The DNA of Friendship

What exactly is friendship? How do you realize if someone is a real friend or just an acquaintance? And what about our so-called friends in the virtual world?

Friendship has to be cared for. Often, friendship is complicated and means work. Even for couples it is tough to survive crisis, but friends don’t even have reasons to stick together, reasons like children, houses, … Well, I could go on like this, but would it bring me closer to understanding friendship?

Once, I heard a woman tell her son that he needed several friends so that he has at least one for each thing. One for laughter, one for working on the bike, one for hiking, … It irritated me because it sounded as if a partnership of convenience was meant. But maybe I was expecting too much when I wanted a friend to be someone with whom I could do all of this?

Years later, that same woman asked me why our friendship would mean something to me, and believe me, I was speechless at first because to me this question sounded as if she would have to do something so that I find her convenient. My truthful answer was simple. I said „I like you“ (mind Germans are shy to say “love”). She looked at me and answered, this would not be enough.

I guess we can all agree, that to like or even love each other is the basis. But then, we have to maintain that fragile creation. Therefore, one has to show oneself, let the other one get closer. We have to share moments, good and bad, even overcome difficulties together. And maybe, friendship has a lot to do with what we want to and what we can give.

So, what is the purpose if we need one? Couldn’t it be solidarity? A special team spirit? To stand back to back even if the whole world attacks, without ever fearing stab wound? Strengthening? Limitless, unshakable trust? Reliability? And truthfulness? Which implies to choose to spit out the bitter truth and not the gentle lie, even to disappoint if need be, but also to bear the other one’s anger and hurt.

A friend is someone who loves you although he knows who you are. Someone with whom you can be all you are, rough edges, sometimes blurred contours and a bucket of shortcomings included. Someone with whom we can heave a sigh of relief, stop for a moment in a much too fast moving world.

But how can we measure if all this is there? If giving and taking are in harmony? If we really trust? If we are always honest with each other? If we can be ourselves together, right here and now, in our true skin, with all our colors? If we are real friends?

„You will know your true friends when you are in trouble“, my mother said. Is this the truth? That true friendship means to bear things together? That would be so unspectacular, so not at all glamorous and last but not least infinitely heavy in its state of helplessness. You cannot shine and twinkle just by being there, by not recoiling from anything, you cannot pride yourself with it, puff yourself up. This service of friendship is a silent one, nondescript, but maybe the biggest because it means the other one is not left alone in the dark.

The one who does not run away in crisis, not averts the gaze if horror positions itself in front, still holds the hand of the fallen one and never lets go, this is the one with whom – at least I – can truthfully laugh, cry, steal horses, be myself, bear…. All of this, and then some.

And then, while working on this article (which took me awhile) new friendships were floating into my life, kind of from outer space. And I have to ask to myself, now what about virtual friendship? Does this exist? Can people become friends when you don’t meet them eye to eye but word to word?

The answer is easy though lots of people for sure disagree, but mine is a very sure YES, loud and clear. And there’s more to it than the fact that we share our life, our feelings, and give our bravos to babies born as well as our condolences to loved-ones lost, and I’ll tell you why.

I met them on Twitter and Facebook because we share an interest. It’s like we are all at a party in Patricia Cornwell’s house, but she’s the hostess. She mixes among her guests and keeps tabs on our conversations. We talk about all and everything, getting right to the important matters at once. We are not distracted by trying to impress each other with how we look or dress, and we don’t have to pretend. In the wide space of the web where we can appear and disappear there seems to be no need to show off, not so much fear to get hurt, so that one can easily show oneself with all colors one has. We like, even love each other or not. We care for each other in a way that still amazes me every day.

Each of us can detect in the wording how the other one is, each reacts to it. We are honest to the bone. No one too shy to say „I love you, snot and all“ when one caught a cold, no one too proud to admit „I had a shitty day, I am not well, my heart is broken.“
The Twitter timeline can be quiet like death, but if one tweets feeling, the others are there with support. We laugh, we cry, we hold each others hands. We discuss, we disagree, but we are always kind.

And obviously it is more than that one interest we share. We have more in common, more than our commitment to truthfulness in 140 characters.
We are spread across the globe, we say Good Morning and Good Night in one tweet.
We share sun, moon and stars. We live under the same sky.
And while for lots in the „real“ world a breath between them can be miles, we choose differently.
In our very real „virtual“ world the miles between us are no more than a breath.

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