On Defining Friendship

I want friends just as much as the next person.

But, I’ve been generally unsure of how to make them and what they “consist” of over the course of my short 4-decade-old life.

In my youth I believed that friendships were just something that “worked out” and that you didn’t have to do much to build and keep them. This wasn’t necessarily a naïve perspective but just an ignorant one.

As time progressed (and as I got imminently older) I realized that there was more science to the art of making friends and, perhaps, less “art” — I think I’ve been wrong about that though.

When I first started this new-ish project a little over two years ago, I had a firmly-cemented perspective of what I believed friendship was and how it worked and how to make them (if I needed more).

But now, things have radically changed as the number of “friends” that I have is consistently growing — and I can’t seem to stop it. This is both frightening and also incredibly satisfying.

[I mean, who wouldn’t want to have more friends?]

Recently, a long-time friend (from afar) wrote this note that melted my heart down to the core:

So does all of this mean John and I are “friends”? My definition or at least one of the main criteria – having met in person – would say NO.

However I would like to amend my understanding and say that we are through various interactions over the past 8 years.

You may not agree with me and perhaps John might not agree either, but I know that I am a better person for knowing him and look forward to what the future holds.

Mark Vermeer

Posts like these challenge me to think wildly-different about friendships and how they are really, honestly, put together online.

You see, the ideas of friendship and making / keeping friends is something that everyone thinks about but very few people actually talk about; I try to do my part by surfacing these topics on my blog from time to time.

Here’s a thought: When was the last time you sat down with a good friend and actually talked about the actual dynamics of your friendship? Actually talked about the history of how you two came to be friends and how that relationship has evolved over time?

[Try that this week with a good friend: Take them out to coffee or a meal and ask them if they’d be open to deep-diving into the history of how your relationship was really built and what it has meant to you.]

I’ve used Aristotle’s model as a helpful yardstick and/or barometer and I’ve actually spent the better part of the last 4+ years trying a number of experiments here in San Francisco, especially since I effectively cold-started my network from scratch when I first landed here in 2015.

But now, I’m thinking about friendship differently, more broadly perhaps. I think friendship and the qualities of friendship is boundless — in other words, I’m not sure if there is any really good definition of what friendship is and what it can or should be.

And, at the very least, I’m beginning to deconstruct my own beliefs around how friendships and how they are fundamentally built.

I’m enjoying the process immensely and I’m so grateful for an “expanding” universe of friends around the entire world who bring meaning to my life and a ton of personal joy and satisfaction.

What a blessing it is to live in these times and I can’t wait for my definition of friendship, once again, to be challenged, to be broken, to be fixed and mended, to be fought over and won (and lost).

I don’t mind the process as long as I get to do it with you.