Friends: Social networks vs. real life

“We be of one blood, ye and I” (“Mawgli”, Rudyard Kipling)

Nowadays, the term “friend” is used rather loosely. We refer to all those hundreds of people with whom we connect via social networks as “friends”. In general, the English word “friend” is fairly frequently used to call somebody who is a mere acquaintance. In this sense, I like the “gradation” that exists in the Russian language: you call somebody a friend (“droug“) if you are really “of the same blood”, if there is a deep connection. Then you have “priyatel“, which is translated into English also as a “friend”, yet in the Russian language this word has a different connotation than “droug“.  You would say “priyatel” about somebody with whom you occasionally spend time, who is a nice guy or gal, but the connection you have is less strong than with “droug”. After that comes “horoshij znakomij” (good acquaintance) and “znakomij” (acquaintance). Thus, following this logic the majority of social network “friends” are actually mere acquaintances (if at all).

But who are friends actually? Are these people whom we know very good? Are these people that share our vision of the world? Do we call somebody a friend if we meet up on a regular basis? Can we be friends if we only met a couple of times in real life? In general, how fast do we call somebody a friend? Does it take a day, a week, a month or a year, or can you connect instantaneously? Are your friends people like you, people whose lives resemble yours, or can you be friends with somebody completely different?

If I think about my circle of friends, I see some interesting things. I have a completely different life perspective from that of my best friend. We disagree on almost everything. However, she is my best friend, full-stop (I love you, Irishka!) I have a friend with whom I connected immediately, after the first talk we both knew that this relationship will last. Like love at first sight in a sense. I have a friend who only became one after a while. We first got to know each other, we took it slow, but eventually both of us understood that we grew into each other. Some people whom I call friends resemble me, some others don’t. The funniest part is that sometimes the only thing my friends have in common – is me. I tried a couple of times to bring some of them together, but that was not really a big success. Since they come from different stages of my life they are all very different people. The only “trait” all of them have in common is that I can count on them (and vice versa).

Should you meet on a regular basis to be friends? I live in Belgium, I have friends back in Latvia, in the UK, in the US, in Belarus, in some other countries around the world, meaning that we actually don’t see each other on a regular basis. Also not with people in Belgium, because we don’t live in the same city. We do keep in touch though. This is an important aspect to keep the relationship alive – that “touch” part. And here it is not about the quantity, it is about the quality. It is about truly caring about a person, about knowing what’s important for him or her, about putting in some effort, about being there for him or her when it’s needed. However, there are actually no magic recipes that fit everybody…

The more I think about it, the more I am actually convinced that with getting friends it is in essence the same as with falling in love. It is all about that special chemistry you have with a person, irrespective of any criteria whatsoever. Maybe the only thing that is universal is that like with any relationship, friendship requires some effort from both parties. But true friends are worth any effort!

What do you think? Do you have a lot of people you call friends? How did you become friends? How do you keep that “flame” of friendship alive, especially if you currently live in different countries?

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