Christopher Orlet has struck a nerve among the internet addicts who are as compulsive in following politics and culture as a drunk reaching for the bottle on the night stand first thing in the morning:
I have lived most of my life with but one or two persons I would call good friends. My fiancée, who collects friends like a baleen whale collects plankton, finds my lack of friends odd. I don’t doubt that it is.
It’s not that I am unable to play well with others. It is rather that I have a hard time finding persons who interest me enough to want to be friends. This is, I suppose, what attracted me to books and magazines so many years ago — the opportunity to be in the company of interesting people with engaging stories to tell.
All but one of the friends of my youth has long since disappeared from my radar screen, which is a common enough occurrence after high school. The thing is, I never felt particularly close to any of them. Other than the fact that we were going through the same teenage crises, we had little in common. What brought us together wasn’t not mutual values and interests — they liked cars and girls, I liked guitars and girls — but that we had grown up in close proximity to each another. It was friendship based on location, coincidence, and social class.
Pathetic? Or a description of many of us who have eschewed the superficiality of most relationships outside of marriage and settled on gleaning human contact via the flickering monitor on our desktop?
Before the internet became as ubiquitous as it is today, it was burying oneself in books, magazines, and periodicals that substituted for connecting with flesh and blood. While Orlet claims there is no one as interesting in the world as himself and therefore, finds homo sapiens rather boring, that was only part of the reason I walled myself off from most of humanity. The truth is, I am a bore myself in social situations. Small talk drives me nuts. Inanities make me homicidal. I would much prefer someone walking up to me at a party and asking if I ever read In Praise of Folly than a half-soused reveler asking me about the weather (hot chicks excluded).
I have found that I get along swimmingly without this kind of connection to the species. I’m sure most of those whose company and friendship I reject are lovely people, no doubt willing to give the shirt off their backs and the last coin from their pocket if you asked. I know because some have asked me. It has always amazed me that people you have met perhaps 3 or 4 times in your life feel able to not only involve you in the intimate soap operas of their lives, but also think nothing of showing up at your door at 3:00 AM sheepishly explaining that the wife booted them off the couch they were already sentenced to sleep upon and could they please spend a night or two with you (eating you out of house and home in the process) while the old lady calmed down?
The internet is a perfect vehicle for someone like me. No one expects you to get too close so you can be as funky, as snarky, as haughty and ill-mannered as you please with the only price you pay being removed from someone’s email list. I treasure those emails from readers who, due to my apostasy - real or imagined - would solemnly announce that they would never visit my blog again. My response to these drama queens was always the same; so be it. And to help you keep your promise, I will ban your ISP number, keeping you from ever seeing my blog again.
But looking at this solitary lifestyle in a different light, it personifies Thoreau’s observation of a life lived in “quiet desperation.” The lack of real friendships in my life - save my lovely Zsu-Zsu who doubles as lover and nursemaid - leaves a hole in the soul that is the largest price one pays for shunning the kind of superficial relationships that pass as friendships. For by shunning all it shuts off the possibility that you will find that diamond in the rough - that “true” friend that brings intimacy without sex and closeness without the kind of cloying stickiness many sexual relationships embody. I stopped looking for that mythical beast long ago and have settled for meeting the greatest minds who ever lived in books, while playing with the ignorant savages who inhabit the more fascinating parts of the internet.
Orlet quotes Poe:
A real friend may be, as the musician Chuck Prophet said, someone who will pick you up at the airport. But I think Edgar Allen Poe was nearer the truth when on his deathbed he cried: “My best friend would be the man who would blow my brains out with a pistol.”
EAP obviously never imagined the internet where many who aren’t even your friend would gladly blow your brains out -even without you asking.
Makes life worth living even without friends, eh?