Snarky Behavior

Five Degrees of Friendship: Part 1

September 10, 2007 · 8 Comments

I was reading at Micro Persuasion that the virtually overnight popularity of social networking sites has dynamically changed the meaning of “friendship,” or at least drastically changed the threshold by which friends are categorized.

Rohit has written the seminal entry on the economic cost-benefit analysis of interpersonal relationships, and I highly recommend that all of my readers give it due consideration. His sub-categorizations may be cynical, but they’re also extremely insightful and speak to the matter at hand of quality vs. quantity (plus it always feels good to be commoditized by your friends).

As for my contribution to the subject, my recent foray into the liminal space between major life stages has placed me into a new context through which I’m forced to analyze the nature and value of my previously developed friendships. What kind of people do I enjoy most? How did I meet them? How did I get to know them? Were we friends by circumstance, or common interest? (This is of particular interest to me I’ve made so very few straight male friends since college, and I’ve forgotten how to socialize. I made most of my guy friends while stuck in a stage of arrested development, when the conversational topics of bonding centered on sports and misogynistic rap lyrics… after two years of hanging out exclusively with gays and females, I can only functionally conversate on High School Musical… and misogynistic rap lyrics).

Hypothetically, I can take the recalled information, apply it to my new situation, and voila! – a whole new set of people to hang out with.

Here’s the catch– I’m in a professional school, where the emphasis is on “networking,” and therefore quantity over quality.

In fact, it seems the natural trajectory of the quantity/quality friendship ratio seems to reach equilibrium at college (when you live right next to or with all of your closest friends), and then steadily tilt toward quantity over quality (as you begin to meet new people via networking while your closest friends move on or away), until you reach old-age (most of your friends die off, and you find yourself in a “dorm for geezers” aka “rest home”):

Looking at the above chart, it is clear there are five stages in life when your priorities shift in terms of interpersonal relationships: birth-18; 18-25; 25-65; 65-75; and 75-death. In my next post, I’ll take a more in-depth look at these stages.

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8 responses so far ↓

  • Rohit // September 11, 2007 at 1:29 pm | Reply

    I truly enjoy the pervasive use of graphs in your posts because it adds an undue amount of credibility to your hypotheses. Though I have no doubt you just made up that graph above, a casual reader will look at it and assume because it’s a graph, it must be based on years of painstaking research and statistical analysis.

    I never really did much in the social sciences while in undergrad, so I really wonder how much of the purported “research” coming out of eminent social science departments across the country is just an impoverished graduate student plugging in numbers into Excel.

    Now that’s a social science topic worth researching!

  • X~ // September 11, 2007 at 4:46 pm | Reply

    Actually, I think in reality, it’s the reverse. As someone who is older than you *coughcough* I have come to realize that all those friends I had in college were just college friends. The real trick is keeping people as you age. (not that Boones Farm drinking contests and Pimp-n-Ho mixers weren’t wonderful bonding experiences.) Yes, more and more people come into your life as you get older, but you are less likely to label them a friend. Once you start to hit your 30s, you really realize who your friends are. (Cheese alert) They are the ones who are still around and still like you, despite all of your ups-n-downs, personal dramas and life changes. Good friends have to earn it, and for most that means time.

  • Rob // September 12, 2007 at 1:43 am | Reply

    I appreciate the high level of snark this post exudes. I enjoy the occasional soundly-reasoned analysis based on vague, unsubstantiated assumptions as much as the next guy.

  • Jon // September 12, 2007 at 2:21 am | Reply

    Rohit: you are correct… since you didn’t study social sciences, you have no basis through which to challenge me. Your utility is expressed when and only when I require advanced knowledge of statistical and analytical data software, or help with audio/visual equipment (which is the case in I’d say 95% of the lectures I’ve had thus far).

    “X”– you’re still working in the 20th century understanding of the word “friend.” It’s like the adjective “gay”– the term encompasses such a diverse range of subsets that it ceases to be descriptive, hence the need for modifiers (i.e. dear friend, work friend, best friend or bear, poof, twink). So your value derived from dear friends may increase (and thus quality becomes a priority over quantity), but in terms of interactions and responsibility to give casual recognition (should anyone call you, email you, see you in the street), the quality component is still much higher at your age.

    Rob, the world is complex, we only have our assumptions to guide us. Knowledge and experience can make your assumptions more precise, or make your bullshit smell a little sweeter than everyone elses’.

  • Jon // September 12, 2007 at 2:22 am | Reply

    *quantity component

  • X~ // September 12, 2007 at 4:56 pm | Reply

    Oh! You crazy kids! When I was your age “gay” meant one thing — lame. In fact, this whole post was totally GAY! Let’s bring it back starting now.

  • Five Degrees of Friendship: Part 3 « Snarky Behavior // October 7, 2007 at 4:06 pm | Reply

    [...] Part 1 of the “Five Degrees of Friendship” introduced a theory that as we age, we experience a dynamic transformation in the balance of our interpersonal relationships: “In fact, it seems the natural trajectory of the quantity/quality friendship ratio seems to reach equilibrium at college (when you live right next to or with all of your closest friends), and then steadily tilt toward quantity over quality (as you begin to meet new people via networking while your closest friends move on or away), until you reach old-age (most of your friends die off, and you find yourself in a “dorm for geezers” aka “rest home).” [...]

  • Matt’s blog » Blog Archive » Eyes lie, So does my reality // February 27, 2009 at 8:30 pm | Reply

    [...] see. The lie’s of the truth he tells her. The friendship he bestows upon her is the higher degree of a friendship that can evolve unto a infinet amout of love she is willing to bestow upon him. Their souls have [...]

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