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