I started thinking about friendship the other day. People often tease me about my “internet” friends or “digital” friends.
Are they less than?
To explore this topic, let’s go to the beginning.
In early childhood, you may have friends because your moms hang out. You may be in the same class. You may live on the same street.
Proximity and convenience are the the kick starters to most, if not all, childhood friendships. Whether or not they continue throughout life has more to do with how each person values themselves, their time invested in the friendship, and the time it would take to continue. We grow up, move away, and move on.
Fortunately, Facebook has allowed many of these childhood friendships to reignite or die of malnutrition.
Let’s come back.
Early Adult Friendships
Early adult friendships begin because you’re college roommates, co-workers, or you know a friend-of-a-friend. Maybe a group all went to a music festival, camping trip, or toured Europe together. Those friendships usually continue until some or all get married.
As you age and pass other milestones, you develop your own habits, likes, and interests. You develop friendships with people who are in your modern art class, spin class, or photography club.
You may get married and meet other couples. You become friends and make playdates with other new moms in your MOPS group. Maybe your kids even become friends (full circle).
All acquaintanceships and friendships start because of convenience. I’m convinced of that. Again, whether it continues is a factor of the growing trust factor between you, intimacy, and mutual enjoyment.
In the Venn Diagrams of you and your friends, how much overlap is there? Maybe there’s a lot. The glue to friendships is mutual respect. I have many friends with whom I share little of my core beliefs and others who share a lot.
What do I mean? As a Christian who is a Bible teacher and worship leader, there are few who I trust with the deepest part of my soul. Yet, they may not share my interest in writing, social media, or photography. You’re never going to fully align with everyone. This means you will disagree. How you handle the disagreements will determine the lifespan of your friendship.
“There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.” ~ Thomas Aquinas
“One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.” ~ Lucius Annaeus Seneca
“Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .’” ~ C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
The digital age allows us to both meet new people and to keep friendships alive. There are many naysayers who believe this is a false sense of friendship. Perhaps, many are not true friends; I would agree.
However, to totally discount the ability to start, nurture, and grow a friendship online is to discount the human experience.
For many, networks like Twitter have erased the confines of geography. No longer are we only friends with people who sit next to us at work, live in our apartment building, or go to our gym. We have the ability to connect with people who share the same interests, experiences, and even suffering.
I’m resisting the impulse to anecdotally compose my case for online friendships but suffice it to say, that in many cases, my online friends rival those I’ve met in person.
What about you? How do you define friendship?
“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn, Is just to love and be loved in return” Eden Ahbez in his song “Nature Boy“