Gnosis

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Are Friends Worth the Effort?

with 3 comments

This is the first attempt at a point-counterpoint blog that I am doing with my friend Adrienne, who also hosts a blog and writes on a variety of topics. Recently I was thinking of coming up with a bilateral blog style on varying topics that might add to the flavor of my ‘one post every weekday’ site. That was when it came to be that I was chatting it up with her and thought about having some form of post/counterpost blog, akin to a debate, or a detente between the two of us as we are starting to write on a variety of likeminded issues. When people write on the same things they end up doing one of two things: cloning each other’s blogs (think of how identical the news is on tv) or they enter into something resembling Crossfire. This is our attempt at not becoming like a bland tv station. Wish us luck and don’t be too harsh.

We all hear about how a good friend is more valuable then a lottery ticket. People tell us that they have ‘best friends’, ‘good friends’ and some even talk of ‘mere acquaintances’. Yet more and more since the advent of social networking I have noticed a lack of what many of us took for granted: a coherent meaning of the word ‘friend’. Facebook, Myspace, Messenger, AIM, and even our cell phones have been in the act of labeling people what they really are not: friends. We get these sites and are forced to use a title on them that few, if any, have earned. We call so-and-so a friend from work (really a coworker), a exercise buddy becomes the ‘friend from the gym’ and many other people slowly creep into the realm (friendship) once reserved for the special few in our lives. The lowering of the standard of friendship without nary a thought to what the word even means has left a bad taste in my mouth that only grows nastier as I get older.

So who is a friend? What does a friend do that grants them friendship? According to www.thefreedictionary.com we get a very broad spectrum of answers:

friend (frnd)

n.

1. A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.

2. A person whom one knows; an acquaintance.

3. A person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause; a comrade.

4. One who supports, sympathizes with, or patronizes a group, cause, or movement: friends of the clean air movement.

5. Friend A member of the Society of Friends; a Quaker.

Of these five simple definitions, we can clearly see that the last three are very poor definitions of a friend and really are inappropriate measures of what a friend is. For instance in number three we have : “A person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause; a comrade.” This is clearly not a friend but rather an ally. In number four we have the definition best left for an ‘associate’ or ‘person with a mutual interest’. I will not even discuss what the second definition is, as the whole concept of acquaintance is that you know them well enough to say you know them but that they are NOT a friend. The last definition is the reason why social networking and religions, and non profit groups destroy the use of the term friend. They call you a friend in the hopes that you feel lonely and want to call someone, or something (anything really) a friend in exchange for some type of service or fiduciary reimbursement. They are not your friends unless you pay them or serve them blindly and obey them. The best definition for number five would be “member”, “servant” or even “rent-a-life”.

With that said we can see that the definition of a friend can be rewritten as the following (from here on out to be known as common use ‘friend’): is someone you know and like and trust and that someone thinks equally of you. I had to add the last part, as no one can really consider someone a friend unless that person accepts the title and feels the same way about it (otherwise one is deluded into thinking that they have friends while those people really just think of them as less then a friend) Thus anyone who fits these three criteria would be included in the friend category. If you think about your phone contacts list, your coworkers and your social networking lists you will start to see that very few people on those lists (depending on the levels of trust, likeability and level of knowledge about each other).

So after gleaming through those lists I am hoping that you start to wonder about that title “friend”. Sure you may think of them as friends and they fit your inclusion of what it means to be a friend. They might even call you a friend as well and say they agree totally with your assessment. The problem is that you won’t really know if they are your friend until your ‘friendship’ is tested. This might come about as you two slowly reveal secrets to one another. It might come about after you find out that one of you is in favor of something you totally abhor or find revolting (lifestyle choices, abortion, political party). It might even come about after the faith and trust you or the other party had invested into the friendship becomes destroyed via a deliberate action or conversation. If your friendship survives those tests and you two see the worst of each other and can still claim honestly that you two are friends, then congratulations. If you are like 99.9% of humanity and hold grudges and resentment and start hiding things or avoiding this person yet still claim ‘friendship’ then you my friend are mistaken in your beliefs.

All of this brings me to my point: Why even bother with claiming people into the status of a friend? Are ‘friends’ even worth all that effort?  I think not and I’ll tell you why not. You can be a stronger and more resilient person by not stressing over the status of a friend or your apparent ‘time investment’ into that friendship. You can like whomever you want and if they are not considered a ‘friend’ then it would matter not if they felt the same way! You can trust people and still not call them friends (ie. a lawyer who is contractually bound keeps better secrets and any best friend I’ve ever known or heard about because they’re ass and life is at risk!) Finally if you need someone to think highly of you or to trust you or like you then you will forever remain the slave of their opinion and adulations. Why bother being so needy if that neediness (for ‘friends’) leaves you weak, vulnerable, and at a disadvantage? Wouldn’t your efforts be better spent not making friends and instead reflected back into self improvement or your own pursuit of happiness? Imagine all those conversations and emotional baggage that you had with all the people you considered a friend in the past (but not today). Think of all the fights, jealousy, bitterness and shallow actions committed by you and those people until the ‘friendship’ ended. Now tell me how is the learning experience from those horrible moments worth the moments themselves? Imagine all that energy and time investment used to create a friendship were redirected towards improving yourself. How many hours of pointless chit chat that transformed itself into another language or skill (like playing the piano). How many fights could have been dropped in exchange for the time to take a college class or go to the gym?

No. In my mind the idea of a friend and friendship itself are not worth the effort. In the world around me there are suitable substitutes for what one considers the valuable aspect of friendships. Instead of talking endlessly and undirected for hours on the phone, you could go to a therapist who has the training to help you with your problems (unlike the usually bad advice from your ‘friend’). Instead of waiting for your friends in order to do something you could just go out and meet new people and have adventures of your own, unencumbered by the social expectations that these people have placed on you or that you feel you need to follow. There are many other things that can be done when one limits the use of the word friend and for those who limit their need to have friends will certainly see an unlimited amount of opportunity. A friend will frequently limit your choices in who also gets the title : ‘friend’. They will not be a friend of yours or allow the use of the title (as punishment) until that apparent error is corrected. Thus by eliminating friends completely you can avail yourself of the company of whomever you wish without stress, punishment or risk of loss (of another friend).

Toss your friends, take back control over your life and your destiny.

You can read Dree’s counterpoint blog post here.

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Written by Josecito

March 25, 2011 at 6:59 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses

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  1. It amuses me that you wrote an entire blog about how friends aren’t worth the effort and that we should “toss” them… but you opened with: “This is the first attempt at a point-counterpoint blog that I am doing with my friend Adrienne…” :)

    All those hours wasted talking to me… chatting with me… hanging out with me… I mean, you could have learned German by now!

    Seriously though, it IS a lot of work to maintain a friendship. But I still believe that a good friendship is worth the time and effort.

    I will agree that it’s annoying when Facebook et al label people as “friends.” I’d like to choose my own labels for some of those people. Then again, I have 87 “friends” on Facebook, and there are only 3 on that list that I haven’t met in person. I’m not one of those people who adds everyone just for the sake of having 200+ people on their friend list. I don’t need that many strangers knowing so much about my life.

    I can’t quite figure out your argument about why friends are a waste of time. You say that you can still like people and trust people without calling them friends. So what would you call them? Are they all just acquaintances?

    I think in the end, it’s just a matter of opinion. When I look back at all the people I’m no longer friends with, I don’t think of the time I spent with them as a waste. Everything we do is a learning experience. Even bad friends teach us something. I learned how not to be a doormat. I learned how to recognize a bad situation and get out without getting hurt. I don’t regret any of it.

    Dree

    March 28, 2011 at 9:54 pm

  2. Well the whole point of my blog is amusement! :)
    In all seriousness my main argument is that most people spend so much time debating about who is a friend, who is not a friend, and then fight with each other over said title that in the end it might not be worth the effort and emotional attachment involved. Certainly they can be called acquaintances. I wouldn’t say that friendships are a waste of time, just the modern interpretation of them and the way that society has watered down the meaning of the word.

    The idea is that as an adult if you are friends with someone who then becomes a bad friend and you become a doormat: that they really weren’t a friend and the title should not have been used at all (because the title also confers special status). So from my argument, you wouldn’t really call people friends at all. You would just accept them as they are and not feel burdened if someone didn’t meet the ‘friend’ level of expectation. They’d just be themselves and you’d accept them as that, nothing more nothing less. No preset requirement to give anyone more preference over anybody else. No chance of slighting people.

    Josecito

    March 28, 2011 at 10:02 pm

  3. I agree with the bad friend/doormat statement. If a “friend” turns into a bad friend, then s/he wasn’t a true friend in the first place. I think many people are too quick to label others as “friends” before they have a chance to get to know them. And Facebook doesn’t help the matter by automatically labeling everyone as “friends.” I’ll be talking to someone and they’ll say, “Oh, I saw your friend so-and-so commented about that on your Facebook.” Just because I accepted them into my Facebook Fold, it doesn’t mean we’re friends. It’s a social networking site… they should be called My Network.

    But what if that person considers me a friend just because I added him or her on Facebook? Clicking the “accept” button isn’t a contract. I still reserve the right to decide who is a friend, and who isn’t. For example, I consider you a friend because we have similar interests, a compatible sense of humor, we have fun when we hang out together, and I trust you. Not because Facebook says so. Of course, you might just consider me “that girl I talk to once in awhile,” LOL.

    Another difficult situation is when one person is more invested in the friendship than the other. Someone once referred to me as her best friend, and it was immediately awkward, because I didn’t consider her MY best friend. I didn’t say that, of course… I’m not a complete bitch, lol. But that’s where your idea of labels comes in. Why did she consider me her best friend? Is it because she doesn’t have a lot of close friends? Does she expect me to return the favor by saying the same about her? Would it hurt her feelings if she knew I already had a best friend? And can you have more than one, or does best mean BEST?

    Oy. My bottom line is still the same: TRUE friends are worth the effort.

    At any rate, I’ve enjoyed the discussion that came out of these blogs. A lot of valid points were made, and a lot of good debate took place. Can’t wait for the next topic! :)

    Dree

    March 31, 2011 at 8:47 am


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