What is a Friend?

Shannel Wheeler
9 min readJul 27, 2022

Friends. How many of us have them? Friends. Ones we can depend on… — Whoodini

I remember around age 8 or 9 sitting at the kitchen table of my babysitter’s house, and her young son asked me who my best friend was. I proudly proclaimed “God!” He rolled his eyes while shaking his head, “You know you don’t have to say that.” But I sincerely meant it. Based on who I talked to most, who knew the most about me, and who was the most consistent, God did prove to be my best friend (and still is to this day). I guess he was expecting a human’s name for an answer.

I have been pondering over the definition of friendship for a while now. It’s been an ever-present question that has left me evaluating the state of my friendships as a woman in her late 30s. What does it really mean to be a friend?

The word friend is defined as: “a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations.” I found similar definitions online, but let’s roll with this one.

Social media and modern culture have totally deflated the meaning of the word, with everyone calling each other “friend” by virtue of clicking a button, along with“sis”, “bro”, “bestie”, “wifey”, and whatever other trendy names are circulating.

While I realize that I am not and have not been a perfect friend (I have made mistakes, made bad judgments, and said hurtful things), I still consider myself, overall, a good one. I do my best to communicate, show support, and care toward those I consider my friends. In return, many of them have verbally expressed their appreciation for my efforts. My biggest gripe lately is not the question of my own loyalty, but wondering, are some of those same people acting as “good” friends to me? Do others show up for me the way I show up for them?

As I grapple with this question, I consider the factors that might contribute to finding some reasonable answers:

The levels of “knowing”

Acquaintances, associates, and friends. I call this the “knowing” pyramid. At the bottom are the acquaintances — the ones you know in passing, neighbors, people you went to school with or met at a party, and connections on social media. These…

Shannel Wheeler

Creative professional, designer, author, instructor. Creating with purpose. Teaching and inspiring by design. Start learning design: https://bit.ly/3jy2E2X