With broadband staying in touch has never been easier... Has it?
Back in most people's day, a friend was someone who never left your side. Through thick and thin, for better or worse, they could always be relied upon in times of need or uncertainty. By the time we leave education though, our friendships begin to take a back seat.
Family life, children and busy working weeks make it more difficult for pals to get together, but luckily, with a broadband connection we're never really more than a few clicks apart. But even with all this convenience it still seems impossible to maintain the bonds that we hope never break.
More than a decade ago, Friends Reunited was one of the first social networks to really take off, and its success in the years that followed proved we hadn't lost sight of the "best buds forever" ideal. As Myspace and Facebook appeared, the dynamics of friendship suddenly changed.
Now with a brand new look and a focus on nostalgia and happy memories, Friends Reunited is back hoping to once again have us all wondering what happened to what's-'er-name. But might it be too late? Has the internet made us incapable of being good friends?
Why can't we stay in touch?
On the face of it you'd think we had more active social lives than ever. It's not unheard of for a Facebook user to have 300 "friends" and the average figure is about 130. In real life, even the most popular of folk are only usually surrounded by a dozen or so comrades.
With broadband in practically every home - and mobile internet on the gadgets we carry - it has never been easier to send someone a message or take a nosey at someone's new love interest. And, with nine games of virtual Scrabble in progress, we can be easily fooled into thinking we spend enough quality time with the people we know.
In reality though, we run the risk of our friend lists stagnating as we invest too much time in maintaining relationships that simply aren't meant to be. On a social network you can keep friendships alive even after you've moved to the other side of the world. You might at first think that's a good thing, but it can also have quite a damaging effect.
If we're socialising online with the dozens of people we haven't seen since school - and can no longer just pop round the corner to see - it's possibly the case that we're not making friends where we live and work today. Surely a proper friendship requires us to connect in person from time to time?
How to lose friends and alienate people
The internet can even impede our social interaction with peers in a face-to-face social situation. We've all know someone who insists on checking their Facebook or Twitter feed every five minutes, and then there's the fact that punctuality these days has really gone to the dogs thanks to us now being able to communicate in a number of ways while on the hoof.
Our lives before broadband were very different. Add on the impact of mobile phones and social attitudes in general are scarcely recognisable. Decades ago, if you made plans to meet at a certain time and place, the chances are you would be there provided nothing got in the way.
Now it seems there is never a need to be punctual when meeting friends. Why bother rushing to get ready when you can just send a text and say you'll be 10 minutes late. However, that "10 minutes late" often means anywhere up to an hour beyond the time you originally agreed.
Luckily, when your friends' sloppy time-keeping starts to get too much, the internet makes it easier than ever to cut people out of your life; you can dump them in a single click, but to avoid any awkwardness you might want to lose any mutual friends who connect you as well.
And be sure to practice your "Oh, I wonder how that happened?" for the next time you run into said ex-friend unexpectedly and they bring up the fact they know you deleted them.
How many friends does a person need?
The most incredible thing about social networking is probably finding out just how many people you actually know. Unfortunately, since everyone you add becomes an instant "friend" we can easily be misled to believe that we're far more popular than we are.
On the other hand though, hidden among the 800 people you wouldn't even say "hello" to in the street, there are no doubt a handful of people you actually like, and see, on regular basis. And even if it does reduce the time we have for new people, there is still something nice about being able to keep in touch with a few of your bestest pals from school.
That's where Friends Reunited found its niche, right back at the turn of the millennium, but since then virtually every social network has made it possible to track down old chums. So, with its 2012 relaunch it needed something unique to make it stand out once again. It hopes to have achieved this with a focus on nostalgia and shared memories.
There's also the Facebook Timeline, which insists we look back at the murky old photos from every party you've attended since birth. It seems now even the social networks themselves have accepted we won't be making new friends, just reminiscing with old ones and watching our address book stagnate. It's that same problem again - too many friends, too little time.
Is the internet bad for friendship?
Social networks and the internet in general have done wonders for communication. We can have multiple conversations at the same time, with people we know from anywhere in the world. But what has it done to friendship? Well, it's completely adjusted its meaning.
Tools like Facebook allow us to stay connected with a much larger and more diverse set of friends, but in doing so, are they watering down the meaning of those social ties? Is it better to have just 10 close friends or 1,000 distant acquaintances?
Our obsession with social networking may be damaging our ability to build meaningful relationships. After all, interaction is limited by time more than anything else. The more we invest in our Facebook buddies, the less time we have to spend doing stuff with people who are actually part of our lives. Maybe it's time to trim back those lists, and let our real-life socialisation regain priority, then, in years to come, we can use Friends Reunited to find everyone again.