About four weeks ago Aziz Ansari in one of his sold out shows in Houston, broached the topic of our social etiquette in modern-day social media obsessed world. I couldn’t help but uproariously laugh at some of the scenarios Ansari threw out, but his jokes also left me thinking seriously about how the way in which we create and maintainfriendships has changed. His one quip on the type of flaky people we’ve become when we wait for the next best thing to hit our inbox or social feed while ditching what is in front of us hit close to home.
Social media, while giving us a glamorous snapshot of someone’s life through a string of bubbly status updates and photo-shopped albums, discredits our own feelings of self-worth and belonging– if we let it. It can empower us, but can also make us feel incredibly lonely and vulnerable. I’m not suggesting that the solution lies in removing social media from your life altogether, but it is worth evaluating how much of our time Facebook, Twitter and all the rest should take up on a daily basis.
But let me rewind to 2008. That year my new husband and I moved across the country to Houston. I had tried to persuade my husband that we ought to start our new life together in either New York or Washington D.C., the two cities where I had deep roots. I thought it would be fluid transition for me since this area was where I grew up, attended college and where most of my friends lived. Many of my husband’s cousins were scattered between these two cities as well and could, I felt, support us as we began our married life. My husband convinced me otherwise, saying that Houston, the city he was starting to call home upon his job transfer, would be the ideal place to explore as a married couple, pursue our professional goals, make new friends and raise kids. What about the weather, I asked. It’s wonderful seven months of the year if you can grin and bear the summer, he responded. And so I began my hot, humid, mostly happy journey to Houston.
Between my husband taking on yet another Master’s degree and me diving into work,the first few months of married life were a blur. On our days off, he tried to arrange lunches and dinner with his friends, most of whom were perfectly nice, but I couldn’t necessarily envision a lifelong relationship with them. This group didn’t satisfy mydesire to find women who shared my family values and interest in spiritual and religious knowledge. Funny how the friendships that sustained you while you were single sometimes don’t prime past that point if your significant other doesn’t warm up to your friends. My husband did his best to integrate me into his social circle, but I walked away feeling somewhat disconcerted. Wasn’t the South supposed to be friendly and welcoming? Wasn’t the Pakistani/Indian population exploding and ready for new transplants? Wasn’t my worldly East coast personality enough to capture the hearts of Houstonians? Making friends after marriage was not as breezy as I thought it would be.
Meanwhile, I was stuck in a perpetual mode of longing and nostalgia. The heady days of social media sites were before us and they only exacerbated my wistful frame of mind. It seemed many of my friends were moving on without me. I stalked their profiles to see what kind of fun they were having so I could give myself further permission to sulk. They were enjoying promotions, vacations and babies, all chronicled on Facebook for me to see. I felt like I was missing out on their lives and not enjoying mine.
I tried networking through various sites such as Muppies and local Meetup groups and came upon a few Pakistani American women who introduced me to their circle of friends. Through these ladies, I did meet some of the women and families I still keep in touch with today, but even these friendships didn’t blossom the way I had hoped. I was expecting these relationships to be free from any judgment- the kind of bonds you make when you’re in college or settling down in your first job with no strings of commitment to space, time or family. But my context had changed. I was not single. I was not familiar with this city. People who I was meeting had lived here for a long time and had no compelling reason to include me in tight-knit group. The onus would have to be on me to push my way through into lasting friendships.
Just as I was finding my footing in my new job and in this new city, we became parents to a beautiful little boy who threw a loop into my plans for hosting convivial dinner parties, weekly game nights and spontaneous road trips. His arrival slowed my pace of life and my expectations of how and who I should meet. I put a hold on budding friendships while I tended to this little person. Although my son’s arrival added another wrinkle to making and sustaining friendships, it also forced me to enjoy the moments with him instead of pining for the lives other were leading.
Fast forward six years and two kids later– those initial conversations about developing our careers, raising kids and belonging to a community all remain relevant. Our social circle, while not as plentiful as I once envisioned for two extroverts, is one that is blessed and beautiful. As you get older and your responsibilities and outlook change because of life circumstances, you understand the importance of the quality and flexibility of your friendships over the quantity. And while they may not be as spontaneous and glamorous as relationships past, they sustain you for the road ahead. As social media has evolved, so has my relationship with it. I use it to keep me abreast of helpful articles, trending topics and endless quizzes about what kind of TV character I relate to best. Beyond that I have chosen to consciously uncouple myself from social media and instead use my time to be with the friends and family who I sought so much a few years ago.
Photo Source: Sadia Khan
Sadia Khan is a marketer, writer and mother who resides in Houston by way of New York and Washington, D.C.