Snarky Behavior

Five Degrees of Friendship: Part 2

September 29, 2007 · 1 Comment

Part 1 of the “Five Degrees of Friendship” spurred some interesting discussion: one of my friends lamented off-line that she was “destined to a life full of superficial friends, and an uptick in casual sex;” another disagreed with my “quantity over quality” premise because, based on her experience, the aging process helps identify and value true quality over quantity. Most readers (accurately) recognized me as a BS artist (aka “social scientist”).

The original premise of my theory was as follows:

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”).

Allow me to explore these stages further:

Birth – 18 years

When you’re born, you have one friend: your mom. Your relationship with your mother is the first one you recognize in the world, and is the most important. She loves you unconditionally, she is responsible for you, she buys you toys to play with, she laughs at your jokes and yells at you when you mess up. And you, in turn, draw her pictures, try to make her laugh, tug on her dress. You learn when to push her buttons and how to get what you want out of her. You learn to manipulate.

As your mom slowly grants you more freedom, you discover new friends. They aren’t push-overs like your mom. They are self-entitled and selfish, primarily because their only previous friend was their own mom. You learn to negotiate with these people. You learn how to conspire with them against your parents, and you bond over the commonalities you share as little people against a big world. You learn to categorize these people as “best” friends or simply “friends”. These dynamics play out when you start inviting people to birthday parties or doling out Valentine’s day cards.

By the time you’ve hit puberty and enter adolescence you’re being socialized into an ever expanding environment. The creek of elementary school trickles into the stream of Middle School, which dumps into the river of High School. As you meet these new people you are forced to expand the quantity of your friendships, but at the same time your insecurities incline you to cling desperately to those whom you consider highest quality.

18-25 Years

Within the first few months of college you realize that everyone was insecure in high school, and you let down your entry barriers for “friendship.” The introduction of alcohol is a social lubricant that vastly expands your network. As a result, you walk around campus recognizing a lot of faces, but not all of the names.

In college, you begin to feel the constraints of time management. “Hanging out” with one group of friends incurs an opportunity cost for not “hanging out” with someone else. This is especially the case if you’re involved in a serious monogamous relationship (the introduction of which skews heavily toward “quality” over “quantity”… a huge professional mistake to make this early in your pre-career).

The insular nature of the first few years of college (i.e. the “dorm” experience) teaches you the importance of networking. To gain something you want (booze, entrance into an exclusive event, free stuff, a ride in a car, an internship), it oftentimes depends on who you know that can arrange such things. The “enablers” are oftentimes shifty characters who you wouldn’t otherwise be friends with, but their utility makes them permissible as “fringe” friends… a completely superficial relationship.

At the end of college you’ve reached a point of quantity/quality equilibrium: you’ve established your “long-time” friends that “know” you, but at the same time you’ve recognized the necessity to diversify your relationships in order to maximize on exploitive potential for personal gain.

In Part 3 I will discuss the latter years of life: 25-65, 65-75, and 75-death. Comments welcome.

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1 response so far ↓

  • John // September 30, 2007 at 2:14 pm | Reply

    I had a roommate that was one of those “fringe” people. And he hung out with the dregs of society.

    In high school he was the prom king, and in college he wanted to have this “gangsta” image. Needless to say a person not from the streets should not pretend to be, as he was tied up at gun point and robbed of all his worldly possessions by some actual hoods. Cracka ass cracka.

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