My long distance bestie, Michelle, lives in Iowa City. We connect every day through Bemes, Snapchats, and text messages. She calls me Lee rather than Leanna, because she swears “it is faster to type.” We always appreciate the old-fashioned phone call, which usually lasts for about three hours when we can fit it in.
Technology makes it easier than ever before to sustain these friendships through social channels. Teens, the demographic who lead social communication trends, are a prime example of this shift.
A new Pew Research survey reveals that more than half of teenage girls have met a new friend online. Texting is a daily ritual for girls, with 55% of teens spending time every day to text their friends. It’s never been simpler to shoot your BFF a note, even if they live hundreds of miles away.
Female friendships are nothing new, but mass media is celebrating them like never before.
While displays of female friendship in popular culture is a long-burning trend, as evidenced by films like “Thelma and Louise,” triumphant images of female best friends are spiking now. More recently, female friends in”Mad Max” join together in a wild, action-fuelled chase.
More and more TV shows and films are passing the Bechdel test, a term coined by author Allison Bechdel in an 1985 comic. It asks whether a work of fiction features at least two named women who talk to each other about anything other than a man. Surprisingly, only about half of all films pass the test.
But that number is growing, with the success of shows with female protagonists, like “Broad City,” “Girls,” and “Orange is the New Black.” Fictional duos, like Pousey and Tastee from OITNB, celebrate female friendship as a powerful bond.
Real life female friends are in the spotlight too. Celebrities are triumphantly displaying their squads in music videos, social media, and red carpet events. Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé eat hamburgers in matching jackets in their “Feeling Myself” video. The U.S. soccer team hug after a historical World Cup win. Taylor Swift and her team are strutting through flames and our social feeds.
Another pair of long distance besties are Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow, who host the hilarious bi-weekly podcast Call Your Girlfriend that attracts more than 50,000 listeners. They record the podcast from opposite sides of California (with Ann in Los Angeles and Aminatou in San Francisco). Discussing everything from periods to politics, their podcast is another example of #squadgoals, but somehow you don’t feel like a third wheel.
The Spice Girls were right when they declared to their prospective lovers that female friends come first. Friendship between women is a strong bond, and women are able to connect on a level that they can’t with men. As Friedman notes in her latest piece in the New York Times, women marry later, hold more economic power, divorce more often, and live longer than ever before. “Whereas friendship was once a reaction to the shortcoming of other social insitutions, these days it’s an institution unto itself,” she writes.
When women find those special ladies, they hold onto them. And sometimes, a lost female friend pains more than a break-up.
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