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Friends with Benevolence


Me, bossing around a friend in Karuizawa, Japan

(I am a year older than him)


Social Media has brought new meaning to the idea of friendship, a lot of it filled with the fear that online friendships are inherently inferior to the traditional and better-known in-person ones. Today online friendships are everything in-person friendships can be but 2.0, ranging from a long-term soulmate you never meet in-person to a quick move to a 5-week Friends with Benefits. If either of these ideas of friendship makes you feel a bit squidgy, you’re probably an old-schooler like me.


But wait a minute, I’ve reached out to online friends for comfort in this last week thinking about our 15-year-old Master Cat Blaze besieged with nasty lymphoma but still with us. Some of the most comforting and kindest words came from friends I know online-only as well as people in-person I don’t know very well. As a Third Culture Kid (TCK) who grew up on the move, it isn’t surprising that someone who doesn’t know me well would offer benevolence. With a life on the road, old TCKs grow up accustomed to receiving whatever portion of friendship someone could parcel out, knowing they might never get it again or at least not as readily as the people who stayed put. But all this has changed with online friendship. Now even TCKs can borrow a sympathetic ear from someone just by reaching out; they don’t have to be in physical proximity like before.


Saturday, July 30th is UN International Day of Friendship. I’m grateful for all my friends with benevolence, in-person, physically far away online friends who were at some point in-person friends, and online-only (O2) friends. O2 friends have shown me that you can sometimes teach an old dog new tricks (me, for example, but the metaphor probably doesn’t extend to old cats like Blaze). Thank you to all my friends, new and old, from long ago and from everywhere I’ve extracted and left myself, a bit like chewing gum on the pavement on a hot summer’s day. Thanks for being Friends with Benevolence. I wouldn’t be able to keep writing without you.


Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes. – David Thoreau

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