Each generation learns to navigate relationships in its own way.
Today's children understand friendship and social interactions mediated largely through technology.
We're not sure what this means for their long-term social development. Will they be less inclined to keep healthy, long-term relationships because it's easy to "ghost" someone from your life? Or will the ease of staying in touch through technology allow them to maintain lifelong connections despite diverging life paths?
No one really knows.
Perhaps relationships are more disposable when there's always someone else around the digital corner. Are we better off with the type of "friendship" social media fosters: a broad, shallow network? Or by having a small, close group with deeper ties?
Research suggests the number and depth of friendships depends on our mobility, social class and personal temperament.
Most Americans have just two close friends, according to a 2011 Cornell study. This is down from three close confidantes 25 years ago.
As the first generation of parents raising digitally socialized children, we have our own learning curve about the social mores and conventions they follow.
Friend is used in a loosey-goosey way in our language. A Facebook "friend" may or may not be a real "friend." A follower on Instagram may like all your posts and provide a sense of validation or community, but that's as deep as the relationship goes. Shared interests, common experiences and enjoyable company often spark a friendship, but those aren't the only criteria that elevate interaction to friendship.
Like the Eskimo words for snow, Generation Z, born after the Millennials, will understand the variation and subtleties of friendship differently than we do.
Some people have interests in common with you, such as yoga, running or having brunch. Others have a shared history, like childhoods, college years or workplaces. Some people challenge, motivate or inspire you. Others are hilarious and make you laugh.
But certain elements of friendship do not change. In Insta-speak, a young person can apply these filters to a relationship to get a clearer picture:
1. Can you be honest about yourself with this person? Do you feel safe saying what you think and feel? Are you able to disagree, even vehemently, and be OK? Friends are not there to affirm and agree with every single thing we say or do.
2. Do you feel heard in your conversations? Do interactions with this person leave you feeling uplifted, recharged, supported or cared for? Does the person help you see things in a new way or help you find solutions to your problems? The relationship should make you feel whole rather than less than.
3. Can you share the pain and ways of coping in life rather than just the polished, funny, edited parts? Can you share your struggles, beyond your accomplishments or highlight reel?
4. Is it a two-way street? Does the person share with and trust you the way you do with him or her?
5. Is the person available when needed, reliable and true to his or her word?
6. Does the person keep your confidences? Can he or she be trusted?
7. Is there mutual respect and admiration between the two of you? If you respect and admire someone, you value what they tell you. You listen to their advice.
8. Does the person pay attention when you talk? Does she remember what you've said?
9. Are you able to survive a fight? People make mistakes. They ask for forgiveness and try not to repeat them. Whether it's a miscommunication, a mean response or a breach of trust, does the person recognize his role and accept responsibility? Can you forgive and move on?
10. Do both of you make an effort to see each other in real life, face-to-face? Scientists note the primal importance of touch -- casual, platonic, nonsexual -- between people in creating bonds.
You should be able to answer yes to these if you're in the company of a true friend.
Maria Konnikova wrote an essay for The New Yorker exploring the human capacity for friendship. She writes that evolutionary anthropologist Robin Dunbar claims we can only cope with about 150 casual friends at a given time, 15 of whom could be considered intimate. And only five of those might be trustworthy. That includes intimate partners and close family.
I refer to this core of five as my team. These are the MVPs among BFFs.
When you find friends like this, recognize how valuable they are. Make an effort. In a "friend"-saturated world, true friendship is rare.