When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Germany

Why Friendship Is Overrated, A Grown-Up (And Grumpy) Reflection

Friends are the new family! Friendships are the greatest love affairs you'll ever know! Nonsense. Take a journey to the dark side of your so-called friends.

Selfies, side-by-side
Selfies, side-by-side
Peter Praschl

-Essay-

BERLIN — Lovers come and go. But that doesn't really matter as long as you have friends. Friendship, you see, is the most super-wonderful thing in the world. A young colleague with Die Zeit recently wrote a long ode to friendship: "Since more and more young people are freeing themselves from the dictatorship of couplehood, and decide to live alone, friends are not just there to fill the empty hours or function as agony aunts," the piece reads. "Friendship has now been given the chance to become the biggest love affair of your life."

Research suggests the same, albeit in not quite as emotional words. Those who have friends live longer and are more healthy, suffer less from depression, and their thighs don't burn so much when standing with their backs against the wall and performing deep knee-bends — because they can handle pain much better.

All of that is most certainly true, but could it be that we over-interpret these findings in our friendship-induced prudence? Getting a prescription for an anti-depressant and training for a half marathon would surely have the same effect. And that would come without having to listen to your friends complaining about how badly their football team is doing and the obligation to buy them birthday presents.

But the same research that tells you exactly how much your life improves when you go for a walk or have after-work drinks with the same person over years, without ever having experience a simultaneous orgasm with that person, also suggests that friendship has its dark sides. And that these dark sides do not necessarily go hand in hand with our definition of happiness or moral values.

A very sad surprise

You will find yourself looking into the abyss when you start asking yourself who truly counts as your friend. This is the result of a conjoined study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Tel Aviv. According to this study, only 50% of the people you consider as your friends reciprocate that feeling. There has rarely been a psychology study with findings so surprisingly sad. This usually doesn't happen in romantic relationships or marriages. You usually at least know if you are in a relationship or not.

But the worst thing about this study is the fact that it demonstrates how incompetent we actually are in evaluating our social relationships. That may be due to the lack of any sort of binding friendship rituals beyond the age of 16. You cannot just ask the other person if you are friends now. Unless you are on Facebook and everyone knows how much an accepted Facebook friendship invitation is worth: virtually zilch.

And friendships are transient. You quickly become dispensable if the other person moves abroad, starts a new relationship, has a child or decides to adjust their life priorities. You might get the occasional "like" on Facebook, but that's it.

Friendships that resemble the propaganda of the entertainment industry ("How I met your mother," "Girls," etc.) are for young people with a lot of time on their hands and who do not have to wake up early. As soon as you have to earn money, drive the kids to hockey practice and be part of a romantic relationship you are kicked out of the magical fairy dust circle of friendship, despite the fact that you could probably really use some of its benefits. You just don't have the time, and your friends just stop calling.

[rebelmouse-image 27090222 alt="""" original_size="640x434" expand=1]

Those are true friends — Photo: Georgie Pauwels

According to a new study men are more interested in clubs than having one-on-one friendships. They want to have a bit of fun with the lads, vent some steam and do something. Women on the other hand, and this is the just statistical average woman, organize a friendship like a long-term relationship — no sex and no secrets but you are really close to one another.

That is quite nice in itself if it weren't for the dark side. If it weren't for the jealousy that a third of all women feel towards their friends. Or that you think you have found your soulmate because you subconsciously choose to befriend people who are similar to you. They may even be genetically similar to you. A study by Yale University and the University of California determined that your genetic make-up is more similar to people with whom you are friends than it is to that of complete strangers and "corresponds to that of a cousin four times removed." That can lead to a dangerous homogeneity.

You would most certainly benefit from exchanging views with someone who has very different opinions and feelings to your own but you, of course, do not want to be friends with someone like that.

But friendship itself can be dangerous as well. A study conducted by Harvard University has proven that business ventures you undertake together with friends are more likely to fail than when you start a business on your own and with professional contacts. Your decisions are based on your liking your friend rather than on more important factors.

Friendship is blind, after all. But what should be comforting is the fact that the problem is relatively self-contained. The British anthropologist Robin Dunbar has determined that humans are not able to have more than five profound relationships at any given time — your brain cannot deal with more than that. If one of them is a romantic relationship it is reduced to four, including the loved one.

So you are left with only three really good friends. And it is easy enough to get rid of those, too, all you have to do is disappear for a while and not pick up the phone. They'll give up eventually. You don't have to justify your actions, divide up your belongings or fight over alimony. You will always find someone else to talk to, that is, if you really want to.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Geopolitics

New Probe Finds Pro-Bolsonaro Fake News Dominated Social Media Through Campaign

Ahead of Brazil's national elections Sunday, the most interacted-with posts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram and WhatsApp contradict trustworthy information about the public’s voting intentions.

Jair Bolsonaro bogus claims perform well online

Cris Faga/ZUMA
Laura Scofield and Matheus Santino

SÂO PAULO — If you only got your news from social media, you might be mistaken for thinking that Jair Bolsonaro is leading the polls for Brazil’s upcoming presidential elections, which will take place this Sunday. Such a view flies in the face of what most of the polling institutes registered with the Superior Electoral Court indicate.

An exclusive investigation by the Brazilian investigative journalism agency Agência Pública has revealed how the most interacted-with and shared posts in Brazil on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Telegram and WhatsApp share data and polls that suggest victory is certain for the incumbent Bolsonaro, as well as propagating conspiracy theories based on false allegations that research institutes carrying out polling have been bribed by Bolsonaro’s main rival, former president Luís Inácio Lula da Silva, or by his party, the Workers’ Party.

Agência Pública’s reporters analyzed the most-shared posts containing the phrase “pesquisa eleitoral” [electoral polls] in the period between the official start of the campaigning period, on August 16, to September 6. The analysis revealed that the most interacted-with and shared posts on social media spread false information or predicted victory for Jair Bolsonaro.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ