Please see below selected recent friendship-related change.
- Friendships often arise out of convenience, as social psychology research in the 1950s showed - students were more likely to become friends with peers who lived on the same building floor as them. But personality is also important, with more recent research suggesting that we’re inclined to form close friendships with people whom we perceive to have personality traits similar to our own.
- Maria Popova, discussing friendship, noted that Emerson considered it the supreme fruit of “truth and tenderness,” Aristotle the generous act of holding up a mirror to each other, Thoreau a grand stake for which the game of life may be played, and C.S. Lewis “one of those things which give value to survival”.
- A legacy of poverty, genocide and dictatorship left Zimbabwe struggling with an epidemic of depression. A landmark project was therefore launched, employing grandmothers to deliver therapy on park benches. Founded in 2007, the Friendship Bench project treated 280,000 people in its first 16 years of existence, in 70 communities across Zimbabwe and at spin-off projects in Malawi, Kenya and most recently Zanzibar and Vietnam. The concept has proven so successful that it’s hoped that it can be exported around the world.
- Author Matt Dickins argued that there is a male friendship recession: in the US, since 1990, there has been a fivefold increase in the number of men reporting that they have no close friends, while in the UK, a 2018 study by the Movember Foundation suggested things are even worse: one in three men asked could not name a single close friend. One of the causes could be the decline of the workplace as a social hub: the workplace is increasingly not a great place to make and maintain friendships, especially since the post-pandemic rise of remote and hybrid-working.
- Richard Reeves, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, talked of a “friendship recession.” He notes that loneliness can be as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes per day, but measuring and quantifying friendships is difficult. According to Reeves, an ideal number of close friends is around three or four, but 15% of young men today report having no close friends, compared with 3% in the 1990s. The COVID pandemic further tested friendship networks, with women being the most affected due to their friendships’ reliance on physical contact. Other factors likely have contributed to the decline in friendships in the 21st century include geographical mobility, parenting demands, work pressures, and relationship breakdowns.
- In the US, in the last 30 years, the percentage of people with <=1 close friend nearly tripled to 20% of the population. The percentage of people who report 10+ close friends dropped from 40% to 15%.
- Psyche warned that such is the pace and busyness of many people’s adult lives that they can lose contact with their friends at a rapid rate. A study by the Dutch sociologist Gerald Mollenhorst found that, over a period of seven years, people had lost touch with half of their closest friends, on average. Many people seem to be losing friends faster than they can replace them. A meta-analysis by researchers in Germany published in 2013 combined data from 177,635 participants across 277 studies, and concluded that friendship networks had been shrinking for the preceding 35 years.
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- Shoji Morimoto had what some would see as a dream job: he got paid to do "pretty much nothing". The 38-year-old Tokyo resident charged 10,000 yen (US$71) per booking to accompany clients and simply exist as a companion. "Basically, I rent myself out. My job is to be wherever my clients want me to be and to do nothing in particular," Morimoto told Reuters, adding that he had handled some 4,000 sessions in the previous four years.
- People instinctively want close, trusting relationships - at work and in life. Having a "best friend" at work can contribute to a thriving employee experience and to communication, commitment and other outcomes. In fact, Gallup data showed that having a best friend at work became more important since the start of the pandemic, even considering the dramatic increase in remote and hybrid work.
- Admitting as an adult that you want to make new friends can feel a bit vulnerable - like there might be something wrong with you for not having enough friends in the first place, but there are plenty of reasons why an adult might want to expand their social circle. During the pandemic, many people have had friends move away or relocated to a new city themselves. Others have lost touch with friends in the tumult of the past few years. And even in ordinary times, it’s perfectly natural to be interested in forming new relationships with other human beings.
- Research shows that many people don’t really know what works best to help their friends effectively. Moreover, the support we do provide, such as giving advice, is often ineffective. Part of the challenge is that there are just so many possible ways to intervene. A survey of the methods that people used to manage their friends’ emotions identified 378 distinct strategies, including allowing the other person to vent their emotions, acting silly to make the other person laugh, and helping to rationalise the other person’s decisions. Given this large variety of strategies, it’s no wonder that deciding what to do when you have a friend in tears can be a little overwhelming, noted Psyche.
- Research suggests that many people don’t really know what works best to help their friends effectively. Moreover, the support they do provide, such as giving advice, is often ineffective. Part of the challenge is that there are just so many possible ways to intervene. A survey of the methods that people used to manage their friends’ emotions identified 378 distinct strategies, including allowing the other person to vent their emotions, acting silly to make the other person laugh, and helping to rationalise the other person’s decisions.
- In a New York Times guide, columnist Tara Parker-Pope discussed research on how to be a better friend, including how to make friendships last, how to listen more effectively, and how to have better arguments.
- The Ten Percent Happier podcast hosted by the journalist Dan Harris, broadcast one episode on making and keeping friends, with the evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar of the University of Oxford.
- For The School of Life, a good friend is someone who has been humbled, who's given up pride, who's messed up - and who's drawn all the right conclusions from their troubles: that the only thing that counts is kindness. That’s why they’re going to be so patient with you, that’s why they’ll understand all the things you worry about and that you regret, that’s why they’ll be on hand with compassion, gentleness and plenty of laughter.
- Friendships are unique relationships because unlike family relationships, we choose to enter into them. And unlike other voluntary bonds, such as marriages and romantic relationships, they lack a formal structure. You wouldn’t go months without speaking with or seeing your significant other (hopefully), but you might go that long without contacting a friend, noted The Atlantic. Still, survey upon survey upon survey shows how important people’s friends are to their happiness. And though friendships tend to change as people age, there is some consistency in what people want from them.
- Many people spend a third of their lives at work, meaning we interact more with our colleagues than we do with our own families. As we return, at least in part, to in-person working, work friendships are more important than ever. According to virtual office provider Rovva, we shouldn’t “underestimate simply grabbing a brew and a biscuit” – 72% say they're more productive at work when they consider their colleagues as friends.
- While many people have friends at work, few feel they have truly close friends there, according to Yale professor Marissa King. She noted the somewhat forced nature of reporting structures and seating assignments, the transactional nature of work and the complications money can bring to relationships. But deep work friendships can benefit employees and employers alike. “Employees who report having close friends at work are more efficient, more satisfied with their job, and even less likely to get in accidents at work,” writes King.
- “Ponder for a long time whether you shall admit a given person to your friendship,” Seneca counselled in his meditation on true and false friendship, “but when you have decided to admit him, welcome him with all your heart and soul.”
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- In early 2020, Samsung released information about a new line of AI-fuelled humanoid ‘friends’ called NEONS.Unlike AI assistants like Siri or Alexa, STAR Labs' computationally created beings aren't programmed to be "know-it-all bots" or an interface to answer users' questions and demands. Instead, the avatars are designed to converse and sympathise "like real people" in order to act as hyper lifelike companions. In the near future, STAR Labs envisions people being able to license or subscribe to a Neon, with different virtual humans being able to offer different services such as a customer service adviser, a financial adviser, healthcare provider or concierge. With further developments they could work as television presenters, spokespeople or actors. Alternatively, the avatars could simply act as companions or friends.
- Show your friends your boring life, advised Quartz. While social media couldn’t be about showing off exotic vacations during the coronavirus crisis, mundanity became what could bring us together now.
- Henry Ford may have captured the power of friendship in the workplace when he said: “My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me”, but can that special relationship be the key to employee happiness and productivity? Research seems to point that way with Gallup finding a link between having a best friend at work and the amount of effort employees put in. Fewer safety incidents, more engaged customers and a boost in profits are among the benefits when employees have a work best friend, according to the performance management consultancy.
- Research has shown that when employees have friends at work they are better performers, more engaged, and happier with their jobs. However, thanks in large part to technology, how we relate to our coworkers is changing in two important ways. First, we are less likely to live close to our coworkers. This means that we may not have the opportunity for in-person, informal shared experiences (e.g. running into each other at the “water cooler”) as well as organisationally sponsored shared experiences (company events/dinners). Second, we increasingly rely on technology to communicate with our colleagues. Interacting through media like text and instant messages and video makes it harder to get a sense of who someone is.
- In her book The Friendship Cure, Kate Leaver argued for the value of friends and that they are worth it for the benefit to cardiovascular health alone. She writes that “social integration and close relationships are the most important predictors of mortality, well above things like alcohol consumption, exercise and diet.” With a network of reliable friends, we live longer and in better health, and good friends an also make us feel good.
- Biologically, our ability to develop and maintain social connections is directly related to the size of our brain. The research of Robin Dunbar demonstrated that because we are limited by our brain capacity, the fitness advantage of larger social groups was a driver in the evolution of parts of the brain. Other scientists have corroborated this idea that our larger brains are primarily a social versus ecological adaptation. It wasn’t because we happened to have a bigger brain for say, hunting, that we pursued complex social relationships, but rather that these relationships were critical for the evolutionary development of neocortical capacity. Friends made us smarter and gave us more potential. Looking at ourselves through a biological lens, therefore, suggests that one of the advantages to friendships is the diversity they create.
- As people get older, it’s hard enough sustaining friendships, let alone forming new ones. Amid a host of competing priorities - the demands of jobs, children, partners and ageing parents -friendships are all too easily lost. In The Happiness Curve, Jonathan Rauch sees mid-life as a phase, a bit like adolescence. It’s a transition from striving for success and ratcheting up achievements to another part of our lives: discovering our fundamental values, compassion and reflection. Friends can help people figure that out. With the perennial time constraints in mind, however, each person needs to find out what works best for them. Kate Leaver, author of The Friendship Cure, says the most common question she is asked is how to make friends as an adult as “so many of our earliest friendships are shaped by convenience and proximity”.
- One of the questions we ask ourselves in relation to new friends and acquaintances is whether or not they like us. The question feels so significant because, depending on how we answer it in our minds, we will either take steps to deepen the friendship or, as is often the case, immediately make moves to withdraw from it so as to spare ourselves humiliation and embarrassment. We assume that there is a more or less binary answer, that it is wholly in the remit of the other person to settle it – and that there is nothing much we could do to shift the verdict one way or the other. Either someone wants to be our friend – or they don’t. We are hereby failing to apply to other people a basic lesson we can appreciate well enough when we study the functioning of our own judgements: we often don’t know what we think of other people. Our moods hover and sway. There are days when we can see the point of someone and others when their positive sides elude us entirely.
- The School of Life advocates that we should - a little more often – guess at the contents of the hearts of strangers. Without being presumptuous, we might offer a new person some of the reassurance we long for, we might show them a vulnerable part of ourselves, we could express warmth and curiosity; we might go out into the world and share a few tentative thoughts with a stranger and trust that they might one day be a friend. Despite the surface evidence, strangers are likely to most resemble someone we already know well: us. Beneath the unfamiliar exterior, the distinctive accent, the alien occupation, the unexplored age or social bracket, the stranger is only too often merely a version of ourselves, the same essential human matter squeezed through a slightly different social and psychological mold.
- The School of Life also believes that the dominant tone of many friendships continues to be cheerful or even cheery, which falsely presumes that the best way to please others must be to present ourselves in a vibrant mood, when in fact, admission of our despair, and the number of moments when we wonder if it can really be worth it, are key tools in the process of friendship properly re-imagined.
- Among the things that can make us happiest in life is connecting with other people, yet it’s often the first thing to fall off our priority list as we focus on exercise, diet, and productivity, claimed Quart, exploring what community means and why our social networks are shrinking in spite of our hyper-connectivity.
- For The School of Life, the key to the problem of friendship is found in an odd-sounding place: a lack of a sense of purpose. Our attempts at friendship tend to go adrift, because we collectively resist the task of developing a clear picture of what friendship is really for. The problem is that we are unfairly uncomfortable with the idea of friendship having any declared purpose, because we associate purpose with the least attractive and most cynical motives. Yet purpose doesn’t have to ruin friendship and in fact, the more we define what a friendship might be for, the more we can focus in on what we should be doing with every person in our lives – or indeed the more we can helpfully conclude that we shouldn’t be with them at all.
- In On Acquiring an Enemy, The School of Life explained what it is like when what you’re up against is properly sinister: you have a committed enemy, someone who genuinely despises you and appears hell bent on causing you pain and humiliation. At least in theory, they want you dead. However, perhaps you are dealing with a wounded figure, not an impregnable foe: the enemy’s unreasonable, unjust and cruel qualities may be merely strategies they’ve come up with to cope with their own suffering.
- Having a close friend at work can make people happier, more productive, and less likely to quit. But office friendships can have downsides, too, warned the Harvard Business Review, including getting too emotionally involved, relationships that impinge on people's ability to get the job done and psychological boundaries that may hurt colleagues' feelings.
- Further reading:
- Raconteur noted that Henry Ford may have captured the power of friendship in the workplace when he said: “My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me”. Research seems to point that way with Gallup finding a link between having a best friend at work and the amount of effort employees put in. Fewer safety incidents, more engaged customers and a boost in profits are among the benefits when employees have a work best friend, according to the performance management consultancy.
- More people are living longer these days - but what can we do to ensure that our added years are happy ones, asked Quartz? The answer, according to one researcher, lies in intergenerational friendships. While contemporary culture conspires to keep the young and old segregated from one another, initiatives in places like Singapore and London are creating opportunities for them to connect over shared meals, reading lessons, and dance parties.
- The key to the problem of friendship, for The School of Life (TSOL), is found in an odd-sounding place: a lack of a sense of purpose. Our attempts at friendship tend to go adrift, because we collectively resist the task of developing a clear picture of what friendship is really for. The problem is that we are unfairly uncomfortable with the idea of friendship having any declared purpose, because we associate purpose with the least attractive and most cynical motives. Yet purpose doesn’t have to ruin friendship and in fact, the more we define what a friendship might be for, the more we can focus in on what we should be doing.
- The School of Life (TSOL) believes that, in an intimate context, we can see the invitation to a friendship as synonymous with insult because our Romantic culture has continuously, and from a young age, made one thing sharply clear to us: love is the purpose of existence; friendship is the paltry, depleted consolation prize.
- However, TSOL adds, by comparison, in friendship, the supposedly worthless and inferior state whose mention should crush us at the end of a date, we bring our highest and noblest virtues. Here we are patient, encouraging, tolerant, funny and - most of all - kind. We expect a little less and therefore, by extension, forgive an infinite amount more.
- Culturally and collectively, therefore, concludes TSOL, we have made a momentous mistake which has left us both lonelier and more disappointed than we ever needed to be. In a better world, our most serious goal would not be to locate one special lover with whom to replace all other humans, it would be to put our intelligence and energy into identifying and nurturing a circle of true friends.
- In a different context, TSOL explains that the behaviour of the excessively "over-friendly" person can, in the end, be traced back to a touching modesty. They are guilty of nothing more than a loss of confidence in the validity of their own experiences as a guide to the pleasure of others. The failure of the over-friendly types teaches us that in order to succeed at pleasing anyone, we must first accept the risk that we might well displease them through a candid expression of our being. We must reconcile ourselves to the risk of not making friends to stand any chance of actually making any.
- Thomas Aquinas once said, "There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.” And what was considered the most precious of commodities in the 13th century is still treasured today. In fact, when asked what is most important in life, people’s answer is often the same: friends and family. It’s a fact: It’s never been easier to find friends. Whether it’s working abroad, travelling through Europe, moving to another city or spending time online, today’s mobility and technology allows us to meet more people than ever before. But do quick acquaintances really make for real friends? Not necessarily, argued getabstract.
- Men’s hidden crisis, Slate tells us, is that they need more friends. At the same time, society seems to tell men that friendship is feminine - and men respond by not having friends. So perhaps it’s unsurprising that loneliness, not obesity or smoking, may become the biggest threat to men’s health.
- At the same time, The School of Life argues that it’s significant that it is, in particular, men who struggle to find the friendships they need with other men. Two men are often circling round each other: they discuss serious, impressive or large things – politics, history, sport, money or how the next generation of jet engines will work. They may, deep inside, like to be close but – very poignantly – they are wary.
- Maria Popova wrote of Adrienne Rich’s meditation on the art of honourable human relationships, bemoaned the commodifying of the word friend by “egregious misuse and overuse in the hands of so-called social media” and recommended Seneca on true and false friendship, Aristotle on the art of human connection, and John O’Donohue on the ancient Celtic notion of soul friend.
Historian Theodore Zeldin says that the idea of friendship has, over the centuries, changed radically and has created a new pressing issue for humanity - the need for real conversation. It is not new lands we need to be discovering but other people's thoughts. However Zeldin believes that between the ages of 20 and 40 people lose about one friend every year.
Martha Mason believed that the richest man in the world is not the one who still has the first dollar he ever earned. It's the man who still has his best friend.