By: Chris Warren.
After completing a fairly large favor for a buddy (it involved my convenient status as a truck owner), he thanked me and said, “You are truly my best friend. You have supported me more…and done more than expected.” I’ve known this guy for thirty years. We have never kept score of who has done the most for whom. If one of us needed something, the other would come through with no preconditions. Some relationships cannot be fully quantified; it’s the unspoken and un-numerated vibe between two people that makes friends so special.
I’m sure I’m not the first person to notice the contradiction of more and more isolation in a time when we are more and more connected. These relationships, such as they are, take place almost entirely via the internet or cellphones, which is a big part of the problem. What can be seen in all the forlorn Tweets and Facebook posts are the results of trading quality for quantity. The bar has been lowered to the point where the definition of “friendship” includes dozens of people we are acquainted with to some degree but rarely see in person and in some cases have never met. There is such a thing as having too many friends. It’s like a pirate plundering gold: Nice for what it is, but if you have more than you can carry, more doesn’t matter.
There are less than six people in this world I consider my sincere, true friends. One of the things that makes us different is that we almost never communicate over the internet. We do talk on the phone or text a lot, but that is in addition to regularly meeting up face-to-face, not in place of it. I get a feeling of warmth and acceptance knowing a friend is excited to see me that cannot translated into an on line exchange.
One of the main barriers lonely people face is they usually don’t want to put any effort into friendships. They often claim they don’t have the time to invest in friendships due to family or work commitments. Being a good friend is more than just clicking “like” once in a while. A generation ago people also had families and jobs yet still found time for neighbors and friends and socializing. It’s not like personal obligations didn’t exist pre-Microsoft. The excuse is weak. Trucking my buddy’s stuff around in the cold, miserable rain was not my idea of an awesome weekend. Actually, it really sucked. I carved out the time and did it anyway because he matters to me. Great friendships are never effortless. Things are only as important as you want them to be.
I’ve lived my whole life under the principle that having a few tight friends I can always count on is better than many loose associates who maybe possibly will be there when you need them. Why there is so much isolation in a world where everyone and everything is electronically linked doesn’t matter to people who for whatever the reason cannot make any interpersonal connections, or worse, think the internet and whatever Dr. Phil is selling this week is a replacement for interpersonal connections.
It may not be possible to quantify friendship, but it is certainly possible to measure the effects of (or lack of) it. It’s been well researched and established that people with real, meaningful friends live longer and better. Self help books and television shows are a multi-billion dollar industry. Prescription drugs to treat mental health issues are so popular, there are commercials for them. The mental health & self-help cartel would go out of business if everyone would just get out and meet other people and their natural goodness run its course. I don’t need science to convince me of the value of friends. For thirty years I’ve been able to see and feel it for myself in every smile and hug.