I read an blog recently entitled Friendship is a Two Way Street and, as seems to be the nature of things recently, that resonated with a conversation I had had with someone else.
There have been many phrases which have attempted to describe friends – from the humorous to the banal, the philosophical to the crass – but I tend to agree that whatever the definition, true friendship has to be bilateral.
We do turn to our friends for support when we’re down, and we must be both ready and willing to provide the same in return. When a friend asks for help we drop everything to provide it, and if true friends haven’t seen each other for a long time then upon meeting it is as if they haven’t been apart. (I count myself very lucky to have a few good friends who certainly match these definitions.)
When we were small we overtly grouped the people round us into “best friend(s)”, gang, friends, and everyone else. The edges may have been blurry and the moves between hierarchies complex, but we did it nonetheless. And I think these habits have persisted into adulthood whether we want to admit it or not – whether it’s through creating different groups in Facebook, a hierarchy of circles in Google+, different ringtones on our mobiles, or simply determining who we would prefer to see on a Friday night.
In this sense we have our favourites, we have a close circle, and (to be fair) we have those people whose company we like but where the friendship spark just hasn’t flamed. When we were in kindergarten that was fine, and it should be fine now we’re rather older.
But at what point does the category stop being “a friend” and become “an acquaintance”? How far out in the concentric circles does friendship extend? And if the term acquaintance is too distant and aloof, should we have some additional term for those people in the middle ground – perhaps “buddies” and “mates”?
What do you think?