Shine On

Why friendship matters: If this video doesn’t make you cry, there may not be hope


What is friendship? A shoulder to cry on? A place of forgiveness? A person to laugh at your jokes?

In a three minute YouTube video, digital performance artist and public speaker Ze Frank delivers a poignant summary of exactly what friendship is for him — how it develops, how it grows, how it protects us and inspires us.

“Maybe the greatest gift you give me is allowing me to stop struggling to find my place. We’re friends," says Frank, speaking directly to the camera. "That is the place. It’s an extension of what I call home.”

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Frank starts by explaining how a friendship can begin.

“There’s been a lot of different ways that it’s started, and some of them have seemed pretty vague. Sometimes it’s a smile I didn’t expect and didn’t know I needed. Sometimes it’s been a slow build, sometimes a chase, but there’s usually a moment when it comes into focus. A pat on the back, an invitation, a secret, and then there it is — I have a friend.”

He acknowledges that even addressing the topic so directly, as he is doing in the video, makes him sad, and he ponders why.

“Maybe it’s because when I look harder at something so essential I get scared by how much I’ve overlooked or neglected it. There’s some things I care about a lot less that I pay a lot more attention to.”

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It’s hard not to connect with something in Frank’s assessment of the nature of friendship, and the video has more than 100,000 views.

“This is quite literally one of the greatest, most touching things I've ever seen,” writes one commenter on the YouTube video. "Really hits touches [sic] base and hits home.”

Frank’s isn’t the first YouTube video addressing the meaning of friendship, but it is arguably the deepest.

User Notebook Babies' video “What is a friend?” has over two million views, and features two animated blob-like characters acting out various qualities of friendship, like “A friend will cheer you up when you’re sad” and “A friend will let you win sometimes.”

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Frank’s video undoubtedly trolls the topic to greater depths.

“It ebbs and flows though, I know that. There might be times when we become parodies of our past selves, just skimming along the surface with snippets of old conversations, pretending that the disconnect is the same thing as the comfortable but active silence we’ve enjoyed.”

Ultimately, though, it is a testament to the beauty of an act that is as simple as caring about someone else. For this, Frank gives thanks.

“Thank you. Thank you for thinking of me. For reserving part of your mind for my birthday or the books I like to read. Thank you for not hurting me despite being in a position to hurt me much more than most people could.”

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