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Lonely Bytes and Social Bugs: Life’s Code with a Cascade of No Friends


What do you call a person with no friends? Friendless? This sounds like a moral deficit. Orphan friend? Suddenly, I am reminded of the cascade all delete-orphan command which basically says that once the parent relationship ends, the child dissociates from the parent or else the relation faces errors. I suppose we all are these cascade all delete-orphan commands. But with legs and a plan for life.

I am a shy introvert — a deadly combination. As deadly as Coke with Mentos; I never tried it because fear is a great antidote to curiosity. The first time I made friends, I was already learning that beauty was a function of boys’ attention. Or so my friend had convinced me. In her defence, she was learning it from television and what’s the point of knowledge if not shared? She would tell me about all the boys waiting for her because she was pretty. We were in class 3, I don’t want any eye rolls because we were kids and we believed that the world had to revolve around us, or at least the boys. I would carry her and G’s water bottles because they were busy walking ahead of me hand in hand, while I trotted slowly. Cascade delete-orphan.

I grew up, changed schools and ended up in a class which had more students than in my previous school’s two classes combined. I was terrified. But I believed in my capability to make friends. All I had to do was carry their water bottles.

But now in my late twenties, it doesn’t really make sense to carry water bottles anymore. Adults seem to confuse me. Maybe I am willing to hold that beer glass for you if given a chance. Perhaps I can cry along with you if you tell me about your recent heartbreak or we can bicker about how bad your job is once the January cold passes and the furious hot air starts replacing your peace of mind. I know nothing about friendships let alone keeping them.

In this new age of the internet, where laughter is a function of emojis and love is simply a meme shared, I have met so many strangers online that I have lost count. One such friend was M. She was a great friend, I had earlier believed and we shared everything, her bickering about her friends and my disinterest in life. I didn’t know how compatibility issues arose in friendships that were made online. I have always believed that I am compatible with online strangers since it doesn’t need any interaction and I can be whoever I want to be — this is only a far-fetched, temporary dream.

M suddenly stopped talking after being friends for almost two years, without any reason or explanation. In her defence, I had always believed the day would come. In this Gen-Z age of ghosting people, who were I to not be affected by it? I texted her, like an angry lover and she simply said she didn’t have the capacity. I am left pondering over what capacity means in today’s friendship scenario. Is it the constant need for attention that I needed too, or is it the phone calls, long paragraphs of texts about how things will be okay or is it simply the fact that one stops caring after one’s needs are met? I don’t have the capacity to be human. But we carry forward relationships, sometimes out of pure horror of having to explain what made us leave people in the first place.

I have had very interesting experiences, some kinder ones. A stranger once shared a link to a book with me that I desperately wanted to read while another sent me a post about how things will be okay in the long run. Even when the meaning of friendships has changed over the years, the central emotion remains the same — I saw you struggle, so here I am with my calloused hands ready to gift you your favourite wind chimes. Maybe someday the winds will be in our favour, and then we can hear the music together. These online friendships make the cascade-a-delete-orphan a little bit understandable. Losing M was one. I still wonder what happens to relationships that are orphaned and stay just in memories. Our computers keep memory in check by assigning as little possible space to junk. I guess human brains don’t work that way. Given our brains are dominated primarily by memories, I think it makes sense that online friendships leave as long-lasting an impact as offline ones. It is funny now that friendships are referred to as online or offline.

Now the only question that bothers me is how do you make a friend anyway? Do you look at a passer-by, smile just for them to be apprehensive of your innocent intentions and tell them about this idea of how you both would make great friends? In a world like ours, friendships are digitalized. I miss you, but as long as you don’t call me. I hope we meet soon, but just make sure to never visit my city. Let’s plan a trip and wish secretly for the plans to fail. What exactly is friendship?

I know my father has sustained friendships like injuries. He still talks to the people he met in college, went to Pune with, or Chamba or Kullu, or any corner of Himachal. He still laughs with the friends he saw getting married, who would awkwardly pose for their marriage photographs. My father has seen it all.

But my mother has never been keen on keeping friendships. She had one friend in her entire life who eventually left and then P maasi was never heard of again in her stories. I remember my mother running in the fields of her grandmother’s place, believing that the men in uniform were there to catch them. I think this is the fondest memory of her.
I get it from you, Maa, I tell her teasingly. Mother’s hurt is children’s inherited pride. A burdensome pride.

My father talks gently about his friends. “People get old. They lose themselves in their own little worlds. We have to keep them close. What else is the difference, then, between us and time? We are here to stay,” he says. And like any other daughter pretending to be rebellious, I roll my eyes. “ You don’t know how today’s friendships are. They are complex,” to which he laughs. My father’s ability to keep a friendship and my mother’s indifference towards losing a friend has led to a child who cannot keep the friends she loves for a long period of time.

My shrink blames it on Borderline Personality Disorder. A glitch in cognitive thoughts. I was made flawed. My brain, a haywire of all the relationships I couldn’t keep. I don’t tell him about my parents or the dichotomy of how they navigate through the world of relationships. He prescribes me every alternative of Prozac to keep my emotions in control. But adult friendships have no disclaimers to them. They are ruthless, even to the ones suffering.

I once called a friend I had made online. He loved cats. Shared interests make good friends, says one of the boring articles on the internet about how to make friends. The phone keeps ringing until he picks it up on the last ring. Chirpy, I say hi but with triple i’s because happiness is a matter of repeating letters.


His response is nonchalant and my heart breaks. After I try to keep the conversation alive, he suddenly interrupts and asks me to not call him again. I never call him or any other friend. The Hiiiii’s have turned to Hi and there are no more succeeding alphabets I kept specifically for certain people.

I guess people don’t notice the use of punctuation in my texts. I don’t use it, but when I do, I mean it like it sounds. A firm end. With no chance of extending the conversation further. But you don’t say it out loud when you meet people. By “meet” I mean two people, face to face, smiling, making eye contact, avoiding it, and then ordering a coffee or perhaps ginger lemon tea and wondering where to start. It naturally starts with a “Hey, have you read Harry Potter?” I have never liked it. I am immediately disqualified to be a potential friend for that person and it remains so for the rest of my little stint through college.

Sometimes, I think there should be version control management for humans too. Versions where I was once happy, danced like a lunatic, ate as if hunger was the sole feeling I had known. Versions where I lost friends. I didn’t get to know when I became so lonely, seeking validation from strangers who would never even attend my funeral. My shrink calls it attention-seeking rather blatantly. I don’t agree. But I have no other comebacks but to nod politely. A rebellious patient is an unlikable patient and I want to impress my doctor too.

In today’s time when the only calls I get are from potential frauds and scams, I have forgotten the ringtone of my phone. I mean the usual tring-tring is silenced by the vibration of a reminder that someone called but not long enough to wait for me to answer. Loneliness has seeped into our bones. I believe I am as fluid as loneliness. I think we are osmotic that way. Isn’t it how every syringe takes out blood from a patient awaiting diagnosis?

DSM-V doesn’t take friendlessness as a potential symptom of loneliness.

Loneliness is equivalent to smoking 10 cigarettes per day which makes sense because nothing deprives our lungs like a lack of faithful friendships. It’s asphyxiation but in a friendly way.

It is loneliness but in an I-have-friends-I-can-never-talk-to way. I believe in the sunk cost fallacy. Perhaps this is the reason for my illness which isn’t even a disease but just an underdeveloped personality, which my shrink likes to put as “stunted emotional growth” (indirectly). I know the hints and the hidden meanings, which proves his point further. But in a world driven madly by ambitions where exactly do you find friends willing to spare some time for you?

The theory of consciousness states that we all are conscious beings with subconscious thoughts which is a prettified way of saying that we all are unaware of our stupidities. Perhaps, that is where the friendships form. In goofiness. In nonsensical ways of looking at the world. Cascade all delete orphan.

What do you call someone with no friends? You don’t label them. They label it for themselves and drift through the rest of their lives believing that they were oddly fitted into this organized world. They die young. What do you call someone with no friends? Friendend? This sounds like death. Perhaps it is.

Bharti is a poet from Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, India. She loves cats, dogs and poetry.

Instagram: @useless_thought25