Thanks to social networks, the concept of “friendship” has become so blurred that we can hardly define it. For example, are those whom we have known since childhood but now see once a year still friends? And what about the colleagues with whom we enjoy spending time after work? And those with whom we have never met in person, although we poured our hearts out in correspondence? For many years scholars have been trying to explain and describe the mechanisms of friendship. Nevertheless, any close relationship is, in some sense, magic, a successful combination of circumstances and mutual interest. 

The way we communicate and make friends today has been greatly influenced by social media and various messengers. It is already difficult for millennials to imagine what it would be like to maintain a friendship without the ability to follow each other on Instagram. Phone calls are considered almost bad manners, but messages, videos, emoji or stickers pour in a continuous stream at us.

Digital communication, of course, has its advantages: we can initiate or continue a conversation at any time (even at three in the morning, even amid a working meeting), we can contact many at once. That is how the notion of “friendship” is gradually altered and Instagram follower is getting the status of friend. One can explain this as a social media phenomenon, but why then do people in the 21st century feel lonelier than ever? Is it enough to have only virtual friends? The answer is no. 

The researchers warn that the benefits of digital proximity cannot completely replace face-to-face communication. A real experience together is essential for friendship. We understand this intuitively: watching a movie with a friend and watching the same movie, but separately, are completely different things.

According to scholars, to become close friends, you need to spend at least 200 hours together. BUT, just sitting at the same desk or in one office is not enough. The author of the study on “How many hours does it take to make a friend?” Jeffrey Hall emphasizes that for the development of this kind of acquaintance, it is important to move them to a different context. For example, invite potential friends over or go out for a walk after work. 

In general, the initiative is the best thing that can be done for friendship. Remember that maintaining and developing any relationship is continuous work. Many potential friendships are never given the chance to develop precisely because someone lacks the strength and time to maintain contact.  So make it a rule for yourself – when you meet an interesting person, try to get to know him or her better and make the first step. 

Don’t be afraid to invite people to lunch or coffee. If they decline, you will have almost nothing to lose – and a lot to gain if it develops into a friendship.