What Are Friends?

A few weeks ago, I was talking with my cousin on the phone and she was telling me about this project she’s working on with“thirty of her closest friends”. When she said thirty close friends, I actually laughed out loud. Later on, in the company of my lonesome talkative brain, I started to wonder if I even like thirty people so as to call them  my friends. I didn’t go and do the rational thing which would be to try and attempt to think of thirty people I like. (I will make a list after I finish writing here) but I discarded the thought. Last week I put in a blog entry, something that sounded like, “I don’t have friends.” That was me pretending to be complicated and lonely. That part of the entry might have actually offended my so-called friends and it had to be the one time they decided to read my blog.

Sometimes I think the internet might have mind reading powers because on Monday, a Vsauce video titled “The real friend zone.” appeared in my YouTube feed and the general idea of it gave me a whole new perspective to this “what are friends” issue that I’d been trying not to think about.

This guy called Robin Dunbar did research on primates where he observed that the largeness of the group of the primates was directly proportional to the neocortex part of their brain meaning that the primate with the large neocortex will have a large number of individuals in its group. The Neocortex is the part of the brain that’s responsible for learning and communication and human beings have the largest neocortex size and somehow putting into consideration the largest number of  people groups throughout history have frequently  been able to work with in a stable manner, Dunbar concluded that the average human being is capable of having “a complex mutually affectionate social relationship” with a maximum of 150 people (which is known as The Dunbar Number)….and here I was being amazed by thirty.

Kevin from Vsauce2 says the research claims that within the 150, there would to five of your closest friends, four of whom you probably call very often and then 12-15 who would care if you died. There would be 50 you have a meaningful relationship with and 150 active friends. That means that’s the capacity of people you can give your emotional attention to at a given time. Kevin called it “The real friend zone”

Kevin also talked about something he called ‘mutual grooming’ which, from my understanding, means being able to look out for each other and form a certain mutual trust where you keep each other clean and safe. Human beings are social creatures in every way and as the many adults have been lecturing me this past summer, that friendship i.e ‘mutual grooming’ is how one survives. It’s how our species survives.

Perhaps my personality has been getting weirder and weirder because lately people including members of my family, have been asking me with worried expressions, if I have friends. And the proper and automatic answer should be, “Of course I have friends.” But I just ended up thinking about what makes certain people I know my ‘friends’ as opposed to people I just know and why did thirty amaze me so much? What makes someone your friend?

The science says that people are likely to be friends with those they have things in common with such as race, social status, certain common interests and values. And while this rings true to me, I also can’t help but think about the different bonds that have surpassed having anything in common. I’d really hoped that vsauce video would answer my question about how someone qualifies as your friend but it only hinted the ‘mutual grooming’ concept and moved on.

I really don’t want to be the only person who wonders about what qualifies as friendship and sits around thinking about which of the people I know are my actual friends. That makes me look super sad and pathetic.

My weeks have a tendency of being thematic because usually if I have an idea in my head, it’ll be all that I can talk about and the internet or the universe or whatever provide answers by paving my way so I’d spot somethings that would help me have an opinion about it. I ended up having serious conversations about this with different people and the conclusion I reached was just not something I liked.

Your friends are  people you like and people who like you back. Sometimes relationships tend to be a one way thing where you like and care for someone but they don’t reciprocate the attention that you give them making them perhaps outside of those in the Dunbar Number because to be in that friend zone, there needs to be that “mutual affection”

Many disagreements I have witnessed and participated in involve the idea that one party “doesn’t care as much about” and/or “doesn’t pay enough attention to” the other(s). Or where one party only provides with attention when that party needs something from the others. So I started thinking about what certain friendships entail and whether or not those people will appear at my door with explosives and catsuits when I need them to, whether I’d trust them with my copy of The Hunger Games and whether I’d even have a comfortable phone conversation with them.

There are certain friendships that go without contact for years and hit resume like nothing happened upon reuniting. There are certain friendships that survive the worst types of betrayals and there are friendships that are made over the most unconventional encounters. Then there are friends you make because you don’t want to be the awkward lonely one and then discard and move on from as soon as something else comes up. The latter seem like a bad move because if one likes the other, someone is bound to get hurt but some of the articles I scanned say that those “shallow”  relationships are actually useful for our survival and I know this first hand because the fact that I didn’t socialize as much as I should have when I was in Mekelle has had a negative impact.

I’m the type of person who doesn’t appreciate the latter type of bonding because I believe that there might come a time when people I trusted to do the aforementioned catsuitandexplosivesandmaybea-shovel thing, I don’t know, don’t show up and do something I would do for them, it’s going to hurt and make them into my enemies instead. Like I said before. Extremes.

Another thing that I had on my mind are internet friends and whether a person you converse with exclusively through your techy screens qualifies as your friend.Vlogger Dave from Boyinaband seems to think that yes, your internet friends qualify as your friends because you get to interact and converse with them just as much as you would with actual people and if you’ve established in a rational way (video chat) that they are not robots, you should be good. He says that the chances of you meeting someone who’d be dangerous to you or ‘not real’ via the internet,  according to studies he looked through, is less than when you meet someone in person. He’s got me convinced and I’ll add a link below if you care to see it.

Anyways, to conclude, make friends who trust you as much as you trust them and love you as much as you love them. I don’t recommend you try to make 150 of them because that’s just too much but I’ve been in a position where I cared more than the others did so if there’s a takeaway from this blog post, establish that “complex mutually affectionate social relationship” and have people who’d have your back to show up with the cat suits and… let’s just add the shovel in there too. Those people who would not pick as many fleas off of you as you would off them are not your friends. (I think that’s actual mutual grooming concept. )

P.S Thank you for those of you who would join me with the catsuits and the explosives but because this is the one time I am thanking you, you’re not going to read it.

P.P.S I’m trying to evolve as a writer and I feel like I could have written this entry a bit better…hmm…

P.P.P.S below are links to the videos.

Internet friends are not real friends

The Real Friend Zone