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How the pandemic has proven to be the true test of friendship

We will never forget the people we craved during this pandemic, and how horribly we missed them.

Of the many trials, panics and miseries inflicted by this global pandemic, one of the most difficult of all, has been the wrenching separation we feel from our friends.

Yet the one thing I have yet to see suffer since Coronavirus entered our worlds almost two years ago, is friendship. It has proved itself the one beacon of hope during a time of hopelessness and uncertainty, a true marker of the brilliance of the human spirit.

Because the day-to-day reality of friendship has shifted so dramatically, it can seem like one more victim of Coronavirus, but it may have actually benefited from it. Our friendships in this age of global crisis have never felt more strange and yet simultaneously have never felt more vital, more heightened.

It is heartening to me that apps like House Party and Zoom exploded in 2020 and 2021, showing how desperate our real need for connection is.

Many social networking sites have promised this form of connection before - from Facebook to Instagram - but it took a pandemic for us to actually want to connect with people, face to face, with effort and eye contact and real emotion.

We saw real sincerity creep into all our friendships. “Can’t wait to see your face soon” often felt like a trite sign off to emails or messages with friends when, in fact, I probably could wait, might even be lazy and not see them for weeks.

Since the pandemic, it is loaded and weighty. I want to see your face, very desperately, in fact – let's have a face-to-face chat now – at 3pm, during a work day. In January 2022, this is a stark reminder of the loneliness of lockdowns past.

Many of us spent Christmas separated from our loved ones – again – due to the ceaseless wave of Omicron, and as the working from home order looks set to stay, it's not just our childhood friends we're missing, but our work friends, too.

Coronavirus has caused friendships to evolve and it has also proven an interesting development within social circles.

It’s a true test of friendship – which are friends you will bother to Zoom or House Party with? Which friends will prove only acquaintances in this time? It’s been a desert island friend test – who are you taking with you?

“It’s the death of ‘going out’ friends” said a colleague of mine, “You know, those people you like to drink and party with but you’ve never really had a deep conversation with beyond a DM or an instagram caption exchange? You weren't Zooming those people during lockdown.”

Coronavirus may actually prove the shrinking or streamlining of certain groups, with only the closest thriving together at this time. Yet who you choose to strengthen connections with – and how these relationships change – may also prove surprising. The silver lining for me, has been the closeness I’ve felt to my international friends.

Four of my closest friends moved to Canada and America in 2019, and I was dreading 2020 without them. I feared the loss of the immediacy of their presence, I panicked that our friendships would never be the same.

They would no longer be around the corner, no longer available for a last-minute drink after work. Spending a lazy day on the sofa with them, or having a heart to heart over a four-hour lunch, would require plane fare and scheduling.

But in this uncertain start to 2022, hardly any of my friends are available for a last minute drink, most of them either struck down with the virus, or too afraid to step outside. We are as close to our friends in Toronto as we are to those in London; hardly any of us are meeting up in the pub, but we can all meet up online.

My international friends are on level pegging now with my UK based friends. The cliched phrase ‘all in this together’ feels startlingly relevant. We meet up all the time now, all of us little squares making up a grid of connection on our screens, multiple time zones, cities and oceans apart.

For my friends who have always lived abroad, there has been a brilliant renaissance. A friend I met in South Africa in 2019, with whom I have kept in regular contact but who I have never seen IRL since, has now joined my virtual book club. During lockdown, I saw her face for the first time in over a year and wondering what the hell took me so long.

A friend who lives in New York has also felt closer than ever. Though a special part of our friendship group, her NYC address was always an obstacle to her inclusion in everyday hangs or weekend drinks- something that now does not exist.

As she said to me herself the other day: “Looks like it took a pandemic for me to be invited to stuff.”

Coronavirus may have provided new hurdles to our friendships, but in many ways, it merely provided opportunities for us to be creative, to use our imaginations.

Friends found new and inventive ways to be kind and thoughtful to one another. Friends rallied together to put on parties, games nights, movie nights and special occasion deliveries. There were virtual hens and virtual baby showers.

I experienced birthday Zoom treasure hunts that ended with flowers (and hand sanitiser!) delivered to the birthday girl’s door.

I attended an expertly-planned Zoom wedding; with music performances, quizzes, poems and speeches, to mark the IRL wedding day that was sacrificed to Covid-19.

“We would have been miserable today, if it weren’t for you all doing this,” said the bride and groom, marking their postponed special day on a video conference, drinking the wedding champagne they should have been quaffing as man and wife.

It’s beautiful, when you think about it, how friendships ploughed through the pandemic, and continue to do so. How, in a time of abject misery, we have found each other in new ways.

Because it is not the pub we really missed, but the pub with friends. It wasn't the hotel pool, but sharing it with loved ones. We all learnt that our friendships are the scaffolding of our lives that prop us up, that keep us sane, and happy, and often exhilarated.

We will never forget the people we craved during this pandemic, and how horribly we missed them. But I think we will take with us vital lessons from this time; that oceans are not a barrier to the immediacy of our friends, that those phone calls we used to avoid pre-Coronavirus have never been more necessary, that seeing your friend’s face can literally make your day better.

I hope we take these lessons and continue them in whatever the world looks like after this. If we ever took our friends for granted, we never will again.

This story originally appeared on Glamour UK

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