Certainly an interesting topic. I think how people define who their ‘friends’ are is pretty telling. Like ‘Tell me how many close friends you have, and I tell you how superficial you are’ This whole thing is even more interesting since distance doesn’t matter that much anymore, thanks to Twitter, Skype/FaceTime and - *sigh* Facebook.

In podcasts, you hear the hosts/guests discuss from time to time that they never have met, or like once or twice, but would consider the other person a friend. This may represent the modern version of a pen friend, differing from a ‘classic’ friend just in the lack of a meeting in person. There are friendships that may ‘exist’ in school, for example, but really develop without its social glue and over distance. They may have developed anyway, but distance doesn’t hurt. But not every friendship is made out for that, obviously.

I really don’t use IM anymore, but back when I did, before being a nerd became cool the least, I had long and deep conversations via ICQ, MSN, Jabber.1 Today, this also works via Skype. I would include the classic landline telephone as well, but the voice quality really sucks. You only notice it switching from Skype, but it’s a tremendous difference. It’s like uncompressed audio vs. shortwave. Well, I’ll cut the tech talk here.

Really, it’s a tremendous difference.

Here’s something more general: Sometimes, I find myself thinking that a person I just met and had a good conversation with is very interesting, just to discover that the person obviously didn’t value the conversation that much or isn’t interested in any contact whatsoever. That also applies to a greater context, think many good conversations on many occasions, then the circumstances change, the occasions go away and the conversations with them. I don’t want to whine about dried up friendships-to-be now: What strikes me about that is that I have no idea how it’s gonna work out before it does or doesn’t.
The great thing about that is that it’s just a symptom of one of the greatest things about studying: Meeting an awful lot of different people, obviously. And not just like ‘Oh, nice talking to you, bye’, but with you having a say in it. Even though the peer groups’ fluctuations are kind of a crowd sourcing product everyone has an unconscious part in, you naturally are more likely to have contact with people you like. But that whole thing is a complicated process with a lot of moving parts, just like yourself.

A symptom of that change is how the peer groups developed from the first semester onwards. Everyone was so frikkin’ anxious not to find any friends that everyone pulled his or her model-son/daughter-in-law a-game. This resulted in peer groups whose members, without the glue of civilization, would’ve killed each other sooner than the kids in Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies’. So, they held up a few weeks.
It’s somewhat similar to romantic relationships: In my opinion, every relationship can last three months, regardless of how unequal or dysfunctional it may be in the end. Till then, it’s all new and, if not too disgusting, interesting. After that, the work begins.2

Back to the peer groups: They were torn away by their member’s differing interests, maybe some solid two-person-friendships made it out of that early state. After that, there were new groups, and then they changed again, and then the changes slowed down to a ‘normal’ speed, according to people’s personal development. That took a little over a year. For me, it somehow represents how everyone (in this case, obviously: me) found himself in a whole new part of life, its demands, the field of study and so on.
That’s my interpretation of my experience. Maybe it differs a lot from the experience others had, maybe law students manage it totally different from the pedagogues or people doing cultural studies, doing less weed and stuff, I don’t know.

  1. Anyway: The vast majority of the time, I used it to provide tech support to my classmates. Maybe that’s why I still despise IM somehow.
  2. You really shouldn’t listen to me talking about (possible) long-term-relationships.