Who are friends? How do we define the relationship that can be described as friendship? How are our friends different from other people in our lives? And how different are we to them?
These are some of the elementary questions that a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) seeks to answer through its findings.
The study analysed friendship ties among 84 subjects (ages 23 to 38) in a business management class by asking them to rank one another on a five-point continuum of closeness from “I don’t know this person” to “One of my best friends.” The feelings were mutual 53 percent of the time while the expectation of reciprocity was pegged at 94 percent. This is consistent with data from several other friendship studies conducted over the past decade, encompassing more than 92,000 subjects, in which the reciprocity rates ranged from 34 percent to 53 percent.
So, what does it mean? Basically, it all boils down to an individual’s understanding of the relation of friendship. For some, it is the state of being able to express yourself freely with an expectation for reciprocity. For many others, what constitutes friendship itself is not clear but what does not is.
The results of the study also pointed out that in this day and age where friendship is defined by Retweets, Likes and Pings on Social Media and Messaging Apps, people crave for that humane touch that allows them to form an intimate connection with another individual.
So it’s worth identifying who among the many people you encounter in your life are truly friends. Who makes time for you? Whose company enlivens, enriches and maybe even humbles you? Whom would you miss? Who would miss you? While there is no easy or agreed upon definition, what friendships have in common is that they shape us and create other dimensions through which to see the world. This can be for better or worse depending on whom we choose as friends. As the saying goes, “Show me your friends and I will show you who you are.”
Title image: Etsy