what does friendship mean in 2014?
If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends. Make it last forever, friendship never ends… except it does.
Some lucky people still have their childhood friends; they shared birthday parties, secrets, experimental first kisses and somehow didn't end up two completely different people. Back then you wore your half of a best friend necklace with pride and everybody knew you as a pair. You'd call their home phone each night, have a sleepover every weekend and grow up thinking that you'd be BFFs. And while maybe you have one of the few special friendships that actually stood the test of time, a forced friendship is no friendship at all. Some are best left lost but not forgotten.
As you get a little older, you and your high-school friends see in your teenage years together, get drunk together and plan to escape your small town and move to the big city together. You're convinced that your future lives will be a constant episode of FRIENDS but it probably won't because their lives are scripted/hilarious and yours aren't. Or perhaps you'll live life like The Hills, and somehow all rent somewhere fabulous as you intern and slowly rise to fame together like the stars you're bound to be. I mean, your friendship group has a name and you pretty much invented your own language, so there's no doubting the fact that you're awesome.
But this is no longer 2006. Times have changed and you probably lost that broken heart necklace years ago. Today friendships work a little differently. Uni happened and with it a whole new set of friends - friends you lived with, friends you partied with and a different set of friends for each social network. You usually end up hating your flatmates and the party people are often not your regular friends. They're selected for their fun factor and their ability to source all the best events. You probably haven't even seen your 'going out friends' sober before. Maybe they're no fun sober? Maybe you're not?! Sometimes 'friends' aren't really friends at all. More often than not they're just people you met once and decided you ought to be connected to so found each other on socials only to wonder who the hell they are next time they pop up in your feed. You certainly aren't bothered about seeing them again and don't actually remember their real name because their nom d'instagram is cryptic as hell.
Like a #tbt to myspace, we have developed whole networks of solely online friends. Having followed each other on instagram because you both look like you lead interesting lives, you'll feel more and more like friends with each 'like'. The relationship might eventually lead to comments, and if you really hit if off, maybe you'll follow each other on twitter too. If you ever see your online friend IRL it would be far too awkward to approach them and say hi, besides, they might not recognise you. You decide it would be much safer to keep things strictly digital. Side note: thank god the dreaded Top 8 is no more! Gone are the days that you were forced to publically rate which friends you liked most that week. Gone are the nights spent crying because you mysteriously vanished from someone else's for no reason whatsoever.
But social networks are brilliant for maintaining real friendships too, particularly the long distance friendship - arguably one of the greatest and most useful varieties. Maybe you met this lot during your year abroad in Paris, on a beach in Thailand, or when you volunteered at that school in Cambodia. Either way, they were great real life friends (whether for a month or a year) and thanks to the beauty of the internet, they still are. A mutual understanding means that an underused whatsapp group/forgotten skype date/bi-annual visit is enough. All parties accept that the others are super busy (and thousands of miles apart) and love each other unconditionally none the less. There'll always be a sofa to crash on, stories to share and lost time to catch up on when you're next in the same country. Thanks technology!
While we might watch teen movies and miss the idea of lounging on our beds, flicking through magazines and bitching to our friends on the phone for hours at a time, in reality this wouldn't work out. Other than your parents and occasionally EDF Energy to sort that dodgy bill out, do you even call anyone these days? I know an awful lot of people who consider phone conversations anxiety-inducing affairs, things best avoided at all costs. Even worse than face-to-face conversation, you're forced to think things up right there on the spot, with no facial signals to read, no time to construct something witty and certainly no emojis to help express your true feelings. "I don't like talking to people on phones…" actress Emily Browning told me the other day. "But when I write a text message, I'm a fucking genius!" Damn straight Emily. Only our very closest friends manage to traverse the life/digital barrier - maybe you work with these guys, maybe you studied with them - whatever the deal is, you can tell them all about that weird lump, your heartache over the death of the family pet and full details of the amazing sex you had last night. Besties Jourdan Dunn and Karlie Kloss (aka Jourlie) know all about this. "I have found my best friend, sister and soul mate," Karlie beamed. "I don't know anyone else in the world so lucky!" If you too have found your special someone, you'll probably want to hang all the time but find that because of your busy grown-up lives and the sheer size of the world, such exciting conversations frequently take place via text or g-chat.
Will life continue this way? Sure, we're social beings, but if modern friendship carries on down this route, where will it leave society? After all, it's tough speaking to people for real and nothing quite beats the feeling you get when those instahearts start rolling in. Will electronic stimuli slowly replace the joys of human contact and drive all friendships online? It certainly looks that way. The likes of Aristotle said that good friendships are essential to our happiness, so does this mean that we'll be forever sad and lonely? If this leaves you feeling a bit down, don't worry because as Mariah Carey once told us, anytime you need a friend, I will be here. You'll never be alone again, so don't you fear.
Text Francesca Dunn