There’s something incomparably more difficult about sitting down to write something about a topic like friendship (though I’ve done it before), compared to sitting down to write about a topic like quantum computing, exotic matter, the history of language or artificial intelligence.
In those cases, some vague patina of respectable knowledge, if not expertise, can be built up in a few hours of well-routed research. To write authoritatively about friendship, one can only rely on the collected wealth of one’s insight and experience. That’s a considerably broader knowledge base, considerably less well-organised, and without a search function as potent as Google to help you find specific facts within it.
But following the launch of the company that I co-founded, which aims to make finding friends and creating new friendships as easy as finding a bottle of edible glitter or genuine human skulls online, I thought I ought to really interrogate this concept and see what, if anything, I could find to say about it that was worthwhile .
The Best Friendships Are Active
If ‘friend’ were a verb and not a noun, it would be an incredibly ugly one. “I want to friend you better.” Gross. Sounds clumsy and inelegant. Vaguely threatening, even.
Nonetheless, to be a great friend is to interpret friendship as an active calling: that is, a friend is not what you are but what you do. When I think back on moments that have defined my closest friendships, while a few champagne-and-trophy-lifting moments do stand out, I generally find myself remembering moments that involved basically modest but highly deliberate actions that ended up turning into something meaningful. For example:
- Repeatedly making a point to regularly ask a close friend, who is a gifted writer but who is perennially sidetracked by life and who has suffered some severe reversals of fortune, how their work is proceeding. At certain points I drove them to irritation but some time down the line their work picked up, which I was told owed in part to my persistent expressions of support. All because I’d decided, in effect, to be…