So information replaces experience, as it has throughout our culture. But when I think about my friends, what makes them who they are, and why I love them, it is not the names of their siblings that come to mind, or their fear of spiders. It is their qualities of character. This one's emotional generosity, that one's moral seriousness, the dark humor of a third. Yet even those are just descriptions, and no more specify the individuals uniquely than to say that one has red hair, another is tall. To understand what they really look like, you would have to see a picture. And to understand who they really are, you would have to hear about the things they've done. Character, revealed through action: the two eternal elements of narrative. In order to know people, you have to listen to their stories.
Testing life without Facebook this week. I figure the people who don't know how (or don't care enough) to reach me outside it are precisely the faux friends Deresiewicz refers to, and are the ones I tend to hide anyway, those collectors of gift card prizes and givers of whatever "flair" is. Those interests are valid, of course, but the fact that I don't share them might be why we're not actually friends. And while it may nothurt to keep those people on a list somewhere, and to make believe that on some level we're part of something together, what does it help? What to make of a relationship that's based primarily on negation or—even worse—obligation? Likewise, I'm not all that interested in being a checkmark on somebody else's wall.
The question I'm going to start asking in general is, Would I want to sit down and share french fries with this person? I don't mean seeing eye to eye on the basics like, oh, do they love The Stone Diaries or Eugene Levy, because that's a matter of taste, I mean as a matter of personality do they interest me to the point where I would willingly surrender to them one or two delicious golden french fries over the course of a meal? Because when you're distilling friendship down to its essence—a sympathetic alliance over the mighty, mighty frites—it should be a pretty easy call.