Friendship rings versus social networks

An essay by Stuart Jeffries in The Guardian shows why it is important to have good friendship rings as well as strong social/business networks and how to tell the difference between the two.


The chosen - Our friendships have become a rare constant in a dislocated world” highlights a number of very important points about friendships and social networks:

  • Friendships are becoming more significant in today’s world as other social bonds such as family and marriage may not last us a lifetime.
  • Friendships, in common with these other bonds, are becoming looser and in some cases it is becoming unclear what is a friendship and what is a social network contact.
  • The difference between a friend and a social network contact was defined by Aristotle many years ago – friendships have intrinsic value in themselves whereas the value of social network contacts relate to the reciprocity possibilities between the members – i.e. utility.
  • Young people seem to be a naturally adept at networking using the internet – “these skills just appear one day, instinctively and fully formed” according to Carol Mithers.
  • Research carried out into chimpanzees by the University of California found that they were not naturally altruistic even when it cost them nothing. Either their captivity has damaged this part of the chimp's social repertoire or this kind of altruism is what differentiates humankind from monkeys. If it is the latter then it is another good bioteaming example where we can learn from nature but not be limited by it.
  • Whilst we may have big networks we tend to have a very small number of friends – a survey by Professor Ray Pahl and described in the forthcoming book "Rethinking Friendship: Hidden Solidarities Today" suggests that on average we have just 18 friends.

So we need our friendship rings as well as our social/business networks and we should be careful not to confuse the two.

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