Ah, friendship: the thing that all humans* need in order to have happy, fulfilling lives. An awesome person who reads my blog sent me an interesting article about the different types of friends you encounter throughout your life, and he rightly stated that it would give me ideas for quite a few blogs. The article was fairly long, so it’s taken me a long time to ponder it and come up with some (rambling) thoughts on friendship. (There will most likely be a sequel to this post. I don’t want to make it too long.)
First, I have only one real-life friend. If you count relatives and people I only speak with online, then I have a lot of friends. I was never a very popular person in high school or college, so I didn’t have tons of friends there either, but I can honestly say that throughout my life, I have had friends in all the categories listed in the article, except perhaps the “historical friend” because I’m not in touch with anyone I knew from childhood.
In this strange age of social media, it seems like many friendships are superficial and conducted only online, so that makes me think about what the true definition of friendship is. Of course, there are different degrees and types of friendship, as the article points out, but what is the bare minimum requirement for being considered someone’s “friend”?
I would think that a friend is someone you talk to about things you have in common. A friend is someone you like and enjoy spending time with. By that very basic definition, I would consider my coworkers my friends. They’re an interesting group of people, they’re all grammar Nazis like me, and they’re good to spend time with. But at the same time, I wouldn’t necessarily want to spend time with them outside of work, probably because the “trust” and “intimacy” elements aren’t there. A deeper friendship is one in which you can share more personal aspects of your life. At work, it feels awkward to do that.
I’d say that online friendships can fall into that same category. You have things in common with your online pals, and you enjoy spending time with them, whether that’s by reading their emails, communicating with them on forums, or sending them instant messages on Skype or TeamSpeak. But you may not want to ever meet them in real life because, again, those deeper friendship elements are not there. Sure, they can eventually develop over time, and that happens often, but it seems like the majority of your online friends remain your friends only online and don’t get closer than that.
I’m going to stop this post here because it’s starting to get too long. So what about you? How do you define what a friend is?
*Unless you’re a sociopath.