Thursday, October 14, 2010

Instant Familiarity...

The Misses Vickers
John Singer Sargent
1884

John Singer Sargent is one of my favorite painters, because although his subject matter is often groups of people, there is a formality about his paintings.  I feel more comfortable with formality than informality.  I grew up in an era when adults were called "Mr." or "Mrs.", but never by their first names -- ever.  People slowly got to know one another, and friendships took time to grow.  Insant familiarity did not exist. I am not comfortable with instant familiarity but it seems to me that today everyone is everyone else's best friend forever, as soon as they have met.  There is something unsettling about that for me.

We have a new colleague at work, whom I like very much.  I am slowly getting to know her, I think she is a decent sort, and she has a great sense of humor.  We have brief conversations about art, literature, movies, current events ... and we are of a like mindset.  She's an interesting person.  I have noticed, however, that some of the folks at work have established a familiarity with her to the extent of calling her endearing nicknames and giving her hugs -- sort of like a car going from 0 to 60 instantly.  I have never been able to do that, and in fact I find it odd.

Even in the blogging world, people who have never met each other and who probably would not recognize each other if they were to pass on the street, are instantly and famously best friends, and leave endearing comments on each other's blogs.  I sometimes wish I could be that sort of person, but I am not.  It takes me a very long time to get to that point.

Is this instant familiarity a new trend?  Am I missing something?  Am I too stand-offish?  Should I be hugging someone whom I just met and exchanging intimacies with them?  I think there is a fine line between being friendly and being too familiar, and in my opinion it takes much longer to get to know someone on a deeper level.  Until then, don't expect any cute little nicknames from me.

26 comments:

Linda said...

I don't know, Jo. You do have 783 followers, so there must be some of us that think we are your BFF!

Teri said...

I agree with you. I call very few people "friend". I have a lot of aquaintances, pals and the like... but very few friends. And I like it that way. My Facebook has maybe 30 "friends" and most are people I interact with thru activites. My best friend (truly) has almost 700 FB "friends". I find that mind boogling... tho I do know that some of those people are definitely "frienemies". (Another concept I don't get.)

Oh well.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I think Facebook has contributed greatly to the custom you mention in that people whom one does not know at all are suddenly "friends." And I find that most odd because I consider myself a sociable loner with many acquaintances, even playmates on occasion, but few people I actually think of as friends. Friendship for me is based on many things, among them longevity and shared experiences.

I have also noticed your vast number of followers and think you should consider becoming a guru.

The Bug said...

Not to worry - I gave my own self a nickname (actually my uncle christened me Danabug & I decided to run with it).

My mother did NOT teach me to say Aunt Brenda or Mrs. Smith - they were Brenda & Maryann to me. My cousin, on the other hand was taught that & her girls call me Miss Dana.

I think that the business of not being formal in greetings tends to carry over into not using the old social graces to get to know someone. In some ways I find it liberating - but in others I find that if we don't slow down & take our time we might get burned by our new "friend" that we don't know as well as we thought we did!

Katy said...

I'm probably the wrong person to ask because I'm a classic introvert. I don't share my personal life with people unless I know them really Really well.

Even though I grew up and live in Texas where friendly familiarity is a proud tradition and I know a lot of southern ladies who like to hug every person who stands next to them long enough I still HATE hugging people I'm not actully related to by blood.

Kathryn said...

I think i followed you here, anonymously, for at least a couple of months before i ever commented.

I am slow to get to know folks. I use the word "acquaintance" much more readily than "friend." I am often shocked when folks give me a hug, although i usually don't mind. I am not often the one to think to do that.

My parents' friends were "Mr. and Mrs." unless they were very close friends. I think that our culture was starting to move away from that formality when i was a kid.

I don't have an easy time making friends, & i really struggle when i lose one.

I've just begun to realize that part of this is missing a shared value system. By the time i feel comfortable calling someone "friend," i think we have a deep bond. However, i'm finding that other people don't seem to look at friendship the same way. So many people have friends come & go. I don't think they value "friendship" as i do. I almost think there should be a word between "friend" & "acquaintance" for the people you are "friendish" with, but not really friends.

Relationships can often be hard work, & so many people these days don't seem to want to put in the time & effort.

Pauline said...

I like that bit of formality too. I like getting to know someone over time, adjusting my first impressions as needed until a real friendship has been created. Don't be hugging me too soon ;)

lgsquirrel said...

Dear Jo,
Or may I call you "Glow Jo"? You can call me by my nickname. It's "Nick".

But seriously. I don't mind losing the Mr. Mrs. Dr. formality outside of the working environment. I think we should not emphasise formlity in our social time.

But I agree with you that instant familiarity is troubling and shallow. I agree with hearts that Facebook has helped trivialise the word "friend".

Single and Sane said...

Some people are huggers and others of us are not. I hug my family and a handful of longtime friends without hesitation, but I don't generally hug others unless they hug me first and I can't escape.

As for names, I have always preferred for kids to either call me Margaret--or Miss Margaret, if they're very young. Someone recently asked me why I don't prefer more formality with kids, and I don't have an answer for that, other than it's just my preference. Maybe I think I'm making up for my hugging reticence by only using my first name. ;-)

Lindy said...

My father's family were all sweet, loving people. They were also huggers. My mother's family were skeptical and stingy. They were not huggers. Guess which I choose to be?
I agree that there is too much TMI going on and chidren need to learn to respect their elders, especially the really-elder ones. So here's a warm handshake for you from your e-aquaintance. I respect the personal space of others....

Cloudia said...

Warm Aloha from Waikiki, Jo

Comfort Spiral
><}}(°>

Marguerite said...

Well, you'd better brace yourself if you ever come to Cajun country, Jo! This has to be the friendliest place on the planet! Everyone here calls everyone cher and baby and dances with friends and strangers alike! And, you will also likely get the "Cajun hello" from most everyone you meet, which is a light hug and a pat on the back. It's all very innocent, but genuine. And the best part is that you're likely to get invited over for dinner or to a party, too! Cheers!

jblack designs said...

I like you just the way you are, Jo. Maybe because I'm just like you. ;-)

It's our culture (and by our I mean Western) these days. I, too, remember when everyone was Mr. or Mrs. Now students walk in and call me Jennifer without batting an eye.

Another odd quirk of our familiarity stage is students' referring to authors by their first names. A student even referred to Stephen King as Steve in an essay I read last week.

As if they were BFF or something.

Firefly said...

I agree with you as well. I tend to stand back a bit longer till I know the person better. I don't have a lot of friends cause I don't always get put much what with small kids and all, but I do have a lot of friends on FB and other social networks. For me FB is more a way to stay in touch with old friends who you may never have the opportunity to have stayed in touch with before. Also good for networking.

Elise said...

Oh Jo I do so love John Singer Sargent, thanks for sharing the picture! I think instant familiarity is becoming a very common thing, it is growing as quickly as the fake personality and unfortunately they go hand in hand often. I think I am somewhere in the middle, I am very talkative and will talk to anyone about anything, but I don't want you to hug me and call me sweetie if we have just met.

twebsterarmstrong said...

Interesting observation! I, too, was raised to address people as Mr. & Mrs. We raised our kids the same way.

DJan said...

The only person I hug on a regular basis is my husband. I am a sociable person but hugging seems a little bit too familiar to me. I call everyone by their first name and have 260 "friends" on Facebook, but mostly they are acquaintances that I like to keep tabs on. You are genteel, Jo, and it fits you.

scarlethue said...

He's one of my favorite painters too. Something so intimate about his style... it just draws you in. I think only true art lovers see it though. :)

Brenda said...

I really don't mind hugs from people I don't know very well. Just depends on the situation I guess. The "type" of hugs people give really bothers me sometimes. I don't like air hugs or air kisses. If you want to hug me it has to be a real hug.
But I really agree with you about all this BFF stuff. That is just goofy.

Nezzy said...

Turn around sister and see all who are followin' ya. Heeehehehe!

I so understand. I am one who makes friends easily and have many friends but only a few have entered my good friend list. I'm just a little picky and I too want that deeper level before I open that last door.

Ya'll have a wonderfully blessed day sweetie!! (well, would ya look...there I go. I just the terms sweetie, honey, baby, darlin' like there chocolate about to be outdated!) Heeehehehe!!!

VioletSky said...

I rather like the formality of addressing your elders as Mr and Mrs (or better, Ms). Though, sometimes it can go a little too far. I remember the shock of discovering my aunt and her neighbour who were always Mrs McKay and Mrs Findlay, had lived next door to each for 40 years! I don't belive we ever really know Mrs McKay first name until she died.

Paula Slade said...

John Singer Sargent is one of my favorite painters too. At the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston they have a handful of individual portraits of Mrs. Stewart that are beautiful. Also, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has a marvelous collection of his works covering some paintings, charcoals, watercolors, graphite sketches and even sculptures that you might enjoy. You can view them all online.

As far as "instant familiarity," I am in total agreement with you - it takes me time to get to know someone, and I'm always amazed about instant friendships that haven't weathered the test of time.

Sniffles and Smiles said...

You are wonderful just as you are! Be you, and that's all that matters! ~Janine XO

Charles Gramlich said...

It's been the custom in Louisiana since I arrived for people to hug you right up front when they first meet you. It drives me crazy.

Russell said...

Interesting post. I have not read the previous 24 people's comments but it appears you have struck a chord.

I am not - by any stretch of the most vivid imagination - a huggy person or someone who gets instantly close to someone else. The people I work with and even my own family will be quick to tell you that!

This best friends forever or whatever the hell nonsense that is makes no sense to me. I am sure it is meant in an endearing manner and that is nice.

I have many acquantainces but few friends. Of that select number, even less are who I would call close friends.

I always have to laugh when someone wins a contest and gets to invite 25 of their closest friends to a restaurant or whatever. I think to myself if I won such a contest, well ..... heh! Let's say there would be a lot of empty chairs!

Linda Myers said...

I am a hugger but usually with a new person I ask if they're one too before doing the deed.

My grandchildren decided to call me Grandma Linda. When they were about nine they started calling me Grandma instead and I thought, "Now THAT'S a good thing!"

I have about 170 Facebook friends. I know every one of them from sometime in my life, and I want to keep in touch. If I don't, I don't accept the Friend offering.

Handshakes are also good when meeting someone new. Physical touch, but not too much, you know.