I was thinking about friends recently, and how that word now means something a lot more relaxed than it used to.
I'm lucky enough to remember a world without technology, when friends were real people you played with, laughed with, and maybe sometimes fell out with. Someone you could have a chat with over a cuppa, go for a day out shopping with, and have a good old moan to while you put the world to rights.
Nowadays, the word friend has also come to mean a photo and a name you interact with from the end of a computer. And while you may read something they've written and chuckle to yourself while typing 'lol,' it's not quite the same as having a real good laugh with the person beside you.
Or is it?
For the single or widowed older person who doesn't have any close family, social media, Internet groups, and forums, can be an absolute lifeline and help combat loneliness. I know many elderly people who've gained lots of friends from using Facebook and other sites. Their world has opened up and it has literally given them a reason to get up in the morning.
There are different groups and forums for various things - gardening, crafting, pets, etc, so joining one of those means you'll mix with likeminded people, and there are websites such as Oapschat aimed at older people, so you'll be chatting with people your own age. It's a bit like a dating agency, but for friends rather than potential partners.
Arik and Cherry - Arik is Cherry's cousin
Having said that, I know of people who've met their partners through such groups, so they are like dating agencies, but without the hefty joining fees!
I've made a few really good friends on Facebook, and even met some in real life. I have regular long telephone conversations with one friend, and we spent several days with her and her partner last year.
And yes, we had a really good laugh together too. Another internet friend and I have many things in common. We 'chat' every single day - often several times a day - I feel as if I know her well, and I care about her, even though we've not yet met.
So, to those of you who remember the world before all this technology, what do you think?
Can you really get to know a person through chatting with them daily on a computer? Do those friendships mean as much, and are they as strong as ones formed with physical people? I know one thing, it's easier to maintain an online friendship, and there's very little effort required on either part. You can stay at home in your pjs typing away to your heart's content, without having to dress up and go out in the cold or dark to meet your friend, so maybe that's a big part of it.