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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

One Tall Voice: What is friendship?

Published: April 11, 2008
Section: Opinions

In our present society, people really throw the word “friend” out there a whole lot. Many call perfect strangers “friend” as if they have known them for a number of years. People regard mere acquaintances with the highest respect, even though they have maybe only known each other in a class or within any number of other casual settings. My personal definition of the word “friend” goes quite deeper than these superficial specifications. Many people have often commented that I have many friends. Some may even regard themselves as my friends and think me worthy of this title when contemplating their own personal circles. In fact, I have very few friends and think I am one of the most friendless people I know. I only regard four people at Brandeis worthy of this special title, and rather use a number of other designations to describe my other personal relationships.

This may sound like a game of mere semantics, but people shouldn’t be throwing the word “friend” out there so much! Most of these so called “friendships” are in fact forged in the crucible of heavy drinking, or a freshman USEM. Sure these occasions may be trying indeed, but I would rather use a vast hierarchy of terms to describe my interactions with many people. The lowest level begins with acquaintance, someone you perhaps know the first name of, or maybe shared a building with during your freshmen year. Perhaps above that is a close acquaintance, someone who has been a companion throughout most of your college career and who you know fairly well. Above that, in a relatively high position, I place my teammates and fellow club members. And at the top are my friends. Yes, some may relegate this position to people deemed “best friends” but the point is the same. Here are the people I can depend on. These are the ones that brighten my day. A friend is so much more than a name and a background and that’s why there are so many layers to interpersonal relationships.

While I’m on the subject of friendship, I guess it is appropriate to discuss another question in this arena. In the movie “When Harry Met Sally” the two main characters have a debate on whether or not men and women could be friends. I originally thought that this was impossible. Surely as long as there is sexual attraction between two individuals, then this force would always get in the way of true friendship (I am assuming a heteronormative world). But now, I have come to realize that this is not the case. Men and women can certainly have deep meaningful interactions regardless of attraction. Truly, the different insight, the varying background, and the unique experience of the opposite gender enrich a relationship. So I no longer abide by the principle set forth in that immortal movie, though Billy Krystal made his points so well!

Our society is obsessed with the idea of friendship and of personal interactions. Still, I don’t think we use the correct terminology when discussing our relationships. It sounds like mere semantics, but I am of the adamant belief that true “friends” are not just fickle walk-ons in the game of life, but are rather vibrant factors that are truly important in our own personal world. In addition, I no longer follow the opinions laid out in “When Harry Met Sally” and believe that men and women can be perfectly fine friends. And the Facebook phenomenon is just complicating the issue altogether. I think this social networking service should adopt a scale of acquaintanceship as well. I think this implementation would make a lot of awkward situations much more improved!