“That Friend” and FOMO

Okay, I’ve seen a number of people post this now. Many are people who don’t know each other. And I’ve seen the sentiment echoed from all demographics, people getting student discounts and people getting senior discounts. It’s everywhere. Here’s the thing:

I'm that friend that has to walk behind the group when the path isn't big enough. I'm that friend that gets cut off in the conversation. I'm that friend that gets left behind when I asked for them to wait for me. I'm that friend that doesn't get invited to hang out a lot. I'm that friend that if I want to go tot he mall or some place with a friend I have to be the one to invite people to make sure I get included. I'll always be that friend.


And I’m going to step into the Old Ben mentor trope for a moment and pontificate, because it seems there’s something critical being missed.

Guys, this is not “that friend.” This is EVERYONE.

Everyone has been this friend — rather, is that friend occasionally. This isn’t unique or unusual; it’s just that the illusion has been worsened by our #fakebook social media lives, making it look like we’re all being so socially successful all the time. We’re not. And if you think someone else is always secure and successful, that someone is likely working hard, consciously or not, to make you think that, because that someone doesn’t want anyone else to find out he might really be this friend.

But we’re all this person. Really.

They say transparency is good for blogs, so, here goes: In my teens and twenties, I was a nerd to the nth degree. (And I’m still a nerd and a geek and all that, it’s just cooler now.) My friends were the speech team, the Model UN, the economics study group, the weirdos who knew how to code something cool on the university VAX (yes, I remember when my college internet finally got pictures). Yet some people were envious of my friendships, when I sometimes actually felt like I was just barely keeping those friends entertained enough to include me. I wasn’t always successful, and there were lots of parties and hamburger runs and movies without me. But from the outside, we looked tight, and people judge their own interiors by others’ exteriors. (You know what? I’m willing to bet hard cash that if we asked, those same friends felt the same way about keeping up and staying in. Because high school is just like that.)

Guys, a moment of brutal #truthonfakebook honesty: today I have a life which is golden, a life for which I am truly grateful, with a fantastic spouse (17 yrs this month!) and fantastic family and fantastic friends, and yet I have wept — not cried, wept — as an adult woman over being shoved aside or forgotten or excluded. Because human nature, man.

four markered hands together form a smiley face

Lessons from Yu-Gi-Oh!: no one is the center of a friendship circle. (Lessons from Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series: permanent marker is a bad idea.)

So don’t be upset that you have to invite people instead of always being invited — that is what friendship really is. You don’t have friends just to encircle you; why should you always be the center? Instead, there’s a lava lamp-esque flow of constantly exchanging support. Did no one call you tonight to invite you to hang out? Well, did you call anyone else tonight to invite them? You don’t have to wait for friendship to happen to bless you, because it’s a living system and you can influence it.

And don’t let the glittering cinema of social media streams make you feel like everyone is leaving you behind. “Fear of missing out syndrome” is real and is insidious, and it’s based wholly on an artificial and curated representation portrayed entirely in temporary pixels. It’s like comparing your life to a reality show. (You do know that reality shows aren’t real, right? Right?)

We all have despondent periods when it seems no one is connecting with us. The mistake is to think we’re the only ones who do. Reach out, and you’ll be inviting someone else who also thinks she’s “that friend.”

End of Kenobi mode. Let me know if anyone’s getting pizza later; I don’t want to be left out.

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  1. Well said – though some of us more than others.

  2. God bless you, Obiwan, for taking the time to say this. Definitely pizza later.

  3. wait… i’m a weirdo cause i knew about making the vax do cool stuff??? :(

    yeah – not just you. no matter how successful i become socially, mentally, or physically, there’s always those days.

  4. Wish I lived nearby so I could take you out for pizza! Great article.

  5. Well said–and oh, so true. I’m always telling people not to judge their entire lives by someone else’s curated experiences. It’s easy to fall into the trap, though, even when you’re always telling other people to remember it, so thanks for this important reminder.

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