Wednesday, August 10, 2016
Are We Really Friends?
In the age of social media, the word "friend" is thrown around easily. Yet, we should question this -- are all the people who call themselves our friends on Facebook, etc., actually true confidants? Would they pick us up at the train station late at night? Do they listen to our woes with attention and compassion?
Turns out, they aren't. Which shouldn't really be a surprise: the amount of effort required to interact with someone on social media is minimal -- far less than necessary in the real world.
Recent research reported this week in The New York Times finds "that only about half of perceived friendships are mutual," meaning that "someone you think is your friend might not be so keen on you. Or vice versa, as when someone you feel you hardly know claims you as a bestie."
The article sensibly concludes that "it's worth identifying who among the many people you encounter in your life are truly friends. Who makes time for you? Whose company enlivens, enriches and maybe even humbles you? Whom would you miss? Who would miss you?"
This subject matters to me. I take friendship seriously. I will ride a motorcycle halfway across North America to visit a friend. I will listen patiently to someone share her deepest anxieties. I will confide my personal secrets with an expectation of trust.
During my life, I've learned to distinguish between acquaintances -- who are simply people in our orbit -- and friends. We're all surrounded by others at school, work and the gym; mere presence doesn't mean people are our friends. Rather, friends are the ones we choose; they are people we're drawn to, people we hope will understand us.
What do you think about this?