Thursday, August 7, 2014

Drive-By Friendships

When we went to Barnes & Noble for our anniversary, I browsed through the young adult section. As I read the back covers and skimmed the chapters of several of them, I was struck by the number of plotlines that had backstabbing, shallow friendships. One girl would “fall in love” with her best friend’s boyfriend, or vice versa.

Maybe it’s because I’m not a teenager, but I’m not sure I could get through a chapter, let alone a whole book of that kind of scenario. Maybe I’m too idealistic. Too simplistic.

But it seems that in a world where we may have a thousand friends on Facebook, we as a society seem shallower than ever, with no real connections to people. I guess you can call them drive-by friendships where a quick comment and a Like “connect” people.

I don't know about you, but I'm not satisfied with that type of relationship. And in many of these books, I’m not sure we could even call them friendships. In some ways it seems hard to distinguish between a friend or foe. Maybe that’s what the author’s trying to say.

Is this more of a reflection of where we are as friends in modern society? Have we lost the ability to care for one another.

When I finished Great Expectations for the first time, I was struck by the depth of friendship that Pip and Herbert had, the sacrifices one was willing to give for the other. Even the relationship between Pip and Estella, with her “cold heart,” seems deeper than the best of friends in some of these modern young adult novels.

Sam and Frodo in The Lord of the Rings is another example of a great friendship. Wouldn’t everyone want a Sam in his/her life? (Not to be flippant or brag, but I do – my wife. She is my best friend.)

But then we turn to many young adult novels where friendships resemble television reality shows with their made up drama and distrust of one another. It is a world where you cannot trust anyone: parents, children, friends, or teachers. You are your only friend. You are the only one you can count on, depend on. Everyone else will cheat you or on you.

It seems that these books are trying to be “real,” but in reality, they are just cynical.

Maybe it happened to the author. Maybe they are writing from hurt. I don’t know.

But do these novels, mixed with our social media, encourage these types of friendships or at least, make them the norm? Or am I reading too much into these novels? Am I judging them too harshly?

I’m not saying that they are immoral plotlines or anything like that. I’m just saying that they’re annoying (to me).

I know that kids can be cruel to one another, and that bullying seems epidemic now, so maybe these books are just trying to mirror life. Who knows? Does it even matter? It may not.

But if we act like the people do in some of these novels, we may never find a friend like Herbert or Sam. Worse yet, we may never be one to someone else.

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