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The Surprising Ways Friends Make Us Who We Are

by Carlin Flora

Pub Date: Jan. 15th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-385-53543-4
Publisher: Doubleday

A wide-ranging look at the many forms of friendships and how those relationships can affect our lives.

There was a time when "friend" wasn't a verb, but Facebook has put an end to that, and with the number of users topping 1 billion, it's unlikely to be reversed. Facebook has also broadened the definition of a “friend” to include acquaintances, business associates, high school buddies, parents and others. Former Psychology Today features editor Flora argues that what some critics decry as a watering down of what used to be a significant relationship is actually not as simple as the "Internet is good/bad" dichotomy suggests. Drawing from interviews, academic studies and sociological research, the author explores the nature of not just online friendships, but also friendships in a variety of other contexts. How do we respond to "good friends" who withhold difficult truths to preserve the relationship? What roles do friendships fill that spouses, family and other relationships do not? Is pairing up with "bad seeds" a necessary part of a well-rounded adolescence, or should it sound alarms? Flora explores the criteria that we use to determine who our friends will be. The research is mostly intriguing, and the author cites sources from Cicero to Mark Zuckerberg, explores the friendship of Gabriel García Márquez and Fidel Castro, and provides anecdotes from her own experiences. “The closest of friendships contain the mysterious spark of attraction and connection as well as drama, tension, envy, sacrifice, and love,” writes the author. “For some, it’s the highest form of love there is.”

A convincing case for nurturing friendships in many of the same ways we nurture relationships with partners and other family—both online and off.