Tuesday, May 1, 2012


This post is suuper long, you've been given fair warning!

frens [fr-eh-ns]
1. a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard
2. aka "friends"

I've been thinking a lot about "frens" the past couple days...I would say that I have a good number of them, but then the question is posed: "What is a friend?" Especially in today's media culture, the word "friend" is used so loosely...you could be "friends" with someone who you've only met once, but because you have looked through their photos, read their wall posts/status updates, and perhaps have chatted a couple times, you may develop a feeling of false closeness.

However, I would argue that this phenomenon of "false closeness" can occur even with people who you know within certain social groups or functions. I've seen it happen with people who I know...and it is especially common within large groups of people who are of different ages but also are emotionally accessible to one another constantly. But throughout my years of "expertise" with friendships and my Psychology analytic training - for I will always be a psychologist/behaviorist at heart - I have come up with "Degrees of Closeness: Looking at Friendship Levels", a title of an unofficial social observation study which I just made up but these "theories" and opinions are totally legit - aka I believe the following.

"Degrees of Closeness: Looking at Friendship Levels"
Morgan McFarlin, Unaffiliated

     Humans are social beings. Duh. But levels with which we are social with one another can vary immensely. And with our ever-changing media culture, the word "friend" has become very vague. What does it mean to be a "friend"? Shouldn't there be a list of criteria that someone would need to meet before they can be considered a "friend"? Why yes, there should be. But look no further!

Levels of Friendship

1. An Acquaintance
This is a friend who you have either just met or have seen a few times. You know their name, perhaps their major and year in school, but you don't really KNOW them. You may even be "Facebook Friends", but in the real world, you aren't considered friends.

A and I were introduced at a church function, we chatted in a group for a few minutes before moving on to the activities planned for the night. The next time I saw him, I said "Hi" and I might even say hello were we to run into one another on campus, but I don't really KNOW him.

2. A Friend
This is a friend who you know on a slightly deeper level than an acquaintance. This is a person who you may have something in common with such as work or classes. You may see them on a regular basis, chat with them about whatever, but you don't ever really "hang out". You might not even really consider them a friend, but you get along and you enjoy their company, however brief or infrequent it is. When talking about them you may refer to them as a friend, but then correct yourself, for example: "My friend Kelsey from work...well, I guess we're not technically friends..." You may correct yourself because while they're definitely more than an acquaintance, the word "friend" just doesn't seem to fit quite right.

H and I met while working together at Einstein's Bagels on ISU's campus. We worked one shift/week together and semi-bonded over both being Psych majors. We would discuss classes and professors and grades. In our final semester at ISU, we were in the same Operant Bx lab and sat next to each other/talked about surface level things. We got along, she was nice and funny...but we never hung out outside of work/class.

3. A Close Friend
This is a friend who you know and they know you - on a deeper level. Perhaps you have a couple inside jokes or maybe you just had a heart to heart one time...somehow you two bonded. It could be that you needed a shoulder to cry on and they were that shoulder. They would be considered a "friend" in your book. However, as close as you two may be, your friendship may not be the most consistent or strong. That's not to say that you don't enjoy one another's company, but this bond isn't one that will necessarily stand the test of time. Additionally, most of your time together may be spent within a group of people...there may be occasions when just the two of you hang out, but that's not the usual situation.
This category can be blurry at times because it is a spectrum. With people in this stage of friendship, you may feel closer with them at some points and less close at others. In other words, not all "Close Friends" are equal...there are some which you are closer with and others you are not, but they all fall into the same category.

Through being involved with the Newman Center, I have many close friends. One in particular, K, is a couple years younger than me and over the 2 years we have known one another, we have a few inside jokes, and I like to play with her hair and make her laugh. She's sweet and I enjoy her company. However, while we have many mutual friends, we rarely end up hanging out with one another on the weekends, unless if it is Newman related.
Another close friend is S. He's one of my favorite younger kids and I think he's great. I don't know him too well, but what I know, I like. He hangs out with some of my friends, so we occasionally find ourselves in the same group hanging out.
One more. A is a year older than me and is super cute. She is always so full of joy and I admire her for that. In the beginning of this school year, we were both helping out with move-in. Most of her friends weren't back on campus yet and I tend to be an open book, so we spent about a week eating lunch together and swapping boy issues stories. We got to know each other on a whole different level, but really only one aspect of our lives. She talked about her new romance while I commiserated over a boy that I was trying to get over. We still talk once in awhile when she's in town and I would say that we're relatively "close", but I don't call her up on the phone or make plans to see her when I go home for the weekend.

4. A Best Friend
This is a friend who you have been through things with. This is a friend who KNOWS you. They know who you are, not just facts about you. This is a friendship in which if/when something is wrong, you try to fix it because the friendship is valuable. When a best friend does something that you didn't expect, especially if it is troublesome to you, you want to talk it out, figure out how to deal with whatever happened. This is a friend who you wouldn't hesitate to call at 3AM if you need them because you know that they'll be ok with you calling. This is a friend who you want to be friends with forever. Whether or not that happens, they are important enough to you that you want them to be in your life in the future.

C and I have known each other since Freshman year of college and we now live together. We've definitely had our rough patches, usually her being upset about something that I've done...oops...but because our friendship is important to the both of us, we work it out. We talk it out. When she moved to CO for the summer, we kept in contact and talked on the phone [even though she HATES the phone] a couple times a month. She is someone who I KNOW and she KNOWS me. When I'm upset, she can tell. When she's had a bad day, I know it. Her and I are BFFs [screw the cliche] and I know that I can count on her.
**update: C just moved to TX and we still talk...and she's gotten over her phobia of phonecalls**

With my experience, I also know that issues arise when 2 people agree [without saying it outright] that they are friends, but without knowing, have placed one another in different levels. And in doing so, have also assumed that the other has placed them in the same level. [AKA I placed C in Level 4 and assumed that she has also placed me in Level 4, while without my knowledge, she has actually put me into Level 2] While this may never become an issue, it goes without saying that there are different requirements of obligation that go with each level. For example, a friend in Level 1, 2, or maybe even 3 could get away with not knowing that it was your birthday and neglecting to text/wish you a "Happy Birthday"...however a friend in Level 4 would be in biiiiig trouble should he/she not follow protocol and wish you a "Happy Birthday". This may be when problems come up and fights occur because one friend feels shafted by the other, while the other didn't know that they were subject to these requirements.


Now, while these may seem too clinical and clean cut [although I know that they aren't always as slice and dice as we'd like them to be], this is what I have compartmentalized my own experiences into, take what you like and leave what you don't. This isn't like the Church...here, you can pick and choose what to agree with ;) This was super long, but it's something that's been on my mind and if nothing else, it's now on "paper" for me to remember and reflect on at a later date.

Have a splendid day and joyful tomorrow!

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