Friends loosely

What is a friend?

Seems a simple enough question, but in this age of FaceBook, Twitter, and all the rest, the word itself is getting a lot of use. Use that some people say is not appropriate.

I got started thinking down this line a couple of weeks ago when I heard a reporter on NPR refer to a group of people as “friends, loosely“. I forget the exact context, but basically it was a face-to-face gathering of people from around the country who only “knew” (the reporter’s quotes, not mine) each other online. The implication, and obvious bias, from the reporter was that these people weren’t really friends.

I mean, think about it. How could they possibly be friends if they had never actually met, in person?

Never mind that these people shared a common passion, that they knew as much about each other as they did any other “real” friend, that they communicated with each other on an almost constant basis. They congratulate each other on anniversaries and birthdays, weddings and the birth of children and grandchildren. And when someone in the group needs help, or just someone to talk to, the rest of the group is there.

More recently I’ve heard the terms e-friend and i-friend. Do we really need those distinctions? Maybe they are useful, like college-friend or childhood-friend, to provide a little bit of context. In the end, though, I don’t think it matters where you met, or how you got to know each other.

A friend is a friend.