"Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter
and those who matter don't mind."
and those who matter don't mind."
-- Dr. Seuss
In today's world, it's easy to get caught up in superficiality.
I mean, we live in a land rife with social media, where networking and connections are an integral - and often indispensable - part of our personal and professional lives. In fact, it's not uncommon for the average person to have hundreds - if not thousands - of online "friends" or followers on either Facebook and/or Twitter, respectively.
But does this quantity over quality mentality really make any sense? Are we as individuals really gaining anything (other than meaningless bragging rights) when we establish such loose and virtually nonexistent ties with people whom we, to be perfectly honest, barely know?
I used to think so. Perhaps it's a side effect of living a school and family-centric adolescence, one devoid of close, personal friendships outside of my immediate family, but when I had my so-called awakening in my early 20s, I knew that one of the areas I most needed to work on was my social skills.
So I put myself out there, albeit gradually, and began to go out drinking or just plain old hanging out with friends, co-workers, etc., despite the fact that the activities and their company often left me feeling empty inside. Having consumed varying amounts of alcohol and spending needless cash to do so, I would ultimately return home feeling like I had been bamboozled.
The whole point of my attempts to build a social life was to try and fill that emptiness I felt within, and while I have on occasion managed to conduct close, meaningful conversations with those I consider my friends, it seems that society's general idea of "friendship" relies largely on pointless small talk and artificial incarnations of our true selves, as if socializing is nothing more than the world's most widespread and elaborate costume party.
No one really gets to know the people around them because no one is secure and confident in themselves to drop the charade and be who they truly are. And, with everyone flashing their masks of perfection and unaffectedness, how can we ever hope to achieve those deep connections with people? How can we ever realize our desire to fill that lingering emptiness inside with people in our lives who truly care about us and invoke within us the desire to open ourselves up to them in return?
I've been just as guilty of this as anyone, as I spent at least half of my years on this planet hiding in the shadows... terrified of the judging eyes all around me... simultaneously yearning for their approval and resenting myself for not being more vigilant about seeking it.
So while I half-heartedly attempted to build a social circle in the real world, I settled for what I suspect many other people in a similar position do as well. I relied on the faux-friendships of Facebook, even knowing that the impersonal nature of the medium would not slake my hunger for close relationships.
In my heart, I had only my family and a handful of reliable friends, and this simply wasn't enough.
I can't say if this was caused mostly by my own insecurities or simply the societal pressure to be popular (which usually starts around the time of high school and often stays with us throughout our lives). Whatever the case may be, I was consistently seeking attention online and otherwise... looking for someone... anyone to show they care.
However, as I've grown weary of making attempts to contact and foster friendships with people who showed little to no interest in reciprocating and getting to know me, my perspective has shifted irreversibly to the other side.
And my conclusion now is... I don't need hundreds of "friends." I don't want to establish superficial, substanceless relationships with friends, co-workers, significant others or family members. If I'm going to get to know someone, they're going to get to know me.
Perhaps it's just the fact that time has made me a much wiser man than my younger self, but my time is too valuable to piss away going out drinking, getting caught up in mindless conversation and meeting random strangers who have little relevance to my life and possess no genuine desire to hear my story.
Unlike those people still trapped on that carousel of meaningless relationships and phoniness, I have come to realize that I'm far luckier than they are. Yes, I don't have a thousand "friends" on Facebook. I don't have a million followers on Twitter. Hell, I'm not even the life of the party in my real life.
My gift is far greater. I know - without the shadow of a doubt - who I can count on to be there for me. I know that my infinitely supportive family, my amazing girlfriend and a handful of reliable friends accept and love me for who I am with no reservation. They've seen the good and bad in me and have decided to stick by me.
So, while others might spend their days searching in vain for that sense of belonging, I've had mine all along. Now, it's simply up to me to show appreciation to the people in my life who love me by showing my love in return. They're the only ones I need. In short, they're the people who matter.