Tag Archives: friendship

Advantages of Internet Friendships

The meth­ods through which we cre­ate and main­tain rela­tion­ships are con­stantly chan­ging, with recent dec­ades boost­ing the move from a purely loc­a­tion-based mod­el to one where rela­tion­ships can spawn and devel­op remotely, thanks to the Inter­net (and, to a less­er degree, the tele­phone and mail sys­tems). How­ever, while this new way of cre­at­ing and main­tain­ing rela­tion­ships has dis­tinct advant­ages over the ‘tra­di­tion­al’ concept of loc­a­tion-based friend­ship cre­ation, many per­ceive it as inferi­or.

Tak­ing his cue from a quote that did the rounds on Twit­ter last year–Twit­ter makes me like people I’ve nev­er met and Face­book makes me hate people I know in real life–Dav­id Hayes attempts to shed light on the advant­ages of Inter­net-ori­gin­at­ing rela­tion­ships by per­fectly describ­ing the way friend­ship cre­ation has evolved over time (by means of describ­ing the con­straints to doing so). The con­clu­sion echoes my sen­ti­ments exactly:

I view the high­er value placed on place-ori­gin­at­ing (or “real-life”) friend­ships as wrong­headed. It seems only logic­al to me that it is bet­ter to build your rela­tion­ships from a pool of people who speak your lan­guage and have sim­il­ar soft-qual­it­ies to you, than to attempt to start from a geo­graph­ic­ally con­strained group and then attempt to find soft-qual­ity matches in a face-to-face series of inter­ac­tions. This is fun­da­ment­ally what the inter­net allows: the friend­ship pro­cess to start from a set of com­mon­al­it­ies around soft attrib­utes, and then poten­tially aim for geo­graph­ic match­ing. This is the oppos­ite of the stand­ard pro­cess, but cer­tainly the one more likely to yield deep and long-last­ing rela­tion­ships.

Inter­est­ingly, even though our only com­mu­nic­a­tion has been through numer­ous back­links and a couple of tweets, I would­n’t hes­it­ate in call­ing Dav­id a friend. Most likely, the major­ity of my Face­book friends (i.e. my phys­ic­al world ori­gin­at­ing friends) would not under­stand this.

Friendship Differences by Gender

This slowly absorb­ing art­icle on the dif­fer­ences between male and female friend­ships seems to have been com­piled with an obser­v­ant eye… but then I am the same sex as the author.

Research­ers say women’s friend­ships are face to face: They talk, cry togeth­er, share secrets. Men’s friend­ships are side by side: We play golf. We go to foot­ball games. […]

Stud­ies show that in their late 20s and 30s, women have a harder time stay­ing in touch with old friends. Those are the years when they’re busy start­ing careers and rais­ing chil­dren, so they don’t have time to gath­er for reunions. Money is tight­er, too. But around age 40, women start recon­nect­ing. Before the 1990s, research­ers assumed this was because they had more time for friend­ship in their 40s, as their chil­dren became self-suf­fi­cient. But now research­ers con­sider this middle-aged focus on friend­ship to be a life stage; as women plan the next chapter of their lives, they turn to friends for guid­ance and empathy.

Men, mean­while, tend to build friend­ships until about age 30, but there’s often a fal­loff after that. Among the reas­ons: Their friend­ships are more apt to be hurt by geo­graph­ic­al moves and dif­fer­ences in career tra­ject­or­ies. Recent stud­ies, how­ever, are now find­ing that men in their late 40s are turn­ing to what Dr. Grief calls “rus­ted” friends—longtime pals they knew when they were young­er. The Inter­net is mak­ing it easi­er for them to make con­tact with one anoth­er.

That’s not to say men don’t have these intim­ate, shar­ing rela­tion­ships:

But again, it’s a mis­take to judge men’s inter­ac­tions by assum­ing we need to be like women. Research shows that men often open up about emo­tion­al issues to wives, moth­ers, sis­ters and pla­ton­ic female friends. That’s partly because they assume male friends will be of little help. It may also be due to fears of seem­ing effem­in­ate or gay. But it’s also an indic­a­tion that men com­part­ment­al­ize their needs; they’d rather turn to male friends to moment­ar­ily escape from their prob­lems. The new buzzword is “bromance.”

via @vaughanbell

Social Ignorance and Surrogacy

A vibrant social life and close friend­ships are an import­ant part of stay­ing healthy, many recent stud­ies have shown, but what is strange about this is why this is the case, con­sid­er­ing that we’re surp­isingly bad at judging the beliefs, opin­ions and val­ues of our friends and part­ners.

A grow­ing body of exper­i­ment­al evid­ence sug­gests that, on the whole, we know sig­ni­fic­antly less about our friends, col­leagues, and even spouses than we think we do. […] We’re often com­pletely wrong about their likes and dis­likes, their polit­ic­al beliefs, their tastes, their cher­ished val­ues. We low­ball the eth­ics of our co-work­ers; we over­es­tim­ate how happy our hus­bands or wives are.

[…] While people do have some idea of the polit­ic­al beliefs of their friends, espe­cially their close friends, they also made sig­ni­fic­ant errors. The most com­mon one is assum­ing their friends agreed with them on issues where they did­n’t. Psy­cho­lo­gists call this pro­jec­tion: in situ­ations where there’s any ambi­gu­ity, people tend to simply pro­ject their feel­ings and thoughts onto oth­ers. The Friend Sense study found that this tend­ency was a stub­born one: its users incor­rectly assumed their friends agreed with them even if they had reg­u­larly dis­cussed polit­ic­al top­ics with them.

The art­icle goes on to say that those of us who are most connected—the social mavens—are the least accur­ate judges of our friends’ char­ac­ters, but that this “select­ive blind­ness” may be at the core of why friend­ships are so nour­ish­ing.

Simply believ­ing we have lots of close friends brings the same bene­fits as actu­ally hav­ing them. In oth­er words, if someone’s ignor­ance of one of his “friends” extends so deeply that he’s not actu­ally aware that the per­son does­n’t like him, he may be bet­ter off for it. Even befriend­ing entirely fic­tion­al people seems to do some good – a paper pub­lished last year by research­ers at the Uni­ver­sity of Buf­falo and Miami Uni­ver­sity found that tele­vi­sion char­ac­ters actu­ally func­tion as “social sur­rog­ates” for view­ers, and watch­ing a favor­ite show can be an effect­ive way to alle­vi­ate loneli­ness.

And this social sur­rog­acy with fic­tion­al char­ac­ters goes deep­er than you might think (via The Front­al Cor­tex):

Loneli­ness motiv­ates indi­vidu­als to seek out rela­tion­ships, even if those rela­tion­ships are not real. In a series of exper­i­ments, […] par­ti­cipants were more likely to report watch­ing a favor­ite TV show when they were feel­ing lonely and repor­ted being less likely to feel lonely while watch­ing. This pre­lim­in­ary evid­ence sug­gests that people spon­tan­eously seek out social sur­rog­ates when real inter­ac­tions are unavail­able.

[…] Even though para­so­cial rela­tion­ships may offer a quick and easy fix for unmet belong­ing needs, indi­vidu­als with­in these rela­tion­ships may not be spared the pain and anguish of rela­tion­ship dis­sol­u­tion. [Examin­ing] the responses of tele­vi­sion view­ers to the poten­tial loss of their favor­ite tele­vi­sion char­ac­ters, [it was] found that view­ers anti­cip­ated exper­i­en­cing the same neg­at­ive reac­tions to para­so­cial break­ups as they exper­i­ence when their real social rela­tion­ships dis­solve.

The con­clu­sion, it seems, is that what makes us happy and what makes friend­ships an import­ant part of all-round health is not a deep know­ledge of our friends’ char­ac­ters, but the illu­sion of that knowledge… and pos­sibly pos­it­ive illu­sions:

Even in a close and strong rela­tion­ship like a mar­riage, a cer­tain amount of blind­ness may help. While the idea remains con­tro­ver­sial, some research­ers argue for the value of so-called pos­it­ive illu­sions, the rosy image that some people hold, des­pite the avail­able evid­ence, about their romantic part­ners. The psy­cho­lo­gist Sandra Mur­ray at the Uni­ver­sity of Buf­falo has found that couples that main­tained pos­it­ive illu­sions about each oth­er ten­ded to be hap­pi­er than those that didn’t.

Note: Mind Hacks provides one small caveat about the article: it’s the false con­sensus effect, not psy­cho­lo­gic­al pro­jec­tion.

via Link Banana