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The New Era of Virtual Friendship

How can we redefine the value of a friendship in the times of social distancing?

The core reason for a friendship is that it can and is meant to help us move forward and grow – Editor ZARKO DAVINIC explores how can we redefine the value of a friendship in the times of social distancing.


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Thriving in each other companies is part of being human, at this time of social distancing now more than ever we realise the true nature of all of us as social creatures. The technology and social networks often blamed for cancelling our instinct for human connection are today what is keeping us closer. The social networks which in great part are responsible for our very own pre-pandemic self isolation are today showing us what social really means and what our friends and family truly contribute to our lives.

Surely connecting virtual friends online without any thought to what such a word actually means or what any of our connections can add to our daily lives is decades later going on even right now. While the meaning of friendship online has massively shifted for the olden days of MySpace the vitality in the same remains to this day. Friendships are key to our health and overall well being. Multiple statistics are showing the importance of the same, as we grow older bonds created with friendships are more important than family connections. These friendships have a profound effect on our health and happiness. In 2020 Harvard Medical School research teams have explored the way our immune system and handling old age benefit from strong social connections. As published by Harvard Health in the Harvard Women’s Health Watch: “A relative lack of social ties is associated with depression and later-life cognitive decline, as well as with increased mortality. One study, which examined data from more than 309,000 people, found that lack of strong relationships increased the risk of premature death from all causes by 50%, an effect on mortality risk roughly comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, and greater than obesity and physical inactivity.

“Lack of strong relationships increased the risk of premature death from all causes by 50%, an effect on mortality risk roughly comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, and greater than obesity and physical inactivity.”

Not only is according to Harvard studies lack of friendship as bad as smoking a pack a day, the same can add up harmful stress, affecting your coronary arteries, insulin regulation, gut function and finally the immune system. While on the opposite hand caring for our friends and receiving the care back actually massively triggers stress reducing hormones. Research continues adding on: “Having a network of important relationships with social support can also make a difference. A large Swedish study of people ages 75 and over concluded that dementia risk was lowest in those with a variety of satisfying contacts with friends and relatives.”

With a mission to stay at home, many of us will have to spend this time of self isolation close to our families, even in these extraordinary situation it is easy to get caught up in our own family dynamics and perhaps even forget the chance for a deeper connection within our own family ties. Whether it is your family members or flatmates this moments far different from family or celebration gatherings, are providing a different kind of chance for people coming together.

The decades long promotion of stark individualism has surely got us prepared to handle solitude. With individualism favoured over social bonding we may have forgotten the importance of that same social bond. The sentiment shaping our self worth such as career and income as well as consumerism is today postponed till later day allowing us to rebuild our dissolving social and familial relationships in the wake of this global crisis.

Yet it is much harder to create new friendships as we grow older. According to scientific studies, our ability to form new social connections peaks at our age of 25. Furthermore while trying to put a metric on friendship scientist have concurred forming a new friendship takes a little over 200 hours of shared time and conversations before one qualifies for a good friend. While factually many of us will get the best friend sort of tingles after those 200 hours, according to the studies of  Jeffrey Hall, an associate professor of communication studies at The University of Kansas. Hall shared in 2018 for the Kansas University Alert newsletter: “We have to put that time in. You can’t snap your fingers and make a friend. Maintaining close relationships is the most important work we do in our lives, most people on their deathbeds agree.

We have to put that time in. You can’t snap your fingers and make a friend. Maintaining close relationships is the most important work we do in our lives, most people on their deathbeds agree

Halls study also focused on the number of friends one person may actually have. According to Hall and his colleagues a person’s mind can only workout a total of around 150 friendships – adding as an explanation: “The amount of time and the type of activity shared with a partner can be thought of as strategic investments toward satiating long-term belongingness needs.” Hall study also included 355 people who have in a period of 6 months or longer moved from their hometown or place of substantially longer residency. In addition he and his colleagues included additional 112 freshmen at Kansas University. The study showed young people are more wiser when it comes to investing their time, yet forming much stronger connections. Hall continues: “You can’t make people spend time with you, but you can invite them. Make it a priority to spend time with potential friends. If you are interested in a friendship, switch up the context. If you work together, go to lunch or out for a drink. These things signal to people that you are interested in being friends with them.” That said, unless you are exceptionally rich in timeshares, it is valuable holding on to friends you already have. Thus keeping up to date now at this time of isolation may be more pivotal than ever.

This moment is also here to make us understand the difference between acquaintances as people we know of, and friends as people we know. Often we are mixing acquaintanceship with friendship. Often even on the daily we are to share casual moments with our acquaintances, whether that is at work or at school. With friends by definition we are to share a true archive of memories. Yet these connections created over decades may easily disconnect and even completely vanish. Turning best friends into complete strangers. Nevertheless, just like a long forgotten relative an old friend may show up again, reaching out to become a part of your life once again. Therefore how to repair a broken relationship comes with no manual.

For older friendship once a former mate makes a move to re-enter our lives it may look like too much of a hassle. That is especially the case when our lives are already formed by the daily needs of our families in addition to work requirements. At the same time most likely the time you were holding dear to that old friend may be taken by a new connection. In addition from an early age we are coined with the term ‘best friends‘ which in fact makes us idolise friendships, thus mending a broken one presents itself as a significantly harder task in front of us.

The romantic part of the friendships is deeply installed within us with our parents, books and cinema telling us the epic stories of long lived soul mates. While a true romance between two love partners is always facing a possibility of a break up such a definition to ending a friendship is not clearly written within our mindset. Friendship rings like a KNOT, that can never be united.

The more painful endings of friendships are connected with more complicated emotional issues and are many times accompanied with anxiety and great distress. Friendships that last through our whole lives are those which have a genuine balance between giving and taking, and a true desire for the other’s well being are really ascendant. Sadly, as in any relationship, this balance may often lose its focus and no longer suit one or the other in the friendship. Often, a friendship can run on an easy track until one of the friends comes into a situation where social or financial status massively alters.

Finally, it is important to assess the importance of our friendships. If your friends are helping you in your growth and change, then value them. If they put you down, then it is time to put down that path of friendship as well. Nevertheless, some friends may forever hold a part of us. While they may no longer be in our lives every day if there is a chance to help your old friends you should, remain open, a true friendship never ceases.

Words by Editor Zarko Davinic

Photographer and Stylist Laurie
Makeup Artist Rika Bitton
Models Vitalia and Sonic at Melle Agency


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