Why Do We Have Friends?

As someone who possesses a natural suspicion toward human beings, I tend to befriend only a few. With my college years coming to a close – well, with three and a half years left, but – and my already non-existent social life fading away, I’ve caught myself contemplating this question: why do I have friends? Why do I hang out with the people I hang out with? Is friendship intrinsically selfish? Why would others even consider associating with me when I make weird animal noises and overuse the words “pulchritudinous” and “twerk”?

Current favorite fictional friendship: Sansa and Sandor from Game of Thrones. What are some of yours? (source: whicdn.com)

Current favorite fictional friendship: Sansa and Sandor from Game of Thrones. What are some of yours? (source: whicdn.com)

The three rules of social attraction I learned in AP Psychology consist of proximity, similarity, and reciprocal liking. Proximity, which I touched on in this post, details that we like the people we come into contact with more often. Similarity states that we prefer those who have more in common with us, and reciprocal liking reveals that we tend to feel attracted to those who show that they also admire us. These three make sense: you need to see others to form bonds with them, we appreciate people who share similar attributes/ideas because they reflect ourselves, and empathy and our desire for love/acceptance explain the concept of reciprocal liking.

But exceptions abound. Time and place may desensitize us to people or help us understand them, but that does not imply any type of deep or meaningful friendship – you may live with your family for an extended amount of time but maintain better relations with friends. While the ability to fanboy The Hunger Games and a shared cultural background may aid in getting to know someone, certain differences can prevent close bonds despite an abundance of similarities. As for reciprocal liking, just because a person acts with kindness toward you does not ensure that you will do the same or feel in a similar fashion; otherwise, the just world phenomenon would not exist.

Me and my haircut and my best friend and her cat. First selfie of 2014.

Me and my haircut and my best friend and her cat. First selfie of 2014. Does anyone else have friendships with their pets?

Aristotle’s three kinds of friendships add an agreeable layer of complexity that enhances the three rules mentioned above. The first, utility, focuses on friendships in which people “use” each other: coworkers who help each other out when issues in the office arise, study buddies who prepare for huge exams together, etc. The second, pleasure, deals with those who participate in fun activities together: people who you go out and party with, people who you play soccer or tennis with, etc. Aristotle notes that only one type of friendship has what it takes to truly survive and flourish, and he calls this friendship based on “the good.” These relationships take a longer time to develop and form between people with mutual respect and compassion, people who possess similar goals and values, and people who share a common paradigm of what the world should look like. This third friendship, when developed over time, represents to me the zenith of human interaction, the highest peak, the point of it all: to enjoy it is to enjoy a companion who will carry you through anything and everything, solely for the sake of your well-being.

I do not suggest that we can neatly divide all friendships or social interactions into exclusive categories. Nor should we think that we only need friendships based on the good – we should all strive for a healthy mixture of the three, because I doubt that we are all compatible enough with one another to be best friends. However, we should also strive to examine the friendships we have and why we find meaning within them to maximize our understanding of one another. Thinking about this might aid in conflict resolution and it might ameliorate our already existing relationships. Friendships that begin because of a shared interest in Queer as Folk or mutual participation in ping pong club could always develop into something more, with the proper amount of time and effort.

I listened to all of One Direction's new album and rediscovered my inner fifth-grader thanks to Harry Potter club. Anyone listen to 1D? Actually obsessed with "Happily"...

I listened to all of One Direction’s new album and rediscovered my inner fifth-grader thanks to Harry Potter club. Anyone listen to 1D? Actually obsessed with “Happily”…

Most of what I referenced in this post comes from courses I’ve taken in high school and college – as I learn more, my view on friendship and social interaction will change. I’m taking a social psychology course this upcoming semester and that makes me super happy because I can now rule the world with my supreme knowledge of humans and their weaknesses will expand my knowledge and have more to write about! I hope everyone has a fabulous Thursday and you can find my brief thoughts on Just Between Us by J.H. Trumble and A Clash of Kings by George R.R. here and here, respectively.

Why do you guys think you have friends? Do you find yourself nodding along with the concepts I’ve mentioned in this post or do you disagree? I feel that I’m most open, honest, and deep when it comes to my friendships based on the good – would you agree?

22 Comments

Filed under Personal, Society

22 responses to “Why Do We Have Friends?

  1. I suck at socializing therefore I do not think I have friends, I like to call them acquaintances, people to talk to at school, people to sometimes hang out with but people I don’t share a real connection with. I am not sure how I feel about that in all honesty. Sometimes it depresses me but sometimes I just don’t care. I completely agree that friendships based on the ‘good’ are the best ones, the ones that will last you for a long time. My mom is still friends with one of her friends from high school and from what I know their friendship was formed based on the good.

    I think I have friends because in the end everyone needs friends. Social interaction is important even when you think you think you can survive without humans and generally don’t like them (*looks away guiltily*)

    I love you a little for this post :P Seriously. Also. KITTEHHHHHHHH

    • I agree that we all need friends because humans are naturally social beings – the deep friendships require time too, so I wouldn’t count yourself out or feel depressed. Thank you for reading and commenting and loving me, even if it’s just a little!

  2. I loved this post Thomas! It was really insightful. What I’ve noticed is that after graduating from University I’m only close to a handful of people. There were some that I thought I would keep in touch with forever and then there were some surprises as well. I’m someone who believes that people come into your life for a reason and a season. Once that’s over they slowly move away from your life. I think I had the hardest time with this during my junior year of University where I kind of begin to question everything, but then it slowly started to make sense. That being said sometimes I do feel that because I’ve been out of school for more than a year now my social skills are kind of going down the drain since I’m only around my family for the majority of time as opposed to friends.

    I think it also depends on people as well. I’m pretty much a homebody and I like being at home and reading and doing other kinds of stuff. I don’t necessarily feel like I miss out on anything, but there are times where I wonder “should I be a bit more different?” but then I just tell myself that I’m okay with who I am. There’s only so much socializing you can do. I also agree with Aristotle that “the good” friendships are the ones that we not only want, but they are the ones that can flourish. At the end of the day friendship is a two way street and you have to give as much as you take. Sometimes that idea is lost and it can be frustrating. So I guess it’s upto the individual to decide if the friendship is worth pursuing.

    Have a great Thursday yourself!

    • Savindi, it’s so interesting to hear from someone who’s graduated from University. While it’s sad that there are friends who only frequent your life for a season, it’s not too surprising, considering the amount of influence geographic location and other factors possess. Still, I’m glad to know that by the end of your junior year everything was beginning to make sense. Your commentary on friendships based on the good accentuates Aristotle’s opinion and I agree that we have to contribute to our friendships as much as we receive from them.

      Hope you’re having a fabulous weekend, and thank you for reading and commenting!

  3. First and foremost, smart new haircut ;0)

    The old saying says that you can’t pick your family, but you do pick your friends. I met my main group of friends as I was just coming to terms with my sexuality, and was starting to want to go out more (to places my straight friends wouldn’t want to go). Our friendships are much deeper now, as we have grown together. I also have friends from school who I have very little in common with now, but our history really binds us together. One thing I know is that I would be lost without them.

    And no, there is nothing wrong with having friendships with your pets. My cat is my mate. It’s valid.

    • That’s true, it’s important to keep in mind that we choose our friends. Shared experiences do breed deeper friendships as we help each other and grow with each other through them – it’s great that you have a good group of friends from a few different places.

      Thank you for commenting and reading and for your compliment!

  4. First off, I hope you enjoy your social psychology course. The one I took last year was amazing. Granted, I think it had a lot to do with the prof, but I believe Social Psychology is a truly interesting course.

    I agree with your post and all the points that you brought up. Your logic flows really well. I believe that everyone has a mix of the types of friendships you brought up. From my experience, late 2012, I met a guy in my class and we became friends (then dated for a few months) mostly because we had no friends in the class or the rest of the term for the most part. We got put into a group together and I think that is really the only reason we were friends. Eventually, I made a couple new friends and I migrated to them because their personalities matched with mine better. I no longer talk to this guy but I feel it shows a good example that at that moment in time, I needed a friend, even if it was only a temporary one. An important thing to note is that while it would be nice to keep the same friends around forever, a good majority of them are temporary, because they are useful at that moment of time.

    As of right now, I am seriously struggling to make friends due to last years onset of social anxiety where I literally cannot go up to someone and talk to them unless they talk to me first. I have turned to online friends, which have both their pros and cons. I’m not sure where these friendships will go because I’ve never really delved into online relationships before. But 5 months in and we’re still close so we’ll see! :)

    Hope all is going well with school and good luck!
    - Kelly

    • Kelly, thanks for complimenting my logic, and I’m glad you enjoyed your Social Psychology course! I agree that some friends are not meant to be forever, and your awareness of such shows an admirable and higher level of thinking.

      I’m glad you have online friends – I hope you do not feel too inhibited or melancholy regarding last year’s social anxiety. Thank you for reading and commenting and I’m wishing you the best!

  5. This is such of a thought-provoking post! It is indeed true that there are different types of friends. I don’t like to think much about it, but many of my friends are friends that will only be temporary, and only a few are ones that are of the “third friendship”. Although, friendships, and relationships in general, are complex, all of them having different feelings involved with them that sometimes I myself don’t completely understand. You can’t really make set categories for them.

    As for the reason why I have friends… It’s hard to say exactly, but I believe it’s because I love having someone to experience life with, to be able to be open with, and to be able to be happy with. And when I’m close friends with someone, I’d struggle to help them when they need, or just want, the help to get through life. I guess that this could be called “using”, but I like to think that it’s much more meaningful than that, since a strong friendship is about being willing to sacrifice and give as much as, and maybe even a little more than, you receive…

    Oh, and nice haircut! And a very pulchritudinous cat your friend has! (I hope I used that word right.) Friendships with pets? Well, my dog is the only being that I can know for absolute sure will keep a secret… And be an available cuddle-buddy at all times. So yeah, I think that my dog and I have a beautiful friendship :P

    • When I think about close friendships, I like to keep in mind that the fact I only have a few of them only enhances their meaningfulness even more. But you hold an admirable philosophy when it comes to your friends – a strong friendship does consist of sacrifice and giving even when the going gets rough. Thank you for your compliments and I’m glad you also have a secure friendship with your dog. (:

  6. Friendship, like most relationships, are complex because we ourselves are complex. Okay I have a sort of stable metaphor; we’re our own individual chemical composed of bases share by other but in different combinations (i.e, backgroud, interests, values, experience, discriminating tendencies, etc.) and it depends upon the reactions we have with other people’s chemicals, the strengths of the bonds. Which was basically what you’ve said.

    I’m normally an outgoing person who tends to gravitate towards solitude. The closest friends I have include two girls with whom I have little in common with, after about four years of not seeing each other after graduation we keep sporadic contact and to me that really means something. Very little proximity and similarity. Now thinking back, I never had anyone come withing approaching the best friend type. You’re right, it’s imperative to examine the basis of our relationship with people we consider to be friends but at the same time we shouldn’t over analyze.

    It’s easy to say this person is my friend or that even though we see each other at work or at a regular cafe but in reality they’re just acquaintances. friendship goes beyond just talking about things and pain hanging about. In that case, I hardly have any friends at all, can count ‘em all on one hand.

    I’m liking the new cut! You look different since the last selfie, more mature and your friend’s very pretty. The only pet I have is a made up owl and even she doesn’t talk to me much, I’m afraid. I very much would like a black cat too. What does that tell you?

    • Devina, as someone is not as nearly experienced with science as you are, it makes me smile that you’re able to create such a great metaphor using your expertise! It’s also fabulous that you’re able to examine your friendships in a way that is insightful and real – I think it’s meaningful that we only have a few close friends, because that makes those few close friends even more important to us. You can’t expend all your effort on everyone: it just wouldn’t be the same.

      Thank you for your compliment and for reading and commenting! Maybe one day we will both own black cats. (:

  7. I tend to be a loner, mostly because it’s easier to pursue my goals when there aren’t many distractions, but the friendships that I do have seem to be based on “the good.” I think it’s important to have friendships like that, namely because of how saturated the world is with superficiality and self-serving agendas.

    I loved psychology and sociology in school — those textbooks, along with my English Literature textbooks, are the ones that I kept with much glee. Just wait till you get to mores and folkways. After learning about them, you’ll want to go around breaking social norms. :3

    I love that you love “pulchritudinous.” I’m running a series on delicious words over on my blog. The last one was on untranslatable words. Check it out! I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. :)

    • I agree that we should strive for deep relationships, especially due to the influx of shallow ones present within contemporary society. I’m glad that we share a love for psychology and English, and I am quite looking forward to learning about mores and folkways!

      About to check out your post right now – thank you for reading and commenting on mine. (:

  8. Little Panda Buh Bye

    I have friends because they like me or acknowledge me~ that’s why I don’t have many ha ^^
    Your strikethough made me giggle. I don’t get how someone can translate such personality into their writing, I mean it, so cool. This is why I keep coming back here :D

    • That’s not a bad motivation, and at least you’re aware of it otherwise! I’m glad that my personality comes through my writing and that it doesn’t scare you off. Thanks for reading and commenting. (:

  9. Glad to know I’m not the only one who has thought through this question in depth. All that research makes sense, I read somewhere all friendships are give and take (mostly and subconsciously take) if you think about it the only reason you are attached to someone is because they have something for you, whether it be a good conversation, company, sharing life goals blah blah…the list goes on. It might just be another human survival thing, but there is nothing like a true true friend.

    Loved the post =)

    • The “give and take” dynamic intrigues me – maybe the measure of a true friendship is one in which either person would willingly give without any guarantee of getting anything back? As in a selfish desire to give to the contribute to the other person’s welfare irrespective of how it affects his or her own?

      Thank you for reading and commenting!

      • Ooooo I like that theory, it does make sense. It also made me think of those relationships where one may give in order for some return in the future despite the fact the ‘friendship’ seems to be more harm than good (in the present). I guess that is false hope.

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