Please note: These pictures were taken in February 2020, before the non-essential travel restrictions were put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Museum für Kommunikation in Berlin is a 5-minute walk from the historical landmark, Checkpoint Charlie. It is housed in an elegant building that was built in 1898. During World War II, it was badly damaged, but it was reconstructed and renovated over the years. In 2000, the building reopened as the Museum of Communication.

In Germany, there are Museums für Kommunikation in Frankfurt and Nuremberg (Nürnberg). There’s one in Bern, Switzerland, too.

Museum für Kommunikation Berlin| 20. Feb 2020
Museum für Kommunikation | 20. Feb 2020
Museum für Kommunikation (permanent collection) | 20. Feb 2020
Museum für Kommunikation (permanent collection) | 20. Feb 2020

It was a sweet coincidence that when my dear friend and I took our children to the interactive museum, there was a special exhibition on view called “Like You! Friendship – Digital and Analogue!”

Museum für Kommunikation | 20. Feb 2020

Museum für Kommunikation | 20. Feb 2020

The exhibition invites visitors to think about answers to questions, such as:

  • What is friendship?
  • Is it possible to find and meet new friends virtually on social networks?
  • Or does making friends still require real-life contact in the analog world?
  • Does friendship function in exactly the same way in digital spaces as it does IRL (in real life)?
  • Where do we draw the line between networking and friendship?

Although studies have shown that people with friends experience increased happiness, the exhibition points out that people who identify as “loners” have a distinct personality type. They are emotionally self-sufficient and lead fulfilled lives when they’ve found a friend in themselves.

Museum für Kommunikation | 20. Feb 2020

You can have a seat here and listen to the “sounds” of friendship (I’ve added a short playlist of friendship songs below.)

Museum für Kommunikation | 20. Feb 2020
Museum für Kommunikation | 20. Feb 2020
Artists Nanne Meyer and Eva-Maria Schön have been friends for over 30 years. They both live in Berlin, but decided about seven years ago to send each other postcards with their own designs. Here are some of the postcards they’ve exchanged over the years “inspired by the desire to brighten each other’s day”:
Museum für Kommunikation | 20. Feb 2020
Museum für Kommunikation | 20. Feb 2020

The following display asks visitors “What does friendship mean to you?”

Museum für Kommunikation | 20. Feb 2020

Discovery Tables

At the Discovery Tables, visitors are invited to explore their own friendship history.

The table below illustrates where people first met their friends:

Museum für Kommunikation | 20. Feb 2020

Looks like many people made friends at school:

My dear friend and I first met at work in San Francisco:

At this Discovery Table, visitors are asked, “How long have you known your best friend?”:

Museum für Kommunikation | 20. Feb 2020

You take a color-coded sticker that corresponds to your age and you stick it on the board (on the right) that applies to you: (I’ve known my best friend) “for 5 years, for 10 years, for 20 years” and so on.

I know it was just for fun, but it was harder than it looked. If the exhibition’s intent was to provoke more questions, then they’ve succeeded!

First of all, you have to define what “best” friend means, in my opinion!

I spent a tad bit longer at this table because questions kept popping up in my head about “best” friends:

  • Is it the person you’ve known the longest? 
  • Is it the one who has helped you through tough times? 
  • Is it the one with whom you’ve never had a big fight? 
  • Is it one’s spouse or life partner? 
  • Can one have more than one best friend? 

Often we think about what we are getting from friendships. But we also need to remember what we are giving to our friendships. Two questions I need to ask my friends are:

“Am *I* a good friend?”

“Am I meeting your friendship needs?”

Friendship – Analog

One of my favorite childhood friends and I met in middle/junior high school, but we went to different high schools. Instead of talking on the telephone, we wrote letters to each other. We maintained our epistolary friendship all throughout college. In our best cursive, we immortalized our thoughts on pretty stationery and sent them through the mail. I know, it was very Victorian-era!

But the anticipation of receiving a reply in the mail was thrilling! The arrival of a missive provided that giddy feeling similar to seeing presents under the tree on Christmas morning!

Museum für Kommunikation (permanent collection) | 20. Feb 2020

Our analog method of keeping in touch through “snail mail” worked well for us until email became commonplace. The digital chirp of “You’ve got mail” simply did not hold the same charm as getting a tangible stamped envelope in your mailbox!

This digital method of communication proved to be “too fast.” We learned soon after that we actually didn’t have much to say via email.

Friendship – Digital

Even before the pandemic forced all of us to switch to virtual communication tools, I’d been keeping in touch with my friends primarily through email, SMS/text messages, and social networks.

More than ever, we’re relying on mobile apps and various video conferencing platforms to get in touch, stay connected, and keep the twinge of loneliness at bay.

Virtual communication tools like these are absolute lifelines! Not only do you keep the connection strong across the miles and time zones, but when you do see each other again in person, it won’t be awkward.

I text my dear friend in Berlin almost every day about things both big and small — la vie quotidienne. So when I saw her in February, it was like I had just seen her yesterday!

I’m curious to know: How do you keep in touch with your friends? How do you define “best” friend?

For more information:

Like You! – Museum für Kommunikation

*More to come on my visit to Berlin and the Museum für Kommunikation*