Friendship… there are many kinds… I have friends of many years who I met at school or university, through my work, through my family, social circles, activities and of course, those who I have made in the digital space.
Can someone you have never actually met become a friend? I have found that yes, it is possible to build a great friendship that way. Before the Internet, there were pen friends. If you are old enough — maybe you can remember being encouraged to engage with a pen friend from another country when you were in school? This was a great way for an educator to make her students aware of other cultures and countries and to engage and interact with an individual from a radically different, and interesting, background. If you are one of my younger readers: yes, that actually used to something commonly done — reaching out to an overseas connection by snail mail!
Now we have Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media platforms through which we can connect quickly and easily with anyone anywhere in the world. We can find those who share our interests and they can find us. We can extend our network exponentially with a few clicks. And sometimes, a virtual connection turns into a friendship.
I posted on my Aghy’s World Facebook page the other day: ‘Friendship is like sewing. Making strong stitches takes time and needs attention. But then it lasts long, hopefully forever’ (a wisdom by my 9 years old son).
Irrespective of where we sow the seeds of friendship, it takes time and attention to build the kind of relationship that will stand the test of time. Stitch by stitch we gradually cobble together something meaningful and fulfilling which forms the fabric of that friendship.
Where and how we first connected with a particular friend becomes immaterial. It could have started as a casual chat waiting at the school gate with another mom; as a business connection or through a social or sporting scene.
To me the same rules apply to a friendship wherever it stemmed from and whatever space I get to meet up with my friends and that includes the digital space. By rules I mean my interpretation of what friendship means: respect, confidentiality, interest, empathy and understanding. What was sown on common ground, often blossoms into diverse and new areas. Friendships expand our experiences and understanding as we build them: stitch by stitch. They’re worth every bit of time and effort. For what we sow, we reap.