There are the people you will plan trips for/around. Nothing says active maintenance like getting on a plane/train/bus to another city/state and hanging out for a long weekend. It will absolutely always feel just like old times, and you will return home in a delicate combination of bliss and nostalgia.
There are the people we feel the need to gchat every time a little green circle pops up next to their name, because not talking to them as part of everyday life still doesn’t feel normal. I still consider myself basically unable to make any major life decision without consulting with the people who fall into this category.
There are the people we set up regular Skype or phone dates with, filling them in on the big picture of what’s happened in the last week or two of our lives in great and vivid detail. ‘I can’t wait to tell X about Y’ is a new feeling for me, because in college all of my Xs were basically around experiencing my Ys with me.
There is the group of people whom you were not individually close to but you all knew one another fairly well and so you hang out pretty regularly, but only en masse. You will take a group photo at all such hangouts and post it to social media like, “Look at us still being friends!” These hangouts can even happen virtually using our friend Google, because drinking at home on your computer with your friends can be way more fun than actually going out into the world to do things.
There are the people who live nearby but you never manage to see regularly, so once every few months you run into one another at an event or text to set up a brunch/happy hour date to catch up. This catching up is always a lovely experience, and you say you will do it more often…but somehow that never manages to happen. You tell yourself to try harder.
There are the people who live in the same city as us, so we see them at relevant events and make small talk so that when our other friends ask us if we’ve hung out, we can say yes. These people are akin to the freshman year dorm-mate friends of proximity.
Then there is the reserved awe with which we treat friends who accomplish major life milestones we can’t possibly dream of yet. ‘X and Y are sending Christmas cards and it’s the cutest thing ever,’ or ‘I wonder if I’ll be invited to A and B’s wedding…’. We might Facebook-stalk these people’s cute couple things or hook them up with our other friend who is getting/just got married to discuss honeymoon planning, but we don’t really actually talk to these people anymore. They are “real adults.”
And then there is the last frontier, the friends who may as well not exist outside of Facebook. You like these people’s statuses and photos. You might share relevant information about cool events happening in their city that you hear about or post a video to their wall that you think they’d enjoy. Once in a blue moon you’ll get into a long comment-discussion on somebody else’s post. You feel like you know what’s going on with them, but you cannot remember the last time you had an interaction in real-time.
The fact that I can use the same word, “friend,” to describe relationships that fall into all of these different categories is wholly fascinating to me. It seems illogical. But I would chop none of these people down to the term “acquaintance.” We need more words.