Gifts Today magazine

Forever Friends

Hallmark are marking the 30th anniversary of the popular range with a special collection of cards – and by revealing their new report on friendship and what it means in modern society.

With insight from relationship expert Sam Owen (pictured), the report looks at everything from the impact of social media on friendships to the most admired celebrity Forever Friends.

Hallmark’s new research shows it’s still the more traditional friendship traits that are most highly valued today with 19 per cent of those questioned saying loyalty is the most important trait in a friend, followed by honesty at 18 per cent and reliability at 16 per cent – only 10 per cent of people value good fun the highest.

Sam says: 'Loyalty is hugely important as friends are the holders of our secrets and are essentially our personal coaches and therapists. We can have fun on our own or with family members or partners – but the roles our close friends play in our lives are much more important to our health, success and survival.

'Loyalty is that thing we need to call upon in the really important moments in our life. For example, if we’re lying in a hospital bed and urgently need some items bringing to us or we need someone to defend us to others.'

Two-fifths of people questioned said they prefer to have a few close friendships rather than lots of pals, with 37 per cent saying they have between one and three friends.

Sam adds: 'We can normally count our close friendships on one hand and they help our mental well-being and our success in life. Friends can help us to live healthier and longer, and they can be of paramount importance to those who do not have family members or at least family members they’re close to.'

With the research showing 31 per cent of friendships are made at school, followed by 15 per cent in a person’s first job, with 13 per cent at college or university, Sam says: 'The friends you made at a young age watched your development and even shaped your growth. They share so much with you! For those friendships formed in your adult years, it’s important to enjoy things out in the world together to help build memories and that intimacy we have with old Forever Friends. Go on escapades together and do some team building. This can be simple activities in the local area that involve two or more people, anything that gets the adrenaline going or allows you to win something, have fun or learn together.'

Since the meteoric rise of platforms like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram social media has played a major role in defining how people stay in touch with friends and how these friendships have evolved.

While more than half (53 per cent) of the people questioned agree social media makes it easier to stay in contact with people for a longer period, 40 per cent believe friendships don’t mean as much as they did 30 years ago because the rise of social media means there is no emotion or energy attached to the contact.

The research shows people think the best way to maintain friendships is through regular get togethers with friends (47 per cent), while phone calls (17 per cent), text messaging (14 per cent) and social media (13 per cent) all trail behind.

Sam says: 'You should aim to remain in frequent contact with your friends and, if you can’t see each other in person, connect in other meaningful ways. For example, sending a handwritten card is more meaningful than sending a message on social media.

'We can socialise on social media while queuing for a coffee or at the bank. It doesn’t say much about our love or commitment to the other person. On the other hand, it takes effort and time to buy, write and send a card and that speaks volumes for how we feel about someone.

'Writing a card means you also leave a little bit of you on the card, with your handwriting, which in this day of increasing distance, is intimate, warming and powerful.'

While 41 per cent of people say they don’t have just the one best friend, 37 per cent said they have known their bestie for more than 30 years – and 17 per cent admitted their best firend is more important to them than their partner.

Almost two-fifths of people (38 per cent) said Ant and Dec have the most admired celebrity friendship. They have been mates for almost as long as the Forever Friends bears have been around, having met 26 years ago on the set of children’s TV series Byker Grove. Now both in their early 40s their friendship is stronger than ever before as they share a highly successful television presenting career.

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