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Of Lobsters and Loyalty

Are we the best friends we depict ourselves to be?

07.22.15
Lobster-rachel zuckerman-love spaghetti hannah man repeller

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.

Follow Rachel Zuckerman on Twitter here

Illustration by Hannah Kellner

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  • Amelia Diamond

    “there were more than one lobsters at the birth of jesus christ?”

  • My blog: http://nannaoerner.wix.com/spectrum
    Love this! When i scroll down my Facebook-Feed and see the many pictures of girls posing in pictures together and caption it with: “Love you so much! You’re my BEST-friend”, i can’t help but wonder, is their realtionship REAL? If one of them really need the other, will they drop what they’re doing and come running to the rescue? And the fact that it is a new, so called, Best Friend every weeks makes me even more unsure of the seriousness between the two. I wouldn’t want my bestfriend to leave me after a month or two, and the other way around, i wouldn’t want to leave my friend behind because i got bored or heard a rumor or something, so this article was just SPOT-ON!!♥:)

  • This is so true, I feel like it is so difficult to have a real connection with people. Most people I am friends with, if not all, are purely hangout friends and not because I don’t want to be closer, but because it doesn’t seem like anyone wants to get closer…

    http://www.modeography.com/2015/07/maxi-dress/

  • Selina Moses

    Friends are like sisters really, you love them but fight with them and sometimes have off days with them. A lot of the time, there is no best friend in the mix and that’s fine

  • Rachel Zuckerman, I want to be the female lobster to the male lobster of your brain.

  • Aziz Ansari published a book on this topic and did an interview for Freakonomics. He talked at length about our addiction to the internet and checking everyone’s instagrams and twitters. He concluded that he doesn’t miss this information when he goes a day without, and suggested that we ask ourselves if we would read what we browse on the internet if we received a printed copy of everything at the end of the day. (Probably not)

    Also on topic, he discussed how he turns down requests for photos (thereby not allowing the fan to #humblebrag on social media) because he’d rather have a conversation with the fan

    • Amelia Diamond

      I really want to read Aziz’s book! Also this is interesting albeit kind of douche-y — what do you guys think? “he turns down requests for photos (thereby not allowing the fan to #humblebrag on social media) because he’d rather have a conversation with the fan”

      • Catalina

        I’ve read Louis CK does the same thing

  • Lola

    Such a wonderful article- preach it!

  • I feel this so hard. Gonna try not to overphilosophize here, but I think it’s a byproduct of a culture that tends to value “positivity” over authenticity and “perfection” over reality. Nobody wants a blemish when there’s makeup. Nobody wants to actually work at being a good friend anymore if you can just say you are and post a pic and call it a day.

    The fact that true positivity isn’t fake is besides the point. Playing nice is a big part of it – and sometimes it’s easier (or necessary) to just people-please, but it doesn’t make much room for realness. At the end of the day I want to be someone whose words mean exactly what they say. If you go around all day trying to make sure everyone “like”s you, then sure maybe no one will hate you, but will anyone really love you either? How can they if you’re hiding behind your best behavior? If you stop trying to make everyone happy, you can find the people you actually click with and then invest in those relationships.

    Social media might make this worse, but it can also make it better. My best friend happens to live over 5,000 miles away from me. We might not be able to spur-of-the-moment grab a glass of wine together after work, but he’s the person I share stuff with that makes me happy, have deep conversations about anything with, and I know he has my back if I’m having a bad day or need inspiration or a brainstorming partner, and vice versa. If it weren’t for things like iMessage and Skype I don’t know if that would be possible.

  • KF

    it’s capturing a moment and if everyone would worry less about comparing themselves to the people they follow/stalk and more about creating their own moments to capture they’d be a lot happier.