The discussion this week was about Relationships, more specifically our relationship with Friends. The intention was to start exploring the ideas of what it means to have deep and fulfilling friendships. Where do we rank our friendships in the priorities of our lives, who do we trust in our current social circle, and how can we connect to a larger society that is severely apathetic to unfamiliar encounters.
The discussion started off with and exploration of the friendships we make between childhood and adulthood. According to Tim Urban in his thorough analysis of “10 Types of Odd Friendships”, he proposes that during our childhood, we are in the “perfect friend making environment”, where with confined proximities and repeated interactions; it enables a development of deeper and a lot more innocent bonds in childhood. In contrast during adulthood, we are much more time starved with the diverse array of responsibilities and commitments. In this phase of our lives we lack the opportunity for repeat interactions and the deepening of bonds between individuals. And to me, our types of interactions are also much more complex; needing to maneuver through a torrent of our biases, ulterior motives and perspectives.
As such, we tend to bring our childhood friends towards adulthood and stick with them longer. However, since these friendships were developed mostly by chance and before we have even understood ourselves; we face a paradox where many of our closest childhood friends end up becoming very different characters in adulthood. In our discussions, most of the group still has childhood friends that are dear to us and remain close due to familiarity. Nevertheless the paradox of us drifting apart from our familiar friends came into question.
An idea that I specifically found interesting while researching this was the idea of more Intentional Friendships. The School of Life proposes that we need a sense of purpose in our friendships. In breaking it down into categories we can define the types of friendships we want to have, and to then work on strengthening them. In essence we practice this somewhat vaguely; we have certain friends that we trust more for emotional support, others are there for us to have fun with and to get us out of our heads. The School of Life breaks it down into the following categories:
- Networking — They are a gateway for us to achieve more than what we can alone. This allows us to build more intentional collaborations between likeminded people.
- Comfort — The type friends that can support us during emotional crisis. This allows us to show our vulnerabilities and to embrace and be supported for our weaknesses in life.
- Fun — In life we already have strict rules and societal expectations to conform to. These friends can help us break out of this cycle, and allow us to let loose once in a while.
- Clarity — As complex individuals, it is hard for us to process our own thoughts alone. A thinking friend would hold us to our thoughts and tease out what truly matters to our identities.
To me these intentional friendships gives us a more tangible way of developing a support network for ourselves, and to create deeper relationships with our friends. For me that is what I am hoping this Dinner Musings community could develop into, creating a deep and meaningful network that can support us for all these categories and more.
The next broad topic of the discussion was whether social media is improving our relationship with friends. There were two main positions on this; one was that social media allowed connections that would never have occurred to happen virtually, be it connections between long lost friends, with strangers across borders or like minded individuals connecting over an interest. Social media unlocked new platforms and avenues for these engagements. The other position, and mine as well notes that although it does develop opportunities, the quality and depth of virtual conversations are lacking. Stephen highlights this quite profoundly in his article for Hackernoon saying “technology facilitates contact with humans, but through a medium that underscores the individual, and not the connection between them or the relational phenomena that occur between them.”
The other side of the argument is mainly that, the current intention of social media has been skewed towards trying to retain our attention on their site, rather than prioritizing the quality of relationships that we have on social media. For me I think that as our society progresses towards a more transient way of life, we will have to rely on social media to keep connections with people that are important to us. However as consumers we also need to question how these tools are affecting the social fabric of our lives. Is it giving us interactions that we truly cherish, or is it leading us towards obsessing over a larger social agenda that in essence does not truly matter?
One strain of the conversation developed into the topic of expectations within friendships. Should we hope that they would respect and prioritize us just as much as we care for them? According to Julie Beck in her Atlantic article, she notes that as friendships are voluntary in nature, and are a lot more subject to life’s whims. “We don’t feel like, in adulthood, we can demand very much of our friends … So we stop expecting as much, which to me is kind of a sad thing, that we walk away from that.” Again we had two strain of thoughts on this. One side of our discussion was that we should not have expectations, we should do our best for them and not expect anything in return and in that, we will be free from disappointment. On the contrary, my perspective is to question the benefit of that position, and wonder if that is just a defensive mechanism to numb ourselves in fear of disappointment or if it helps to reduce the burden on a friendship. To me I feel that relinquishing our expectations from our friends takes away from the depth that a friendship could have. To me it is fine to get hurt, and I do experience that hurt, but to me it is part of being human, and I do expect my friends to reciprocate the same amount of respect and care as I give them and in essence want to keep the friends that do.
SK~ I think it is inevitable that we will more-or-less have expectation from friends. The thing to note is if your friend does not put effort in maintaining or respecting the friendship, it should be an orange flag alarming you to reevaluate their status to you and your expectation for them. I do think that if a friend does not value you as much, he/she is not worth that much of your time/effort. Your time/effort could be invested on another friend who shares the same value of the friendship. I believe in equal treatment, even between friends. On side note, the principle that I hold dearly (and I expect in return) in friendship is “honesty”. No matter what, one should not lie or cheat their friends. Once the line is crossed, you’re downgraded and kicked out from my circle.
The conversation concluded on the topic of how we can grow closer as a community. From my exploration of this, Simon Sinek proposes that through vulnerability, we can depart from the scripted story and actually show our true selves. The discussion acknowledged that we need to engage with good conversations, that allow us to explore our identities, and help speakers focus on what is really at stake. The night concluded with an exercise towards a better understanding of our Dinner Musings community and to grow closer over what we truly believe in. We discussed the words that hold the most meaning to us and why. This could be principles and ideas that we value in life. And what I took away from that was the diversity of perspectives and experiences has come to shape what each of us hold dear to our hearts. And through sharing a piece of vulnerability, I am hoping that we can better empathize with the ideas of others and to grow closer as a community and show a side that is vulnerable enough to hope.
Key takeaways for us:
- Adult vs Childhood Friendships — The interesting dichotomy between these two phases of our lives, and to gain perspective on having more intentional friendships towards our new and existing friends.
- Social Media’s Influence — Both the benefits and down sides of social media are very valid. In the end, these platforms are only tools to either supplement or detract from our own relationships, and we need to be aware of these realities.
- The value of Vulnerability — The exploration of bringing down our own facades and connect at a deeper level with a community you can trust. Hoping to build on this, both with the Dinner Musing’s community and my wider social circles.
Originally published at qpskpii.wordpress.com on May 13, 2018.