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Saturday, February 18, 2006

Too Many Friends Syndrom?

I have stumbled upon a problem lately that I was hoping I wouldn't have.

It began with instant messaging. Whenever I would sign on, I would get (on average) 10-15 people talking to me. 2-3 were usually from real life, 5-6 were from forums, and the rest were from cons or other places wherein I had usually met the person in real life once. It usually took about 10 minutes of start-up time, and then another 10-15 to say goodbye to everyone when I was done chatting. This got on my parents' respective nerves, because I couldn't just pick up and go whenever they wanted to do something. However, it was a lot of fun for me, so I stayed online 85% of the summer following my senior year in high school.

Then college came. I was online a lot less, since I now had classes, and other things to do. By week 5 or 6 at Purdue, I had enough friends and appointments that I rarely had enough time to get online for more than a few minutes before bed. This started pissing my online crew off. Most people started saying guilt-trippy things like "You never talk to me any more!" or "You should get online more often..." I responded with a simple statement: "You can always call or email me." Only 2 of about 50 people on my IM buddy list ever took the trouble to email me, and those have mostly disappeared by now. But, because opening any IM program got to be such a damn pain, I decided screw it, IM is not that important to me. So now (and for the last year or two), I don't use instant messenging programs at all.

Now the problem has spread, and it's started taking over my phone. I try to call my family once a week, usually for 45 minutes to an hour per family member. Since my immediate family lives in 3 different houses, that's 3 calls (and potentially 3 hours or more) per week. It's a pretty good amount of time to try and devote to a home one to two thousand miles away. I really want to keep a close relationship with my family, so I consider the time more than worth the investment.

However, now I'm getting some other calls once or twice a week, where people call "just to talk." There are a couple friends from in and out of state that like to talk, and now it's getting to be another 3-4 people that expect calls once a week or more for an hour or so at a time. And I hate to say it, but I just don't have time for it, and now I'm waking up with a message on my phone asking me to call someone. Having an hour free to talk on the phone comes once or twice a week at most, so as much as I want to, I cannot keep up with everyone. And sorry, but unless I have a bad crush on someone (which right now isn't true of anyone), I cannot afford to prioritize phone conversations for out-of-state friends over actual face-to-face meetings with local friends.

So, what can I do about this situation? Getting rid of IM has been kind of a pain in the past (everyone at cons always asks for my IM, and even local friends use it to arrange meetings). Getting rid of it seemed to be a darn good bandaid on my problem, but it appears to have not solved it. So what options does that leave me?
  1. Institute a rule: you can only talk to me online or on the phone if you have met me in real life, and/or can do so in the next 3-6 months.
  2. Just start ignoring the people I don't have time for...
  3. Stop being so damn nice to people in the first place. If I make fewer friends, then this stops being a problem.
Honestly, I hate all these solutions. The solution I would like to have would be a 30-hour day. But since that's not going to happen, I need to come up with something so I don't have to get stressed about failing to connect with all the people who want to connect with me.

If anyone else has this problem, or has some tips for dealing with it, please drop a comment.

Additional Comment: Maybe this just means I am failing horribly at time management, rather than failing to implement commitment management. Maybe I should work on Getting Things Done.

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Nightflurry said...

Want to trade places for awhile? :P I could use a few RL friends right now, since all the ones I have area bout 45 minutes north, which get's super annoying since I see them like.. once or twice a month.

But seriously. I won't make anymore phonecalls if that would help.

2/18/2006  
Blogger Agius said...

Again, I don't want it to come to that. Maybe we could just say once a week, or maybe we could say I'll call you, or something else. I mostly wrote this to try and come up with some better ideas - we'll see if my crowds of raving fans (ha!) have any better ideas than my original ones. =^.^=

2/19/2006  
Anonymous GrapeRoad said...

The simple solution is to kill every 3rd friend you have.

2/19/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Archmagus,

The problem is not that you don't manage well, you do. You are a popular guy who cares a lot of about others' feelings and you don't like the idea of them being hurt or mad at you. Yet, since the laws of physics and 24-hour days still applies, you can't possibly find the time to keep all of them happy all the time. Good for you for wanting to.

Solutions: admit that not everyone gets to be on the "front burner" of your life, nor anyone elses. We have friends and family and then there are acquantancies. Acquantants just don't get the kind of time friends and family do. Virtual friends should never get the time of "real 3d friends" that's would be just sick.

Solution: admit there are limits and that some people will get pissy and pushy and eventually go away. That's okay, probably not people you want to have in your life. So let people move themselves out by themselves--be like the Tao "do nothing but let nature take its course." Second step, don't be so free with your emails, IMS, and phone number. Save them for the people who matter.

All-in-all, I envy your problem. I've never had to struggle with this much popularity. You sound like a really wonderful guy.

Zhan

2/21/2006  

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