A while back, my friend Flo typed either “Frenemies” or “Frienemies” to me in a conversation and I was like “um.. What’s that?”. Once she explained it to me, as a combination of the words Friend and Enemy, I was like :/
As corny as the term is, it really DOES accurately describe the relationship that many people have with other people. According to Wikipedia:
“Frenemy” (sometimes spelled “frienemy”) is a portmanteau of “friend” and “enemy” which can refer to either an enemy disguised as a friend or to a partner who is simultaneously a competitor. The latter can describe personal, geopolitical, and commercial relationships both among individuals and groups or institutions. The word may have appeared in print as early as 1953.
Before I got involved with Social Media, most people that I knew don’t have time or energy for this type of relationship. They also weren’t interested in it. We were on the same team or we weren’t. We felt positively, neutrally or negatively about each other or we don’t know or care that each other exists.
There are, apparently, some people that either enjoy living this kind of life or find it to be necessary because of what they do to get money. An example would be the film industry. Everybody wants to be selected to act in something, or direct something, or film something, or work on the crew. What’chagonnado when someone tells you they got a job YOU wanted? You can either congratulate them and sulk behind their backs (if that’s how you feel), or you can tell them how you really feel and risk alienating them.
Going the direct route doesn’t work so well in Social Media. People aren’t so quick to tell people with 40,000 Twitter Followers what they really think of them. So, bedsides IRL pressures, there are online pressures not to make yourself a pariah on the back-channel.
The back-channel is where authentic conversation goes on between people that know each other online, except it’s private. It’s where true opinions of people are passed around and propagated, which never end up “in print”.
You can’t find these opinions on Twitter or Facebook or in blog comments, but they’re commonly-known positions and a lot of people have discussed them and agree with them. As a video game player, I find it quite interesting to go to parties and see the different factions hanging out together, commiserating about the other team(s).
I’ve also been the victim of ‘guilt by association’, where people know that I’m friends with someone they don’t like and automatically place me on the opposite team, when, in fact, I’m absolutely neutral, and the issues they have with each other have nothing to do with me, whatsoever.
Usually, I don’t say anything about this and just let it slide. When you know a bunch of people, there’s always going to be someone that has a problem with someone else that you know. Trying to be involved is like keeping several plates spinning on several sticksâ€¦ You’ll never finish maintaining the situation, there’s no value to it, and in the end you’ll have wasted a bunch of time.
One time, I decided to get involved. I have a friend that I was a fan of way before we became IRL friends. At some point, I felt that she had become “meh” towards me, which is perfectly fineâ€¦ ish happens. I can’t possibly count the number of people that I used to hang out with throughout the years that I’ve lost contact with. The issue was that due to the fact that we have a bunch of mutual friends and see each other on the circuit now and then, I wasn’t sure she’d tell me if I had been annoying her or she just wasn’t interested in socializing with me.
Instead of jumping to conclusions, I decided to ask her directly whether we were cool or not. She was like “yeah.”, naturally, hahaha what else is someone going to say to a question like that? :D I explained my position to her, that I don’t do the Frenemies thing and it was cool with me if she didn’t want to socialize. She insisted she didn’t have a problem with me, so I accepted that and that was the end of it.
Fear & Loathing
People in general have become scared to death of voicing their opinions about personality conflicts. Back in the day, when there was no such thing as Social Media, there were people that liked each other, people that disliked each other and people that didn’t care about each other or know each other existed. The system works very well that way. Everyone knows where everyone stands. You know which crowds not to mix when you’re planning events. You know which people not to recommend to work together on business projects.
I wrote this article weeks ago, and since then, we’ve seen the perfect example of what happens to you when you say what you REALLY think about people. Some guy decided he was going to shout “YOU LIE” at The President of The United States of America while he was trying to speak. There was an IMMEDIATE verbal reaction from a lot of people in the crowd. According to Keith Olbermann’s comments about the situation, the guy wasn’t even RIGHT about what he was screaming about, on top of being rude and disrespectful to President Obama as a person and to the office of the POTUS as well.
Regardless of how many people agree with what the guy said, HE was the one that interrupted The President, so he gets to be the poster-boy for the situation. This is what people attempt to avoid by keeping their opinions flowing on the back-channel and not airing them in blogs or in audio or video clips where people are going to share the media with everyone they know. This is what I call a transparency loop, or probably more accurately, a transparency SPIRAL, because the more people you know, the more people you have an opportunity to offend with your media and the less honest you’re willing to be when you’re creating media. Everyone loves to claim that they’re transparent, but in fact, they’re 100% transparent about whatever way-smaller-percentage of the facts they’re willing to talk about.
Anyway, politics is an excellent example of frenemies, because people have to pretend they like and respect each other in order to come to agreements about policies. Meanwhile, every time it’s time for someone to get elected, they come up with all kinds of GARBAGE to talk about the other candidate. Then, when it’s all over and somebody won, people want to act like “heh heh… Nah man… That was all business, heh heh. We’re COOL! We’re COOL!” :/
Keeping Up Appearances
The problem with Frenemies is that everyone appears to be friends.. at least to those people that aren’t connected on the back-channel and don’t know the actual scoop about what person X and person Y have been saying about each other.
This means that it’s really tough to tell who’s serious and who isn’t about being someone important in your life. The people who are trying to USE YOU act exactly the same way as your actual friends. On top of that, when people know who you know, they try their best not to speak honestly about you when any of those people are present, which leads to even more dilution.
I liked the good old days… Agree, Disagree or Agree To Disagree. Period. If you have a beef… Settle it… Or Don’t. Make the teams. Decide which team you’re on or decide to remain a free agent. Some people are going to hate you for choosing sides. Other people are going to hate you for NOT choosing sides. There’s nothing you can do about this.
It’s a much easier life and you can socialize and do business way more efficiently when you have friends, enemies and people that don’t care about you one way or the other instead of a bunch of people that you just can’t figure out who the hell they are or what the hell they want.