According to the Gospel of Phoebe Buffay, lobsters find a mate and stick it out together for life. In reality, they mate monogamously for two weeks, but nonetheless: loyalty during that time period abounds.
What’s more (and actually grounded in fact) is that the female lobster sheds her shell when courting the male. Though this makes her vulnerable to predators, her risk is mitigated by her mate’s desire to protect her while she grows another.
Just like our ocean dwelling brethren, human relationships — romantic and platonic — fundamentally rely on the delicate cultivation of loyalty and trust. Back in the day, our parents expressed romantic sentiments à la “I wrote you every day for a year,” and they picked up a landline at a scheduled time to catch up with their pals.
Today’s twentysomething, on the other hand, appears to have traded these private, relationship fostering moments, as well as the tangible exclamations of friendship – Best/Friend necklaces, secret handshakes – for documented representations of them: Instagrams. But don’t we also use that for food and memes and not-really-my-group photos? There’s no longer any real difference in how we signify the relationships we cherish versus the extraneous ones.
I am not an innocent victim in my gripe: I, too, enjoy taking posed picture with my friends. I want to broadcast the love between my lobsters and me. However, one has to wonder if our copious editing and strategic captioning are taking priority over cultivating actual bonds.
A quick filter here, a bit of brightening there, crop this, don’t crop that, craft a witty hashtag and boom, you’ve created the impression that you and your squad are the epitome of friendship, happiness and #goals.
But how often has a girl you’d hug-but-not-text appeared in the very same photo of you and your so-called “besties”? How many times have you said, “Love you!” over email to someone you wouldn’t share an emergency toothbrush with?
…When’s the last time you actually called your best friend?
Back in the days of disposable cameras, “BFF” actually meant something. Exposures were limited; you didn’t waste them or space in your Limited Too floating frog frame on just anyone.
Behind Juno’s vibrant hue or Willow’s nostalgic black and white, are we truly the best friends we depict ourselves to be? Are we loyal lobsters to those we grip in tight hugs or laugh candidly with before an iPhone lens? What about when there’s no one documenting? Whose back do we actually have while they are vulnerable and growing new armor?
Of course our smiles aren’t always fake and when we say, “She’s like my sister,” we mean it. But when we do feign friendship for the sake of photo op, I think we need to stop and ask ourselves why: Are we simply playing nice? Or seeking digital popularity over strengthening bonds?
Social media isn’t bad. It’s how we share life experiences, express our creativity. Celebrate our friends. But as the lines blur between real and filtered, let’s spend more energy fostering important relationships. Go ahead and include everyone in the photo so nobody feels left out. Add a tan filter. That seems like a nice thing to do. But don’t forget about your true friends. About your lobsters. About what matters, and who will be there when Instagram is as dated as a Facebook album. And don’t forget to be a loyal lobster back.
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Illustration by Hannah Kellner