When I was little, I would go up to other kids at the playground and say, “do you wanna be my friend?” Straight up, no introductions, just right to the point. Most of the time, it worked. The other kid and I would start playing and doing whatever it is that kids do.
I quickly learned that this technique doesn’t always work. I don’t remember the event, but I do recall asking a girl this question when I was a bit older. She looked at me strangely and said, “um…no thanks” before walking away.
At least she was polite.
Looking back on it now, her reaction seems spot on. I deserved the response she gave me. Although I’m sure I had the best of intentions, I didn’t read the situation correctly. I had no reason to be friends with this girl, I was merely asking because she was in the vicinity, and frankly, I just wanted someone to talk to. But to her, I was just some kid who came up to her and asked to be friends. She was probably like, “what’s with this girl?” Rightly so! I didn’t take her perspective into account at all, and she shut me down for it.
So now, people ask if we can be friends.
And now, I respond like that girl did. Metaphorically, anyway.
It’s not that I don’t want new friends. Friends are great! It’s just that being asked straight up like that is incredibly awkward. Friendships take time to develop. You don’t just jump from being complete strangers to being friends.
I think part of this might be a misunderstanding on what exactly being friends means, especially online when there’s a friend’s list involved. Seems like there are two schools of thought: you either keep your friends list limited to people you actually know, or you add anyone who sends you a request. There’s nothing inherently right or wrong about either but, personally, I prefer the latter. I see my friend’s list as my audience. To me, my friend’s list and my follower list is essentially the same. I assume people add me because they want to follow my posts. That’s cool. But I don’t expect to form an individual relationship with any particular person on my list, and I hope that you aren’t expecting that to happen when you see that I’ve accepted your request.
I’m not trying to be rude, I’m just trying to be realistic and not give people false hopes. I’m actually pretty shy and I like to keep people at a distance. I need a reason to get to know you and to let you get to know me. Simply asking me to be your friend is not enough incentive. In fact, it puts me off. It tells me that you aren’t taking my perspective into consideration. And it’s invasive. Friendships are intimate and you’re trying to jump in there without an invitation. Think about the things you’ve shared with your best friend. Would you share those things with someone who’s merely an acquaintance? I’m gonna assume not. It took time for you to be able to trust your best friend. It took time for you to actually become friends and not just two people who happen to exist in the same space.
So, can we be friends? It’s possible, sure. But I would advise against throwing that word out there prematurely. The best relationships are formed organically, where the label materializes as the people get to know each other. This applies to friendships just as much as it applies to romantic/sexual/kinky relationships, and we talk all the time about not jumping into those too quickly. We constantly preach how important it is to get to know another person before you label them as your partner, in whatever form that may be. I intend to treat my friendships the same way. I’m not going to call you my friend until I get a sense that we both care for each other on a personal level. It’s for the best, I promise.