Sunday, February 21, 2016
The perils of having an invisible friend
If I were completely invisible, would you still be my friend?
No, not inaudible (wouldn't that be nice), nor intangible either -- so I'd still blather on, and if you happened to bump into me you'd make contact. I'd be the same person I am now; I just wouldn't register on the visible spectrum in any way.
Yeah, I know, if you're blind or if you only interact with humanity via the Internet, for all you know your friends might already be invisible. But setting those specific examples aside, consider what it would take to maintain an everyday, face-to-face friendship with someone you can't see. You couldn't make eye contact, you wouldn't be able to read my body language, you'd never feel wholly comfortable talking about me behind my back, you might worry about whether I was spying on you (nope; even the idea of spying on friends is creepy and revolting), you might even start to wonder whether I was reading a book over your shoulder (...um... guilty).
But all these would be minor problems compared to the biggest issue of all: having strangers and passersby think you're a complete nutcase, as you appear to talk to the wall, laugh at nobody and put your arm around empty space as you walk down the street. Would it still be worth it to have me as a friend, if you had to pay the social price of having everyone else assume you were crazy?
And what if your close friends were skeptical of my existence? As they say, seeing is believing. If they could hear but not see me, well, that could be a trick. It's possible to wire up a sound system in such a way as to create a convincing auditory illusion of an invisible person, so that's not proof. And as far as being able to feel me, I'll bet that too could be faked. (Of course, that also makes me wonder -- how many people do you actually socially touch over the course of a day? As an American, I'm most comfortable touching family members and a few very close friends, but I know scores of people -- friends, even -- whom I've never touched. For all the experiential proof I have, lots of other people could be intangible.)
You might be tempted to say that you don't care what other people think (if so, let me introduce you to a fun little book by a curious character), but for most people this isn't as true as they imagine. Human beings are social creatures by nature, and we usually do worry even what strangers might think of us. (Have you ever walked by two people having a conversation in a language you didn't understand, or been seated near a few people whispering to each other, and wondered even for a fleeting instant whether they were talking about you?) At some point in your life (likely middle school), you probably ended a friendship or were dropped by a friend -- not because you didn't like each other, but because one of you wasn't popular at the time. A friendship, even a very warm and close one, which causes strangers to give you a wide berth or shoot you the stinkeye is going to put some serious social strain on you in a very short time.
So I put it to you again: if I were invisible, would you still be my friend?
Just something to think about.