Psychology of Social Connection

Strangers, Ride or Dies, and All the Ones in between

March 25th, 2022 · 24 Comments

Strangers, Ride or Dies, and All the Ones in between

7.9 billion human beings live on this planet, and you and I are two of them. How many will we meet? How many more will stick with us, whether in physical proximity or in memory, in a single moment or for the rest of our lives? Why does it matter? Through self reflection, empirical findings, and a general consideration of our own relationships, we explore the nature and importance of our ties with other people in our world.

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Forming Bonds, Starting with Strangers (Olivia)

The girl who came up to me in an arcade in China when I was maybe six who stared at me for a few long seconds and opened her mouth and said, “You have REALLYYYY long eyelashes,” her face akin to 😲, who then smiled and happily skipped away leaving me stunned on the game seat… This girl. She is a stranger I remember.

Who is a stranger you remember? The maker of this YouTube video asks this question to strangers on the street, and the answers are fascinating. Why do some people stick, even if you never see them again?

I think a key part is the emotional impact of the interaction. A random stranger by definition has no prior connection to you, no obligation to interact, no ulterior motive to be kind, or rude. So, when such a person does cross your path in a way that affects your mood or thoughts, the experience sticks out. There are studies that show how even brief or chance social interactions can lead to more happiness and wellbeing.

Back, Schmukle, and Egloff (2008) conducted a study on college students to test whether random physical nearness and random assignment of people to the same group during an initial encounter would influence the likelihood of further friendship. They found that indeed, being near somebody by chance in an initial interaction can promote the development of a meaningful friendship, suggesting that prior connection or intention to know someone are not as necessary as we may think in forming friendships.

Another study demonstrated how weak social ties, not just close friendships,  are positively linked with social and emotional-being (Sandstrom & Dunn, 2014). The barista at your favorite coffee shop and the classmate on the street you wave to in passing are not your close friends, but such daily and repeated brief interactions are as important to our wellbeing as the deep relationships we treasure and maintain.

What if you are actively trying to make friends and form meaningful relationships? From what I have learned from my own experience and from reading and hearing others, the most essential thing is to be open – open-minded, non-judgmental, leading with your true intention and letting the other person know.

Once you’ve started a friendship, how do you maintain it?

Maintaining Friendships (Spencer)

Maintaining friendships over extended periods of time can be a difficult feat. Two factors that have been demonstrated to lead to the formation of friendships — proximity and being part of the same group (Back, Schmukle, & Egloff, 2008) — can often go away as life takes people in different directions. In addition, jobs, family situations, significant others, health problems, physical distance, and more can all get in the way of stable, long-term friendships.

Photo by Timon Studler on Unsplash

If situational factors like these are constantly subject to change, what is it that allows some friends to maintain close bonds over long periods of time? According to a longitudinal study of college friends, the two factors that best predicted whether or not a pair of best friends would remain close almost 2 decades later were 1) similarity between the friends and 2) previous investment of time in the friendship (Ledbetter, Griffin, & Sparks, 2007). Furthermore, when people are asked what constitutes closeness in a friendship, they commonly report that self-disclosure, support, shared interests, and explicit expression of the value of a relationship make friendships feel close (Parks & Floyd, 1996). If these things go away, the friendship is likely in trouble.

With this in mind, I would like to tell the story of my relationship with my best friend from middle school. It’s an example of trying to maintain a friendship, failing, and ultimately coming to terms with the “commemorative” place that a friend can hold in my life.

Our friendship began in 6th grade. At that time, it felt like we connected over everything. We went to school together, we lived a few blocks from each other, we played the same position on the same basketball team, we both loved the same goofy sitcoms, and we were both used to being the shortest kid in the class. For three years, we were largely inseparable, hanging out with each other most days after school and doing things together almost every weekend. As a result of how much time we spent together, our moms became best friends and our family units gradually integrated together. In short, our lives were deeply intertwined.

Then high school came. Each of us remained largely the same in terms of our personalities and our interests, but signs began to emerge that our paths were diverging. For one, we no longer went to the same school. This resulted in our social circles and our time commitments changing. In spite of these shifts, we remained fairly close and continued to bond over our shared interests, such as playing sports, following the NFL, and watching the sitcoms we both loved. But over time, every hang out began to require more planning and effort. It also became difficult for the two of us to spend time together in larger social groups, because we no longer knew the same people. Our friendship began to feel like a small island within the vast, churning sea of our broader lives.

When college came, this island sank under the waves. We initially bonded as freshmen over the shared newness and excitement of college, but as we began to find ourselves in completely different worlds, both socially and geographically, we invested less and less in the friendship.

Today, I’d consider us mere acquaintances; he’s no more than a weak tie.

Does the fact that we drifted apart mean that we failed to maintain an important friendship? Maybe. It’s possible that if each of us had invested more in the relationship, as the Ledbetter et al. study suggests, that we’d still be best friends, as inseparable as we were in middle school. But when I really think about it, I don’t believe that’s true. I think that the very same similarities and shared situational factors that brought us together in 6th grade are what drove us apart. We simply no longer have much in common, beyond a set of good memories.

A quote from a 2015 Atlantic article about friendships in adulthood succinctly sums up the way I feel about him. In the article, Julie Beck wrote, “A commemorative friend is not someone you expect to hear from, or see, maybe ever again. But they were important to you at an earlier time in your life, and you think of them fondly for that reason, and still consider them a friend.” (Beck, 2015)

Just as Beck wrote, I will always consider him a friend and have made peace with the commemorative place he holds in my life.

Texting and the Role of Social Media in Friendships (Lane)

Texting and social media seem to have improved the ease with which you can find, develop, and maintain relationships. While there is a lot of research discussing the mental health consequences of social media I will be focusing on social media’s impact on friendships. 

Photo by camilo jimenez on Unsplash

According to an article on Forge by friendship expert Lydia Denworth (2020), the more media platforms we use to maintain a relationship, the stronger that bond is likely to be, and people who are more active on social media are less likely to be lonely than those who aren’t

While I’m not active on many social media platforms, my personal experience in group chats and facebook groups is in line with this. Digital mediums have certainly improved some of my friendships and helped me form some meaningful new connections. 

One of my primary concerns with texting and social media is that it can easily lead to miscommunication. Communication is 55% body language, 38% vocal, and only 7% words (Mehrabian, 1967) so texts present us much less information than we are used to to extrapolate meaning from. Especially with weak ties who you don’t share much interpersonal mindfulness with. On top of this, texting involves delayed responses, which can cause uncertainty and upset expectations. Pair both of these now with the fact that there is also more at stake — because digital interactions are easier to share and harder to erase — and texting seems like a recipe for more frequent and more damaging miscommunications between friends. I would guess that current adolescents and young adults cycle through more friends now than they did twenty years ago because so much more communication is through text and social media now.

In addition to being a worse form of communication I also dislike texting because it tends to drain me of energy, in line with an Atlantic article sharing that emotional satisfaction is the main thing we lose from maintaining relationships online (Beck, 2015). On several occasions I’ve felt overwhelmed with messages I need to respond to, which begs the question: at what point might too much digital interaction with friends have a negative — rather than positive — impact on our friendships? A lack of separation between work and home during the pandemic led to many burning out — can an inability to distance oneself from friends given that we always have our phones on us lead to a similar burn out or degradation of friendships? I think so, even if most of the messages are from strong ties. Because texting lacks the emotional satisfaction that phone calls or in-person interactions do, I feel like responding to texts is more akin to email than socializing. I much prefer calling people on the phone but social norms for college-age people today seem to favor text exchanges, especially between acquaintances.

Overall, texting and social media have the potential to have significantly positive impacts on our friendships and acquaintances. That being said, there are communicative and emotional sacrifices that need to be navigated effectively in order to maximize net benefits of utilizing these tools.

References:

  • Back, M., Schmukle, S., & Egloff, B. (2008). Becoming friends by chance. Psychological Science, 19(5), 439-440.
  • Beck, J. (2015). How friendships change in adulthood. The Atlantic.
  • Boothyby, E. J., Cooney, G., Sandstrom, G. M., & Clark, M. S. (2018). The Liking Gap in Conversations: Do People Like Us More Than We Think? Psychological Science, 29(11), 1742–1756.
  • Denworth, L. (2020). Why the Digital Age Is Not Destroying Friendship. Forge.
  • Ledbetter, A. M., Griffin, E. M., & Sparks, G. G. (2007). Forecasting “friends forever”: A longitudinal investigation of sustained closeness between best friends. Personal Relationships, 14(2), 343-350.
  • Mehrabian, A., & Ferris, S. R. (1967). Inference of attitudes from nonverbal communication in two channels. Journal of consulting psychology, 31(3), 248.
  • Parks, M. R., & Floyd, K. (1996). Meanings for closeness and intimacy in friendship. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 13(1), 85-107.
  • Sandstrom, G. M., & Dunn, E. W. (2014). Social interactions and well-being: The surprising power of weak ties. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40(7), 910-922.

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24 responses so far ↓

  • Do Kim // Mar 26th 2022 at 9:12 am

    Hi Spencer, thanks for your post! I think what I found most interesting about your writing on maintaining friendships was the focus on when the attempts to maintain fail. As I read your section, somehow, I found myself taking a trip down memory lane to my own equivalent of the middle school best friend. I ended up feeling a mix of happy and sad, happy because of the great memories I thought of, but sad thinking that the friendships that were once the center of my life are now just commemorative. I think that, as you have mentioned, and was also discussed in class this week, relationships are constantly shifting and move from being central to commemorative or from weak to more central as people and their lives change. However, as you mention, it can still require “making peace” with these transitions, which I interpreted to mean that coming to terms with these changes can be a process. I wonder why this may be. Does this have something to do with the pervious investment of time or perhaps, is it driven by the fond memories that remain?

  • Orion // Mar 26th 2022 at 12:11 pm

    Hi Spencer!

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts about this friendship of yours so earnestly and openly. I think most of us can relate to the bittersweet feeling of those commemorative friendships! I actually found myself amazed at how long you *did* keep in touch for – I certainly lost contact with my middle school best friend long before freshman year of college. You must have had something quite special!

    Your post certainly had me thinking about a few friendships with an squeeze of affection and a twinge of sadness in my heart. I thought about how horrible I am at responding to most text messages – for the same energy and attention-draining reasons you mentioned – unless they are from someone who is already occupying a lot of my headspace (a romantic interest, usually, or right now a particularly close-knit friend group). It is for this reason – having my attention consumed by other connections – that I have lost most contact my best friend and roommate freshman year who has seen me through so much.

    I think there’s something else, though. The friend group I so easily keep in contact with now, who’s group-chat I actually check without even needing a notification, I check because I clearly get a little bit of dopamine every time I see a message there (which is many, many times a day). The conversations are less “how are you?” and more “did you see this thing?”/”who wants to play a game?”/”here is a life-crisis happening right now”/”can someone help me with this piece I’m writing”. I have yet to put my finger on the difference, exactly, but I think it has something to do with how dynamic and in-the-moment the conversation is. This is maybe hard to replicate with two people, but I think that texts with a new romantic-interest tend to look more like this, too – random tidbits and things that remind you of the other person and, to an extent, games. It is hard to get my brain, anyway, to respond the same way to texts from a perhaps less play-oriented conversation.

    Finally, I wanted to let you know that I have had a long-time friend who was really headed towards the “commemorative” arena quickly transform into one of my strongest and closest ties because we started living together. I would like to give that same openness, like you mentioned Olivia, and freedom to every relationship in my headspace – that it is perfectly ok if we are more distant at some times and closer at others, even for very long stretches of time. I am curious about what you all think about the balance between letting things be and putting in effort where it is needed to stay close. Thanks for the great post!

  • Stephanie // Mar 27th 2022 at 10:29 am

    Great blog post Olivia, Spencer and Lane! I found a lot of things super relatable and learned new things as well!

    In terms of Olivia’s blog post, I completely agree about your description of how you remember strangers. In my own experience I definitely remember the strangers that had an impact on my emotion or changed my day in some way. I also thought it was super interesting how you talked about the paper that concluded that maybe friendships can be more random than you think. I used to think that friendships are because you are very similar to someone else but as you said maybe they can happen in different and random situations.

    Spencer, I really enjoyed your blog post because I had a very similar situation with my middle school best friend and it is nice to see someone who experienced the same thing. I used to be very sad about the fact that my best friend of 9 years (from kindergarten to eighth grade) was no longer my best friend, but as you said, as we grew up we became more different. It was harder to hang out and we were starting to become different people as we grew up. I also really like the quote that you mentioned at the end!

    Lane, I thought your blog post was very interesting! I think the part where you mention the article on Forge was especially interesting because it says that the more social media platforms you use, the more connected you feel. I think that sometimes social media has the effect of making people feel more disconnected and lonely. When you see groups of people together doing crazy and fun things while you are not, it can make you feel lonely.

  • Georgia Steigerwald // Mar 27th 2022 at 12:54 pm

    Great post, thank you all! Lane–I thought the statistic you cited about communication being “55% body language, 38% vocal, and only 7% words” really interesting. I noticed the article you cited was from 1967 and I was wondering whether you think these breakdowns have changed at all?

    We definitely use our body language to communicate, but now there are so many contexts where we have an absence of body language and tonal cues that we have to rely much more heavily on text and emojis. For sure, in person interactions still rely on these cues. However, maybe the online interactions which now occupy us to a much greater extent than they did 55 years ago have allowed us to develop more of a reliance on text cues (at least in certain contexts).

    What are your thoughts?

  • Summer Cai // Mar 27th 2022 at 1:31 pm

    Hi Olivia, Spencer and Lane, thanks for a great post!

    Olivia, I really like the way you put why we remembered those strangers. In class, our group struggled with summarizing the reason for remembering certain strangers and we ended up with “because their action is surprising/outside of social norm”. Yet, I certainly agree that there’s an emotional component to it: because something violated our expectations, it brought us unexpected amount of joy, sadness, anger, concern etc. and this emotional-valenced memory just stood out much more than other memories. Also, I think I tend to overweigh similarity’s importance in forming relationships over physical proximity much more than I should. I still feel one needs to appreciate another and identify with them to certain extent to become friends, but the Back, Schmukle, and Egloff (2008) study makes me think of the time when I asked my high school best friend why became so close senior year compared to freshman year, she said “because we have so many classes together”. I think she captured the physical proximity part of our relationship really well.

    Spencer, I’m really touched by your experience. It reminds me of another of my super close friend in high school. Initially, we got to spend a lot of time together mostly by chance (we were in the same class). We formed a very intimate bond over our shared experiences, interests and sense of humor. We found ourselves wanting spend as much time together as possible and every minute we spent together was the highlight of days. When I graduated, I fully expected our friendship to fade into the background and was presently surprised that we connected just as old times when I visited him in Italy after not talking for a while. For a long time, I saw him as a special friend I can pick right up with despite not being able to share life experiences. Yet, my impression of our relationship changed when I called him last summer after a full year of quarantining, social distancing and life-altering changes. I still enjoyed every minute of our conversation, but I soon realized that our lives have taken us in such drastically different directions that we can no longer “pick right up”. Now, interestingly, he holds a place in my heart that is somewhat between a “commemorative” and a “dormant friend”. Just as Julie Beck so beautifully wrote, “[he was] important to [me] at an earlier time in [my] life, and [I] think of them fondly for that reason, and still consider them a friend.” Yet, I think an important difference is that I fully expect to hear from or see him and will definitely plan to meet up with him if I ever visit Naples or NYC (where he lives). I still expect us to have new fond memories, but has somewhat reserved our friendship to those two special places.

    Lane, I think my feelings about social media is probably as mixed as yours. On one hand, I’m grateful to social media for keeping my long distance friendships alive considering how spread out throughout the world my friends are. Yet, I agree that social media interactions is just so much worse than in-person conversations in effectiveness of conversation and in consistency. I try my best to be a good tester, but answering texts is just so much more exhausting than answering a call (maybe because of uncertain expectations?) I also think social media makes us value our current relationships much less. Social media opened up endless possibility to meeting new people. Our attention is spread so thin among all the potential friends and the opportunity cost of losing an established (but weaker, albeit with potential to grow stronger) friendship is so low that we end out cycling through so many friends without necessarily being satisfied. This also creates a culture that tolerates and even encourages flakiness and ghosting that I’m extremely uncomfortable with, but can’t really escape even if I quit social media (because everyone else is on it).

  • Andrea Liu // Mar 27th 2022 at 4:58 pm

    Olivia, Spencer, and Lane, this was a great post! I like how you guys also transitioned between your pieces—it flowed really nicely.

    In particular, Spencer, your section stood out to me not just in thinking about friendships of the past, but also in those I have right now. Just last night I was talking to a close friend about how, for lack of a better word, scared I am that I am to graduate knowing that most of my other friends are still going to be in school together here at Harvard or even of those who have graduated, would be in the Boston area. It’s looking increasingly likely that I’ll be the loner in our “Find My Friends” page, hundreds of miles away rather than a tenth. It’s a feeling of dread that wiggles around in my brain even when I don’t want it there. That being said, the last thing I’d want is for this to cloud my friendship in the present day. Like you mention about your middle school best friend, you were inseparable at one point. I think the power of close friendship is helped, at times, by social media like Lane suggests, to keep one another close at heart.

  • Kara Xie // Mar 27th 2022 at 5:55 pm

    I really agree with the statement about the emotional impact of strangers! I think it is the unexpectedness of the circumstance that makes an interaction memorable. It doesn’t fit into the regular archetype of a stranger, therefore we remember it more. We don’t expect strangers to do kind things for us, so when they do, we latch onto it.

    I also really liked the discussion on texting and how much of a conversation is body language. I was shocked to read it was 55% body language. So when we text, we lose more than half of the communication. I agree with the sentiment of disliking texting because it drains energy, however I do think it is easier than calling. With friends, I don’t mind hopping on the phone to call but if it is a stranger or acquaintance, I really prefer texting to avoid unnecessary conversations.

  • Jonathan Yuan // Mar 28th 2022 at 1:10 am

    Hi all! Thank you for an incredibly insightful blog post!

    Olivia, I think your point about the role of emotional impact in forming memorable relationships and interactions is so accurate. Whether it is in a positive or negative way, that level of impact and action that falls outside the realm of what is expected truly seems to me the reason why specific people stand out, even if they are just a weak tie. I also think your point on openness is incredibly valuable, since it really is the best step to creating a sense of familiarity and keeping an eye out for people that may be special!

    Spencer, your experience really hits close to home. I remember struggling a lot with maintaining friendships after entering college, and I find your points of time/emotional investment and proximity to be really meaningful. I also feel the difficulty in letting go of what those friendships might have been and constantly think about what might have happened, but it is really interesting to think of this idea of a commemorative friend, which I’ll have to give more thought to! I also wonder how that works when people are reintroduced after a long, say at a high school or college reunion.

    Lane, I agree with a lot of what you say about maintaining friendships online. I find the argument about contextual clues to be really insightful, because it’s so accurate that things can be easily misinterpreted online. I also agree about the lack of satisfaction that comes from engaging with people online, and I really do wonder the long-term effects that this kind of friendship/relationship maintenance will have moving forward.

    Thanks all again for a great post!

  • Sierra Agarwal // Mar 28th 2022 at 9:26 am

    Olivia, Spencer and Lane, I really enjoyed this blog post!

    Olivia, I like your inclusion of Back, Schmukle, and Egloff (2008) findings about how being close to someone can help with friendship. After reading this, it made me reflect on how one of my best friends at Harvard is someone who was one floor above me in my freshman dorm. We had not known each other prior to college, but the near proximity of us being randomly placed in the same dorm and so close together helped with our friendship development ever since.

    Spencer, reading our story about your best friend from middle school was very eye opening. It made me take a few minutes to think about so many people who I was close with throughout my childhood by mere chance or factors similar to yours, such as attending the same school, being on the same sports team and living nearby. Something I have been thinking about since reading this is how does the role of childhood development into adolescence play a role in friendships?

    Lane, your insight into the role of social media on friendships was a great read! I agree with many of your points, especially the one about how texting drains my energy. Sometimes I feel as if responding to texts is more of a job rather than a way of communicating with others. Although there are many positives of texting, there are also unintended negative consequences as well.

  • Patrick S // Mar 28th 2022 at 5:14 pm

    Olivia, I loved your analysis on the power that weak tie relationships can have. Like we discussed in class, the interactions that we remember between strangers can almost seem random at times, but as you outlined, many of them struck an emotional chord within us. I wonder whether repeated weak-tie interactions with the same individual has a greater impact on our well-being, versus having multiple weak-tie interactions with different individuals. Do interactions with the same person have an additive effect, even if they are with people we are not very close with?

    Spencer, I thought that your analysis of the notion of a commemorative friend from the Atlantic article was great. I would be curious to see what the top reasons for why people transition from being close friends to commemorative friends are. As you shared in your post, some may be due to the lack of in-person interactions of geographic instance, but I wonder if there are more psychological explanations for why this occurs.

    Lane, I thought that your perspective on the role of text messaging in friendships was fascinating! For me, text messages are another way to engage with friends on a personal level. For instance, getting to know a friend’s texting mannerisms and vocabulary is a way that I am able to get to know them on a more personal level.

  • Iris // Mar 28th 2022 at 5:21 pm

    Thank you all for this!

    Olivia – I love your use of the emoji to express what someone’s face looked like. It’s perfect. 🙂 I’m also interested in your connection between weak ties and remembering a stranger—I agree that the emotional impact of the interaction probably has a lot to do with why we remember some strangers. But does short-term emotional impact relate to weak ties, which are often not emotional (i.e. interacting with a barista)? The different ways we can be weakly/transiently related to someone seem complicated!

    Spencer – thanks for sharing such a lovely memory about a commemorative friend. I’m impressed that you stayed close throughout high school with someone you didn’t go to school with! Even that demonstrates how much you *did* invest in the relationship. But I also understand your point about the neutrality of relationships ending; a lack of commonality can be a good reason to phase out a friendship and not a tragic one.

    Lane – as someone without any social media, I’m worried to hear about a study finding that it lowers loneliness! But also as someone without any social media, I agree that it has some obvious pitfalls. Thanks for pointing out the communication errors that can come with delayed response times and social burnout.

  • Sofie Fella // Mar 28th 2022 at 8:00 pm

    I really enjoyed the way this post flowed from acquaintances to maintaining friendships to the detrimental effects that social media can have on those! Well done guys.

    Lane – your part about social media really made me think. It does seem like overall social media adds to miscommunication and people perceive it as a negative thing for human connection, however what you said about the more social media platforms you use, the more connected you feel made me think about how social media can sometimes create those “weak ties” for you. This made me think about whether we can count people we follow on instagram/social media but don’t actually know in person as acquaintances or not? I would assume so. It would be really interesting to see more “weak ties” research add social media into the mix because I feel like that’s really prevalent in today’s society – having people you know over instagram but not actually in real life.

  • Gayoung Choi // Mar 28th 2022 at 9:50 pm

    I really enjoyed your guys’ blog, and Spencer’s story of the middle school best friend is very familiar. I’m a big believer in having friends that were there for you at the right time and place. Just because we are in different places in life, doesn’t really make it sad either. Sometimes you need new friends to deal with the new situations in your life. While I worry that I will lose touch with my friends after graduation, I’m confident that we will still be able to bond over more adult-y things like bills and marriage, but I’m also confident that I will find and make new friends whom I can relate to better in my own circle.

  • Mitchell Saron // Mar 28th 2022 at 9:59 pm

    Great blog posts guys!

    I always love looking back and thinking about where I sat in middle school. A lot of my best friends have known me since the sixth grade and we’ve had many discussions where we talk about how our seating assignments made us lifelong friends. While I do believe we have many things in common, my friends and I would not have the relationship we have today if it were not for those seating assignments.

    Also, while I have met many new friends in college, my friends from my hometown still remain very close. In my experience, social media actually helps us remain close even when were are apart for long periods of time. However, I think the real reason we are able to stay close friends is how much time we spend in the summer together. We always make sure to make the whole summer about one another and go on trips together. Unfortunately, I do not know how long this will be sustainable as we all will be very busy with jobs this summer and in the future. Nevertheless, I hope we will all continue to invest a lot into our relationships so our friendships continue to grow as we get older and we do not grow distant.

  • Nia Fernandes // Mar 28th 2022 at 10:27 pm

    I really enjoyed reading Spencer’s part on maintaining friendships because it spoke to my friendship with my childhood best friend, Julia. When you cited the research study on how one of the deciding factors of whether a relationship can be maintained is the previous time poured into the friendship. My friend Julia and I grew up going to different schools and different colleges, yet have been close since we were 5 years old. I think this is because every time we spent time together it was intentional. We have a closer bond than some of the friends I went school with from the ages of 5-18. We saw different stages of each others’ lives but always put both effort and time into making sure we were ride or dies.

  • Michael Pankowski // Mar 28th 2022 at 10:51 pm

    Thanks Olivia, Spencer, and Lane for your post!
    Olivia,
    I really like what you wrote about being open. I think it’s hard to be open-minded to interactions with strangers, as when we’re in public surrounded by them — such as on the T or in an elevator — it’s more comforting to just take out one’s phone and wait for the time to be over. But that leaves no room for the types of wonderful interactions that can occur if we’re open to them. This post inspired me to get off my phone when I’m surrounded by strangers and just be open to new interactions — and maybe even say hi to someone myself, if the time seems right!

    Spencer,
    Your post really hit me in the feels! I wasn’t expecting to feel nostalgic on this Monday night, but your quality writing did that to me. I think the concept of commemorative friends is inherently nostalgia-inducing, because we appreciate the times we had together but also know those times are likely over. The idea of that makes me more sad than happy, but I guess nostalgia is just a complicated emotion — it depends how you look at it. Thanks for making me think!

    Lane,
    I definitely agree with you that I don’t like texting. It leaves too much to interpretation, and as you discussed, oftentimes that can lead to miscommunication. This is why I love FaceTime so much; it’s as close as you can get to talking in person. I think lots of people our age feel this way, and yet we as a generation still have seemingly chosen to mainly communicate over text. Hopefully this will start to change as we get older. Thanks for your thoughts!

  • Maya Dubin // Mar 29th 2022 at 1:12 pm

    Thank you – Olivia, Spencer, Lane, Jess, Arlo, Stephanie, Esther, and Iris for your thoughtful blog posts about friendships and the importance of strong and weak ties.

    Olivia – I enjoyed reading your reflection on the impact of random encounters and relationships with strangers. I think the point you made about there needing to be a form of emotional impact to make the interaction memorable is very true. Additionally, your reflection on prior connection not being as important as we think in order to form friendships was insightful.

    Spencer –
    Thank you for sharing your personal perspective on the topic of maintaining friendships. I too have struggled to keep in close contact with my friends from home, many of whom I view akin to family. I share the experience with you of feeling as if the further our worlds are from one another (both physically and socially) the less time is invested in a friendship. I think that it is true that in order to remain close there needs to be both similarities between the friends and a “previous investment of time in the friendship” (Ledbetter, Griffin, & Sparks, 2007).

    Lane –
    There is no doubt that social media will play an impactful role in the formation of friendships for years to come. While I do not think we know all the consequences of social media and the internet on our generation quite yet, there are many concerns that come up naturally due to the nature of social media. I also share the concern that social media can lead to miscommunication as you point out – “communication is 55% body language, 38% vocal, and only 7% words (Mehrabian, 1967).” Without these important aspects of communication being on display, it is very possible to find oneself mis-communicating with those around you. Also, your question of burnout in friendships is even more relevant when discussed in the context of social media and technology as it can become quite cumbersome to keep up with this form of constant communication.

  • Julia Prior // Mar 30th 2022 at 2:01 pm

    Great blog post!

    Olivia – I thought the study you cited on how random assignment in initial encounters can influence the likelihood of friendship was very interesting! It made me think about many of my friendships and how they began, and it was often times when I did not have the active intention of looking for new friends but an open mind as you mentioned. I believe proximity helped establish these friendships and over time these friendships continued upon discovering similarities. Proximity – living near someone, sitting next to someone in class – are the start of some of the great friendships I have today.

    Spencer – I really enjoyed the quote you provided on commemorative friends. I occasionally think of my friends from elementary school and middle school that I have fallen out of touch with in a fond way and now I know a great term to describe that friendship. They were so important to me at one time in my life and are still important to me today because of how much they once added to my life and I believe they would feel same. There is also an interesting dynamic between letting someone become a commemorative friend and fighting to keep that friendship as lively as it once was. It gives me some satisfaction to believe that those commemorative friendships could be rekindled into something it once was if both parties want that.

    Lane – I resonated with your ideas on how texting and social media can both positively and negatively impact friendships. Particularly with a long distance close friend, texting allows us to keep in close communication, but I find myself overthinking and reading into the tone of text messages. Whenever we see each other in person or talk on the phone, the miscommunication goes away. I also find myself feeling guilty when I forget to respond to a text for a few hours because it may appear that I do not care enough about this close friend. However, I think the problem is that in today’s world we constantly have our phones on us and therefore appear available, but there needs to be space in the day where you have uninterrupted time to yourself, and hopefully this would also prevent burn out/degradation of friendships.

  • Tom Aicardi // Mar 30th 2022 at 8:08 pm

    Thank you Olivia, Spencer, and Lane for your thoughtful blog posts!
    In response to Spencer’s blog, I completely relate to the notion that it can be tough to maintain friendships over a long period of time and with changing aspect’s to people’s lives. The summary of Ledbetter, Griffin, & Sparks’, 2007 article was very interesting to me about how friends remain close over time, and it relates to my own personal experience with maintaining friendships from high school. I have maintained very close friendships with three of my high school friends while it has been more difficult to maintain friendships with my larger high school group. Based off of the Ledbetter et al. study, I would say that this is because my three closest friends and I spent the most amount of time together, and we do have very similar interests. Although me and my close friends may not spend a lot of time together during the school semesters since we go to different schools, whenever we do get together it seems as if no time has passed.

  • Helena Jiang // Apr 2nd 2022 at 4:10 pm

    Olivia, Spencer, and Lane,

    Thank you all so much for such an insightful blog post. I loved the way you all started off your blog post, and it is often crazy to take a step back and realize how little we are in the grand scheme of things, and how there are so many lives just like ours functioning at the same time as ours. Thank you Olivia for bringing up this concept of memorable strangers, as it can be so counterintuitive to think about someone who you meet just once making a lasting memory, a lasting impact on your life. It’s also really interesting to see how something, a small change as little as physical proximity, something we don’t even consciously think about when making the decision to be next to someone, affects how we see the friendship / relationship for the rest of our lives. Spencer, it’s so sad to think that there are so many things that could potentially drive people and friendships and relationships apart, and many of those things we just ultimately cannot control. But on the other side of the coin, those same changes in situations are also what allow us to meet our friends, and without them, we wouldn’t have those relationships to start with. It is also just as important to treasure the time that you were able to spend with your friend. Lane, thank you so much for being so honest with your relationship with social media; I would venture to say that many of our class feels similar sentiments, as it definitely is incredibly draining and has some lasting harmful impacts on friendships.

  • Patrick Walsh // Apr 3rd 2022 at 10:08 pm

    Hi Olivia, Spencer and Lane. Thank you for your posts, I truly enjoyed reading them and found them to be very relatable. In particular I found Spencer’s post to be extremely relatable to a friendship that I had in middle school and through some of high school. I experienced many of the same things that you did as it relates to one of my best friends becoming a “mere acquaintance”. We would spend almost every single day together in elementary school and middle school, often taking the bus home from school to each other’s houses. However, as the article by Back, Schmukle, & Egloff alludes to, we had trouble staying in touch once as our paths diverged. We got to high school and went to different schools and also had developed different interests and hobbies as we got older. This made it tough to hang out even when we did have time because there were not many activities that we both enjoyed doing together anymore. Once we got to college we tried to stay in touch but he ended up moving to Texas so I have not seen him in a long time, but I still consider him to be a friend and will always cherish all of the afternoons that we spent together after school.

  • Anthony Nelson // Apr 4th 2022 at 8:29 pm

    Thanks Olivia, Spencer and Lane for the post. I found it very interesting. Olivia, I found it interesting that proximity seemed to be such an important factor in creating friends in new environments. I find this pretty accurate because I believe I became friends with my teammates so quickly due to the fact we were in close proximity nearly all the time. Spencer I too can relate to your story of trying to maintain a friendship with a childhood friend. In my situation we came to terms that we are always gonna be friends despite not talking to each other for long periods of time. Then once we see each other again it is like we did not miss a step. Yet, in my situation we still have common interests which I believe is a primary factor that distance and time apart does not change the friendship we had and still have. Lane, I agree with your stance on how texting and social media can lead to severe miscommunications. I am personally forgetful and may forget to reply to my friend. This in turn leads to my friend thinking I ignored them when in reality I simply got distracted by TV or whatnot. This does not happen in face to face situations which easily cuts the chances of miscommunication such as that down significantly.

  • Arlo Sims // May 4th 2022 at 6:00 pm

    Olivia, when you asked who some strangers are that I remember, I started to reminisce about various people I met that I will probably never see again. I think another reason why a kind emotional interaction with a stranger is uplifting and memorable is that if a stranger is kind to someone they will never see again, it means they believe in the world, and are pushing towards a positive goodness in a way. Growing up there was a lady who would always walk by our house, and I would often bike by her on the way to school. She would always say hi in the most kind and warm way, and it was so uplifting. I feel like she helped me understand what true kindness is when I was young, as I never really knew her yet it felt like she cared.

  • Esther Xiang // May 14th 2022 at 9:44 pm

    Spencer- I love the particular topic you chose to write about. I feel like I spend 80% of my time thinking about relationships, especially maintaining friendships. Friendship is really complex, and making and keeping friends as we get older might be difficult. People usually don’t take the time and space for friendships when life comes up. When you’re older and no longer have that career or are no longer in that one relationship, you’ll need friends and social engagement to survive. It may also be the most radical relationship we can invest in. it can be the most adaptable and the one that preserves our autonomy. In order to maintain the friendship, it’s important you’re spending time together, whether it’s watching movies or cooking; there are so many ways to check up on each other. It’s also essential to keep in touch with them by scheduling time to meet up or catch up. Making new pals isn’t always straightforward. Making friends, developing relationships, and forming connections all take time and effort. It’ll take some time. It’s very normal that not everyone you meet will click with you. Maintaining your friendships involves effort as well. I’m learning that it’s okay if you don’t talk every day; just check in on them now and again. When you have the opportunity, meet up with them. Do something that both of you are passionate about. Good friends are hard to come by and much harder to keep, so make sure you invest time and effort into your friendships. You’ll be glad you did at the end of your lives.

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