This story is about friendship. We all have friends, some of us have many friends, some have only a few. Sometimes when we think about them, we realize that not all of them are "equally good", and so, the two categories are born: friends and acquaintances. Let's try to go further, and see what else can be found out.
I've separated them into several common types:
- classic friendship
- friendship between two lovers; which is a relationship between a boyfriend (bf) and a girlfriend (gf)
Although this taxonomy is focused on social connections between men and women, it also works with man-to-man and woman-to-woman connections (note: I do not refer to gay/lesbian - that's beyond the scope of this article).
I thought that we should categorize them by separating which elements the relationship relies on. Here are the types I've found so far:
Such a friendship exists because one can offer the other something they need: advice, money, help, etc. Most of the contacts are established when person A needs something from person B, and when they meet, they happen to do other things too (watch a movie, or talk about this and that, etc).
As soon as the demand for the offered object/service is gone, the friendship fades away because there is nothing there to keep it going.
Normally I wouldn't even call this 'friendship', because it sounds more like a commercial agreement between two people; so I must point out that this is just a metaphorical expression. The difference is that you're not offering a service to an unknown person in the street, instead you're doing it for someone you're familiar with.
Common interests (professional, academic) friendship
Colleagues at work, or at school - they face the same problems that we do, they have to cooperate with us on a daily basis, this is what we have in common and this is why we stick together.
As soon as this common thing disappears, the friendship becomes less strong; and eventually the connection weakens.
The friendship exists because people are simply attracted to each other physically; no brains involved (this can be expressed as "not much going on in the upper layers of the software level", as discussed in "On humans, personalities, software and hardware"). Won't go into the details here, this seems to be an interesting topic for another essay.
Respect-based friendship (hybrid)
People who have such a friendship enjoy spending time together; they manage to have something in common even if they don't work/study in the same place (i.e. they were not forced to have anything in common).
They may or may not be physically attracted.
The connection cannot be reduced to a 'primitive' supply/demand type.
- one type can mutate into another throughout time. For example, what used to be supply/demand in the beginning has evolved into a friendship based on common interests (which were revealed while the two were interacting in the context of supply/demand), etc;
- a type that has mutated into another one has the potential to revert back into its original state (fallback, backwards compatibility);
Ideas, how we can use the information above to make real life predictions
A friendship is a sum of components, the stability and the quality of a friendship can be 'measured' by analyzing how much of each component persists in the friendship.
The elements I propose are:
- supply/demand factor;
- the physical attraction factor;
- the 'forced' common interests factor (ex: work, or anything else that exists because the circumstances are so);
- the 'natural' common interests factor;
A 'strong' presence of natural common interests, and physical attraction can favor the development of a love-friendship (bf-gf).
If the supply/demand element is very strong, this will have a negative impact on the relationship.
If forced common interests will not help the two persons reveal natural common interests, the friendship is not likely to evolve into a love-relationship.
You're a guy who spends some time with a girl; the two of you study in the same school. You're a bit older, she's a bit younger :-), you help her with her programming assignments. You have fun together, but life goes on, she graduates, or she doesn't have the programming classes anymore. You notice that the two of you start drifting away from each other.
What happened? This was a supply/demand friendship, which did not manage to evolve into a respect-based one. As soon as the supply dropped to zero, there was nothing that could keep the connection alive.
Could this be avoided? According to the model described here, if this friendship had to evolve into something more reliable, you had to engage into additional activities (creating demand for other things) while still in the supply/demand phase, which would eventually lead to the development of "natural common interests".
- Make a list of friends, arrange them into various categories. If you see that some of them don't fit into any of the categories, it's time to extend the taxonomy with a new entry.
- Make a list of the features that make that particular friendship unique, and try to make a generic description.
Comment from: Dana [Visitor]
really like what you do, but not in this case. if to compare what you wrote with a real life friendship (even the simplest), it will be like comparing a present time microchip with human brain.
a friendship is much more complex than what you described. It involves a lot more elements and it cannot exist if there is no respect and common interests.
If taking only the plain attraction - the maximum you can expect is flirt pal or sex pal, but not more.
If a relation is based on supply/demand it’s more likely that it’s an acquaintance, a work based relationship.
it’s much broader than that :)
Comment from: olga [Visitor]
Inca trei categorii de prietenie am gasit (:
1) prietenie din mila (asta in cazul in care unul din prieteni e o persoana puternica, care vede ca una mai slaba cauta prietenia ei si o lasa sa creada ca-s prieteni pentru ca nu vrea sa-i faca rau)
2) prietenie din frica (fricade a fi singur, adic exista cazuri in care nu ai de unde alege, ori ai un singur prieten, ori n-ai nici unul; poti face o paralela economica- monopol, existenta unei singure puteri comerciale care detine o intreaga nisa economica => lipsa posibilitatii de a alege => conformarea cu ceea ce este; ca si in acest tip de prietenie.)
3) prietenia colectionarului (am inceput sa citesc o carte in care se mentioneaza un personaj in primele pagini, care se prezinta ca fiind un colectionar de prieteni; pentru el nu e atat de important “cine” este prietenul lui, ci “ragul” acestuia si “importanta” in societate. daca largim sensul, putem obtine o intreaga categorie de prieteni care incearca sa aiba cat mai multi si mai diversi prieteni din toate sferele din pur interes sportiv, neimplicandu-se foarte tare moral si sentimental in vreuna din prietenii
4) asta asa… nu sh daca ai mentionat-o: sclavia in prietenie in numele iubirii, unul iubeste si accepta statutul de prieten doar pentru ca sa poata fi alaturi de celalalt; celalalt pastreaza relatia de prietenie doar din motiv ca-i convine devotamentul primului.
I think you jump to fast to calling friendship what is not. Many people in those categories are not my friends, they may be buddies, pals, mates, or using the Romanian language amici, tovarasi (not in the communist sense) and so on.
The only criteria I think is valid is “respect-based". The other may be at best illusion of friendship.
> The difference is that you’re not offering a service to
> an unknown person in the street, instead you’re doing
> it for someone you’re familiar with.
I do exactly this, but not “in the street", but on various online places: mailing lists, forums and so on. You may call it “common interests friendship” but is correct when is about people you talk for the first time? And maybe only once?
Thank you for your feedback, I greatly appreciate your comments.
I realize that the descriptions above may not sound like something friendship-related, I anticipated such a reaction. However, I spent quite some time thinking things over, so I will try to support my statements with additional info.
Perhaps it is a matter of thresholds - when does one cross the line between ‘acquaintance’ and ‘friend’? Obviously, each of us has their own standards, but let us assume for a moment that we use the same threshold to define who are friends.
So far we all agree that a friendship is what was described in “respect-based friendship"; but you should try to make a list of people you know, and place them in these categories.
- Think about the way the friendship started; did you make contact because you liked how they looked? Because they had/knew something you needed? Or because you simply wanted to know them better?
- Think about the pulse of the friendship if you are somehow separated by time and space; will it be just as intense? Or will you hear “we’re losing him! Charge! Clear!” somewhere in the background?
- Is it mutual? Think about the other person’s motives to be engaged in the social connection, are they the same as yours?
I thought about describing friendship when I noticed that some of my friends were suddenly lost, off the radar, as if they weren’t there at all. In each case there was respect, and there was a broad range of common interests. We could spend days together, we went to each other’s birthday parties, we knew each other’s parents and siblings, and we felt at home in each other’s homes. I deliberately call them friends, because they were far closer than someone we refer to as “pal", “buddy", or “mate".
In other words, my point is that you should apply the above categories to those who you think are your true friends (according to your own definition), and you will notice that “all friends are equal, but some are more equal than others” :-) I thought I could get away with not coming up with a definition for ‘friend’ (because that would generate a lot of controversy).
It could be that even if you apply this scheme to your true friends, you really get nothing but “respect-based” friendship. In that case, the explanation is that your threshold is so high, that only a small group of people qualifies for the “friends” group.
- People at work - not all my work colleagues are my friends. I get along well with everyone, but only a subset of them I talk about non-work topics, meet outside the context of the job, etc
- Helping people in the street, or on the Internet - I don’t call them friends, I call them “other inhabitants of the planet” :-) I find it perfectly normal to help a stranger, giving them directions or advice, or spending some of my time explaining something. There is no reason not to do that, my policy towards strangers is “trusted by default” (unless they give me reasons to think otherwise)
- Rarely someone will “perfectly” fit into one particular category. One of the ideas was to see how much of each element is present in the friendship, and then determine how reliable the friendship is (kind of like “phlegm, winter and water” make you a phlegmatic, while “blood, spring and air” make you a sanguine)
Olga’s suggestions make me think about an idea I failed to take into account - not all friendships are mutual. In a hypothetical scenario, all evidence points to the fact that someone I think is a friend really is a friend, and my analitical skills fail to detect the fact that I am simply being manipulated. I would call this category - “one way friendships". Otherwise, they seem to fit in the “supply/demand” category, because in each case one sees the other as a source/provider of something (ex: subordination, pity - which gives you the chance to be “the mighty and merciful Caesar", etc).
Indeed, you are correct, my threshold for calling someone a "friend" is very high. I know some people apply this label to all people they are talking with, but I (it may be caused by my engineering background?) insist in using the most accurate label.
About your questions:
- how it started? hard to say, probably people find themselves spending time together, discover a number of things in common and gather in time mutual trust;
- pulse? of course time and space will kill a friendship. old friends part their ways and when they meet find noting remained, only a convenience
- if is not mutual then why? why should I beg for frienshup to someone who does not find me good enough?
Comment from: Vica [Visitor]
Your best friend (time-tested friend) needs an [insert organ here] transplant and you are a perfect donor match. As much as you want to help your friend, you don’t give up your organ. Your rationale: “what if my child ever needs this transplant?”
1. The chances of your child ever needing the same organ are very slim. Is it irrational to think in terms of “what ifs” to such extent?
2. Timing aspects - your friend’s life requires immediate actions, while your child’s does not. Do you respond to immediacy and hope that in the future, if something happens to your kid, your kind gesture will be returned by another person? Is this hope justifiable?
3. Prisoner’s dilemma:
It seems more utilitarian to give the organ to the friend. Let’s say we universalize this example and all people choose to give the transplant to the friend. This allows a freer and more efficient movement of transplants throughout the community/world. This guarantees or at least increases significantly the chances of your child being saved in the future, if he/she needs the same transplant or even a different type of transplant. Conversely, if all people chose to hang on to their transplants thinking their ilk might need it in the future, then the organ market will become very rigid, resulting in many dead friends and children. So the best solution is for all to give transplants to friends. But how can you be sure that all will?
4. Motherly Feelings - how can you tell a mother that her fear of her child ever needing that transplant is statistically irrational? Feelings trump reason in the case of a mother-child bond.
5. Consequently, does your decision of not giving the transplant to your friend, label you as an irrational, selfish individual and a bad friend?
6. If tables are reversed and you find yourself in your friend’s situation, how would you react to not receiving the transplant and to the rationale behind it?
Vica, thanks for the interesting challenge. Before I tell you what I think about it, I have to let you know that the way it is worded is not very good - because the “OMG! Think of the children!” card comes into play. People are extremely sensitive when it comes to kids, by using these keywords in the problem’s description, you practically ask people to give you biased answers.
Point #4 is another appeal to emotion, this time it is the mother-child bond. Point#4 should only be taken into account if, and only if, #1 is true. There is no need to talk about mom’s feelings when the life of the child is not endangered at all.
I would choose to offer the donation without a second thought, unless of course I have reasons to believe that my kid may run into a similar problem (say, I am aware of some genetic defects I have passed on to my child). Otherwise I see no drawbacks, and the benefit is that I get to save a friend’s life.
I like the reference to the prisoner’s dilemma. The argument is reviewed in more detail in Richard Dawkins’ “Nice guys finish first” (http://www.richarddawkins.net/article,305,Nice-Guys-Finish-First,Richard-Dawkins–BBC, there is a video there too). It is an old documentary, I strongly recommend it. The idea is very simple - altruism is a good strategy, and it gives the best results when everyone does it.
If someone chooses to exploit others’ altruism, they are going to be less lucky next time (check out “tit for tat", it is discussed in the movie too); so there are strong incentives to be good. It is tempting to cheat, but in the long run this strategy is inefficient.
Note that I have special views regarding friendship, in my case it is very easy to say “I’d go for the transplant without second thoughts", but this is because of some experiences other people haven’t gone through. [A poem about this will be published soon, I’m drawing an illustration for it now]
#5 is a good question. If I have reasons not to offer the transplant - then I am not selfish nor rational, it is a simple matter of choosing the less evil option from two evil ones. If I don’t have such reasons - yes, I am irrational. Check out “the ultimatum game", it is an interesting mind exercise.
I recently stumbled upon an interesting overview of the prisoner’s dilemma and the ultimatum game, as well as a discussion on the success of rational people: http://academicearth.org/lectures/evolution-emotion-and-reason-emotions-2
(I recommend you to go through the entire course)
Zilele astea tocmai gandeam la aceasta tema.. si ce as putea sa mai adaug. Cunosc oameni, printre care si ma aflu si eu, care au o tendinta, sa ii zicem asa, constand in a cauta prietenie cu oameni deosebiti. Criteriul “deosebitului” e pentru fiecare diferit, care de exemplu ii plac oamenii singuratici, pentru care extrainteligenti, carturari etc… Ce fel de prietenie e asta? :) Nu o pot categoriza la “Supply/demand friendship” pentru ca nu se foloseste de vreo capacitate a acelui prieten, nici respect based (pentru ca deobicei e unilateral), nici phisical, nici colectionar (tine la celalalt), nici mother-baby relation… :)
Hmm… eu cred ca e un fel de “supply/demand” friendship.
Demand = comunicarea cu oameni speciali si senzatiile pe care le primesti pe parcursul acestei interactiuni.
Supply = omul care poseda trasaturile respective iti poate oferi senzatiile pe care vrei sa primesti.
Intrebarea “de ce ai nevoie de astfel de senzatii?” e o alta intrebare, la care pina cind nu am raspuns. Dar banuiesc ca se poate de explicat simplu - e firesc ca oamenii sa tinda sa interactioneze cu alti oameni care seamana cu ei.
Supply/demand nu se limiteaza doar la “exploatare a unei capacitati obisnuite", ci si la “exploatarea capacitatii lor de a fi cum sunt” (singuratici, carturari, etc). Difereta e ca ei nu se simt exploatati deoarece nu ceri nimic de la ei (in mod explicit).
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