyes roll so far back into my head I might lose them.
I’m not discounting anyone’s love for their spouse or significant other… I’m challenging the meaning of their declarations. Maybe it’s semantics but maybe there’s something more important in recognizing the difference between a partner and a best friend. I’ve spent tons of time in regular and couples counseling and I’ve learned that one of the best things for your relationship-relationship (not necessarily friendships) is to identify and share whatever it is that you need from your partner. If you’re silently not getting your needs met, you’re unhappy and resentful.
Considering how absolutely needy I am, it would be ABSURD for me to ask my husband to provide all of the things my friendship with Allie provides. Not only that, but my husband is just not equipped to provide for those needs. An overly simplified example of this would be clothes shopping. My husband and I both have a healthy distaste for shopping but somehow end up doing a lot of it. If I shop for a specific item, my husband simply cannot hang. I’m maybe the worst person in the world to shop with and I’m lucky to leave a store with even a pair of socks — luckier still if I don’t end up returning them. Validation that something looks good and doesn’t make me look fat from Matt is literally meaningless. As my husband, it’s mandatory that he thinks I’m hot all the time (right?). He also gets frustrated when he suggests something that he thinks meet my (very specific) criteria and I hate it. Allie also hates that but will power through… He’s just not designed to fight me into buying something and that’s O-K.
Matt also isn’t designed to understand all my feelings or the gravity of what they mean. If he did, I suppose we would never fight (what fun would that be?). Like most people, I need my feelings validated and they tend to be very complex and nuanced. Matt gets the general idea (which is what he needs to get) but he’s not an empath (the real kind, not the mind readers) and therefore, he’s likely to never have felt those feelings. Understanding someone’s side of things is important to reaching compromise and resolution but it’s just not the same as validation.
As my husband, Matt fulfills so many other needs that a best friend cannot. A life partner is just that – a partner. They balance you out, their strengths are your flaws and together you make one high functioning adult (sort of). Partnership involves sharing everything: debt, equity, life experience, every bad day, every good day, every decision, most meals, responsibilities, chores. It doesn’t sound very glamorous or torrid when I put it that way but to me that sharing is the deepest root of eros+agape (I honestly don’t think marriages can just be eros) love.
Matt is everything that I am not. He’s patient, he is even keeled, he is goofy, he is affectionate, he is kind(er than me), he is good at relaxing, he’s introverted, he’s a musician, he’s a cook… I could go on and on but you get the idea. Without Matt, my day to day life would be… empty and exhausting. I need him to balance me out, to force compromise, to pick up the slack sometimes (and vice versa). I need Matt to slow me down and soften me up (he’s softened my exterior too thanks to all the good food). I need Matt to place the delivery orders on the phone because I freak out. “UH DO YOU GUYS HAVE FOOD!?” I need Matt to work the drill because I’m afraid of power tools. I need Matt to calm me down when a rant is going on too long. I need him for all of the things I can’t trust myself to do for myself and for other people.
I would never dilute a best friendship or a spouse/partnership, I believe they’re both beautiful and necessary relationships but they serve VERY different purposes in a person’s life. Don’t let someone’s facebook hyperbole dictate how you think you should feel in your marriage or partnership. Also, I sincerely hope, more than anything, that everyone finds their Allie and Matt. I’d be so lost without them.