Are the people you consider to be your friends, really your friends? In a world dominated by social media, real friends are far and few. Who would you consider to be your closest friend? Do you know if that person feels the same way? In most cases, individuals do not know whether their closest friend feel the same about them because oftentimes, friendship is just something that is assumed, rather than stated. To complicate matters, modern technology has overall greatly reduced the quality of our relationships as social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and PeepX, emphasize quantity of friendships rather than quality of friendships. Scrolling through news feeds and snap stories, people feel a sense of connection to other people’s lives, but is that connection meaningful? A friendship requires time and effort to cultivate and it is not something that can be contained within the scope of an app on your phone.
The three main components of a genuine friendship are familiarity, similarity, and reciprocity. Any friendship that is established in the absence of any of these components is either truly exceptional or disingenuous. Of course, people all have different standards of what constitutes a friendship and for most people, this standard is quite low. People are quick to call each other friends and as a result, the majority of friendships consist of individuals who aren’t really friends. Therefore, in order to clearly define a true friend, we must be conservative with what entails a friendship in the context of this discussion.
If you’re a student, chances are your friends are also your classmates. Familiarity is the act of becoming familiar with each other’s presences, and it is essential for establishing any kind of relationship. For many full-time students, their friends are usually also their classmates, people they interact with five days a week for ten months a year. On the other hand, working adults find friendship in colleagues and co-workers, because work is where they spend most of their time.
In general, your friends are usually people who you interact with on a regular basis because without those consistent interactions, there would not have been many opportunities for those friendships to develop. However, despite familiarity being a crucial component to establishing a friendship, familiarity alone is insufficient to guarantee a meaningful relationship. In addition to spending a lot of time together, friends also need to be engaged in enjoyable bonding activities during the time they spend together, if this wasn’t the case, you’d be friends with all your classmates/colleagues.
You and your friends also probably share some of the same interests. After all, similarities and common interests between friends are necessary to support the process of building rapport. By having something in common, individuals will find it easier to relate to each other and find incentives to spend time together engaging in activities they both enjoy, thus avoiding conflict and building relationships by choice.
On the contrary, relationships of circumstance or convenience are those that force two people to become familiar with each other and do not lead to actual friendships. For example, not all your colleagues are your friends, likewise not all your classmates are your friends. This is because not all of your colleagues/classmates have the same interests as you and those who do, are the ones who may ultimately become your friends. Some may argue that they know two seemingly opposite individuals that have become friends, but there is no doubt they share something in common, it may just not be apparent, otherwise they would just be enemies. In order to develop a friendship, individuals need to spend time together having fun, and the best way to accomplish the “fun” component of this requirement is by having common interests, which can serve to produce conversation topics, induce relatability, and increase the chance of both individuals enjoying similar activities.
Reciprocity is an attribute that exists in all genuine and long-lasting relationships. In this sense, friendships are like romantic relationships, which need reciprocity to be healthy. If one partner clearly puts more effort into the relationship than the other, there will inevitably be conflict, and the same goes for friendships. If you are not truly interested in establishing a genuine friendship, then you should not bother pursuing one, because it is not worth the facade you will have to continuously maintain.
On the other hand, if you are trying to become friends with someone who is not interested, you should also give it up because it is waste of time, for the sake of reciprocity, it would be better to find someone who is interested in you as well. Like in love, in friendships it is important for both sides to contribute and put in somewhat equal effort. Otherwise, the friendship just isn’t genuine and probably won’t last long. Lack of reciprocity is the most common symptom in dysfunctional friendships, relationships in which people likely possess ulterior motives in their actions. These “friends” may view you as a rival in academics or in the workplace, and would simply like to just keep an eye on you. These relationships lack in reciprocity, because these people simply don’t view you as a friend and thus are not willing to put much effort into the friendship. They are generally selfish overall and may easily break arrangements. These friends intend to use you and have no intention of reciprocating your good intentions, and even if they do, it may all just be an act.
Nevertheless, sometimes these friends are not intentional in their behavior, as mentioned before, friendship is something that is often assumed rather than stated, and oftentimes someone may view you as a friend, but you may only view them as acquaintance or vice versa, thus promoting different expectations of each other. Some people may then be deemed a “fake friend” when in fact, they never thought they were a friend in the first place.
In addition to the three components of a friendship, there are other influencing factors that need to be taken into account. A friendship that falls apart due to a change in circumstance was likely never actually a friendship in the first place, but rather a relationship of circumstance/convenience. One common example of this is when people stop talking to most of their high school friends after going to college. Most of those relationships were likely based on convenience and the circumstance of going to the same school, the friends that do keep in touch and still converse regularly are likely the true friends.
Some may argue that a change in circumstances results in diminishing interactions because it promotes relationship decay, a relationship deprecation factor that often occurs when there is a change in circumstances, such as a change in employment. However, in the case of dysfunctional friendships, a change in circumstances is oftentimes all it takes for the relationship to fall apart. Granted, relationship decay is a real phenomenon and its effects can be mitigated. For genuine friendships, relationship decay can be addressed with relationship maintenance, by intentionally interacting regardless of circumstances, friends can remain friends. Nevertheless, in the end, friendships generally do not last forever, like in love, sometimes people just grow apart, but that does not make the relationship any less meaningful.