I Don’t Know How to Keep Friends

I keep running away from people and I don’t know how to stop.

A few years ago, I realized Facebook was making me really unhappy. I thought about deleting my account, but that meant completely cutting off a few people I didn’t want to lose. It also would have impacted some games I enjoy which depend on Facebook for credentials. I decided I just wouldn’t engage with Facebook as much. For a while, that was enough and things got better.

Recently, I had a bad experience on Twitter, so I’ve been withdrawing from that space, too. There was someone there I thought of as a friend. We shared stories with each other. I thought we were fine, but then I found out they blocked me. I was shocked. I have no idea what I might have done or said that ended that relationship. When I reached out to some mutual friends, I didn’t find any kind of reassurance or understanding. It threw me for a loop.

It calls into question all of the relationships I thought I had in that space. Some of these people I’ve met in person. I thought we were friends, but maybe I’ve been fooling myself.

I don’t want to be hurt again. I don’t want to get close to someone, make myself vulnerable, and give them the power to break my heart.

At the same time, the pandemic is keeping me apart from people I care about. Withdrawing from social media means I’m giving up the illusion of socialization. I’m lonely and taking actions that will make me lonelier.

It’s more complicated than that and I’d be lying if I said social media was the only problem. We all know social media is like junk food. A little bit every once in a while is fine, but a steady diet of it will make you sick. My problem with loneliness isn’t just the pandemic or social media. I was withdrawing from people well before COVID-19 impacted our lives.

A few years ago, one of my oldest friends told me that if I cared about him, I’d leave him alone. He said my presence in his life hurt him. So, I stopped reaching out to him. I did care for him. Still do, in fact. If it’s a choice between hurting myself or hurting another person, I’ll take the pain upon myself.

Many years ago, someone told me that when I entered the room, I sucked out all of the oxygen. We weren’t particularly close, but I don’t think he was saying that just to hurt me. Maybe he was trying to help me through tough love or something. His words sit with me every time I enter a crowded room.

A few people have reached out to me to check on me in the last year and a half. Maybe I give off the impression of someone that has their shit together so well that they don’t need to be checked on. Maybe I’ve remained distant from people so long that when I’m no longer visible, I evaporate from people’s memories. I don’t know.

It has me questioning everything. My writing. My self-worth. My future.

I don’t know how people make friends and keep them. I think it has to do with a willingness to put time and effort into a relationship, and to allow oneself to be vulnerable. That’s probably exactly it, and I just don’t know how to do those things. Not anymore.