Friends, they say, are the family you choose. These are the relationships that are often the most authentic and the most enduring. With family, you may have to have some filters, some pretence. But with true friends, the conversations flow naturally, without any barriers by what ought to be.
Of course, this is all true of friendship in its deepest, truest sense. But there are all types of friendships these days. I’m sure you will find man of them resonating with your own experience. Here’s a quick list of the five most common varieties in today’s times, for your ready reference...
These are people who we’ve grown up with. From a time when we’d casually drop by each other’s place, spend all our free time and vacations with, and still have conversation left over for hours of chat on the landline. They know all the crazy stories from our wonder years and remember them in graphic detail. But in most cases, such friends are dispersed all over the globe, have moved on from the common apartment building or playground at which you first got acquainted. When you do meet, the talk is all about ‘Do you remember...?’ or ‘Those were the days...’. You may exchange quick notes on the person’s achievements, parents, spouse, kids, pets, etc. But soon it will be back to reminiscences in loop.
Water cooler friendships are more short-lived. They are usually the result of a common grievance factor, like an annoying boss or stupid policies. Once you’ve started grumbling in tandem, the friendship can progress to more pleasant exchanges, post-work drinks, or even joint excursions with respective families (especially if the kids are in the same age groups). But, fast as these friends may seem to be, with deep conversations over cubicle walls, more often than not, they dissipate once the people involved move on to other workplaces.
Schmoozing may not be necessary in the time of social distancing, but networking will surely be back before we know it. Making contacts and furthering one’s social circle has been a human occupation from ancient times. Just how you work that crowd changes. Be it at your weekly satsang, at a casual get-together hosted by friends, or over bubbly at a high-powered do, you may often find yourself seeking out friendships with those you think will enhance your life in some way. With those you already know, you may do the dance – small talk and pleasant smiles – before moving on to other acquaintances you politely call ‘friends’.
Friends with benefits
Now I don’t mean the classic meaning of this is – which is people who engage in physical intimacy without sharing a romantic relationship. But there are other kinds of friends that offer you other sorts of benefits. Like that friend who gets you into a certain club or the one who ‘has a guy’ for any sort of fixing up you’d ever need, be it from your kitchen shelf to your private jet! The term could also extend to friends who are like personal counsellors or those that can be counted on in a crisis. These friendships can be symbiotic, with both fulfilling some requirement of the other, or one way, with one friend always being the giver and the other the receiver. When there’s genuine affection between the two, it’s a real friendship. But if the association is merely for the so-called benefits, then it’s often a relationship of convenience that may dry up if the benefits are withheld.
Social media friends
These are the 2000s equivalent of pen pals. They may not even be in the same geographical region as you, but they know every little tidbit that you share about yourself online, from what you just ate, whom you met, what gifts you got on your birthday, what it is about sunsets that moves you... Well, they and the thousands of other followers you may have. But even though it’s so public, it feels so personal. It’s the boon as well as the curse of platforms like Facebook and Instagram that people have the illusion of knowing each other really well, even though all they know is what is curated for them to see. So just like objects in the mirror are said to be closer than they appear, one must remember that the friends on social media are further than they seem.
(The columnist is Associate Editor, TravelDine, and a bespoke Mumbai tour specialist. Find her on Instagram and Twitter @priyapathiyan and @thehungryhappyhippy on Facebook. She blogs on thehungryhappyhippy.com)