I have never met many of my best friends. In real life that is. We hang out all the time on Zoom.
I’ve made more friends in the past few years than I did in all of the years before. And they’re all digital.
In the last newsletter I talked about harnessing the power of the internet to find our tribe. Being able to form and foster online friendships has definitely been a catalyst for my social life, but it has only worked because I’ve been intentional about finding and building friendships.
When I was young I found my friends primarily in my neighborhood, in school, and in the different clubs that I attended (music, sports, etc.). Friendships were location-based.
Even when growing up I didn’t really think about friendships consciously. I found and lost friends over the years, assuming it was all serendipitous. I wasn’t intentionally looking at my friendships yet.
This changed when I realized that healthy friendships are necessary for a healthy life.
Self-improvement is friend-improvement
About five years ago, when I started working on improving my health, I discovered the value of taking care of myself and became conscious of the necessity to choose friends intentionally.
“I argue that the most powerful thing you can do to add healthy years is to curate your immediate social network… Your group of friends are better than any drug or anti-aging supplement, and will do more for you than just about anything.” — Dan Buettner
Strong social connections are important for health, and weak ones are a good benchmark for the opposite.
“The dynamic of friendship is almost always underestimated as a constant force in human life: a diminishing circle of friends is the first terrible diagnostic of a life in deep trouble: of overwork, of too much emphasis on a professional identity, of forgetting who will be there when our armored personalities run into the inevitable natural disasters and vulnerabilities found in even the most average existence.” — David Whyte
There’s even some science on this; the impact of your social circle on your health (and happiness) is huge.
Where I never really thought about friendships before, I now view friendships as functional: maintaining a healthy, supportive relationship based on mutual needs.
Different friends ‘cover’ different needs. I have a unique relationship with every one of my friends. Some I talk to weekly, some I don’t see for 6 months and when we see each other we pick up where we left off. With some I exchange brief emails and whimsical ideas, with others I talk for hours on end about deep stuff.
Functional friendships are decentralized and healthy. Some friends from back home, some intellectual friends, some friends to do outdoorsy stuff with etc. All depending on what we both want and need.
Thinkers from ancient history all the way to today pretty much agree:
“Associate with people who are likely to improve you,” — Seneca
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” — Jim Rohn
"Make friends with people who want the best for you" — Jordan Peterson
“If you surround yourself with clowns, don't be surprised when your life resembles a circus.” ― Steve Maraboli
This doesn’t mean that I’m cold and calculating, spreadsheet-ing my way through keeping up connections. I still find friends organically and feel real warmth and connection. I’m just way more clear on who I spend my time with.
I’ve been lucky to have met some of my digital buddies in real life at this point. This added an element of suspense (would they turn out to be as cool as they are online?), but pretty quickly we picked up where we left off on Zoom and it felt like the good old digital days.
"Self-improvement is friend-improvement" love this!!
I swear that quote from David Whyte was what I thought you had written. Beautiful stuff, Rik!