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Defining friendship on the web

There seems to be a lot of confusion as to what a friend is these days on the web, as in real life (as if the web isn't real life!). And, no, it isn't a new problem, and no, it didn't begin with the internet. It began with the written word.

I have a lot of friends. I have esoteric interests in things like cycads and Phoenix history. And I communicate with my friends on a regular basis about these things, through the written word, on the internet. Many of these people I have met in person only briefly, some not at all. In the old days, they would have been called a *pen pal*.

And these people are friendly towards me. I'm not saying that they will attend a speech of mine at the United Nations (which is doubtful that I ever will!) but they will give me the kind of encouragement that friends give.

When I lived in Hollywood, I noticed how quickly people were to describe someone as *their dear friend*, even if they had only spoken to them at a cocktail party, or standing in line at a book signing. And if you're finding that people are calling you a *close personal friend* in order to enhance their reputation, well, that's quite a compliment to you.

I have a handful of friends who would do anything for me. They would sit up all night at the hospital (and some have!), and let me sleep on their couch. But those aren't the only friends that I have. I like having friends who can discuss cycads, or Phoenix history, or dachshunds. And I would be flattered if they would consider me their friend.