Friendship has become very competitive – who has the most Facebook friends and the most followers on Twitter? But a social networking friend can mean anything from a soul-mate to an almost sworn enemy. We collect friends – or are encouraged to do so by these social networking sites – the way we once collected pebbles on the beach or bobbles for our hair.

A friend you only know from the pixels she makes on your home page isn’t really anything of the kind. The only friends who really count are the ones you can call any time and know they’ll listen, or maybe even come over if you’re having a particularly tough time. And no one friend can fulfil all your needs – nor should they. So forget collecting online friends. Here are the four real friends every woman needs.

THE COMFORTER FRIEND

WHAT SHE IS: She’s the first person you turn to when in need of, well, comfort. You can call her any time, day or night, without wondering for even a second if she’ll take your call. But you don’t abuse this; you only call when you absolutely have to and she knows that. Likewise, she can call on you any time she needs to talk. This is also the person
 to whom you go directly with good news – nothing’s really happened until you’ve told this friend! She’ll be as thrilled as you are when the news is good – and as devastated when it’s bad.

The comforter friend is like a sister, but without the sibling rivalry or years of jealousy and baggage. She’s the sister you’d choose to have if you could and for some very lucky women, she really is. Cherish your comforter friend. She’s more precious than diamond-cut rubies.

HOW TO FIND HER
Don’t have a comforter pal? Not to worry. There are techniques you can use to turn a friend into your 
comforter, and yourself
 into hers. Firstly, learn
 to listen. You want
 someone to comfort
 you when times are
 hard, of course – but
 so does she. If you
 want to be listened to,
 first you must learn to 
listen.

Good friendship
 is about giving and
 taking, not just taking
– nor about just giving.
 If you have a friend 
who just takes and
 gives nothing back – 
and isn’t really all that
 interested in you – 
she’s not your comforter, she’s a leech! Get rid of her.

Next, accept that comforter friendships develop slowly. They can’t be hurried, so let it gently brew. Bosom pals who become soulmates very fast frequently break up just as quickly, and often acrimoniously so. Give it time. Find someone with whom you have important things in common.

If you want to be listened to, first you must learn to listen

This doesn’t mean you both love, say, rap, but hate jazz. It’s about having values in common. If material possessions don’t do it for you, find someone who feels the same way. It’s about being and feeling truly “known” by someone and it can take time to find that special person.