I thought the good friend test was who do I tell that I got a job at Harvard. But I ended up telling everyone. Then I thought maybe the good friend test was who can I reach out to when I’m having a total breakdown? But again, the answer is everyone, because no one solo person can actually deal with me calling them, repeatedly, so I have to just tell you all, here on my blog.
The research about friends talks about reciprocal friends. For example, does your best friend think you are their best friend? If the answer is no, then term for that person is not friend, it’s shitty friend. Because uneven friendships are alienating.
This explains so much of my life.
So I decided to do something about that. I wrote a note to my collaborator at Harvard and I told her she is so interesting to talk to and I love how intellectually challenging she is for me to keep up with and since friendship reciprocity comes up so much in articles we cite, I wonder, do we have a reciprocal friendship?
I took picture of the notecard and sent it to my academic brother because we agreed that I should send him any correspondence to Harvard people, before I send it, to be sure I’m not being weird.
He told me no. Do not send that to her.
So I crossed out her name and wrote his name, stuck a stamp on and sent it to him. I don’t know if I have a reciprocal friendship with my brother, but I do know that the biggest thing I can offer him in the realm of friendship is to not write about him. So I will have to write about engagement instead.
Engagement is how we relate to a friend. Here are reasons people think of someone as their friend:
Pride – this friend is someone who makes you feel important
Fun – this friend is someone to have a great time with
Pressure – this is a friend where there are consequences if you were not friends, like you’d feel guilt or they’d feel sad
Emotions – this friend is the person to share important events or feelings with
Special – this friend really wants me to be their close friend so there we are
Commitment – this friend feels good to be committed to
Take a pause here and think about where on this list your friends are in relation to you.
I don’t want you to be skimming this post and then forget to do the pause.
Did you do the pause?
I want friends who don’t skim, so don’t do that.
Okay. So it was sort of a trick question, except I got tricked too, and it doesn’t feel like a fun trick, it feels like a trick where I want to kill all the people who do research about friends.
Wait. Something else about friends: women only want to kill people who they are very close to, so this is how you know that I’m a very serious researcher now.
Back to that list. The trick about the list is that it’s not different types of friends. It’s different stages of friendship that we all go through as we mature.
In our 20s we collect lots of friends trying to figure out the trials and tribulations of adult life. In our 30s we cull our friends to just one or two and we add our own family. Because having a real friend is about reciprocal commitment (see that last type of friend on the list) so we can only really keep one or two. And then that’s it. We keep our friends and family for our whole life.
I use we very loosely here. As in not we. Because people who are committed to the same family and friends their whole life are people who value relationships over interestingness and do not read blogs. They probably don’t read very much at all, I mean, why would they? Collecting information to mull it over and then sharing ideas with other people is not the same as sharing commitment to a relationship with other people.
You knew autism was coming, right?
Autistic people make friends by sharing ideas. Neurotypical people make friends by sharing commitment to friendship. Neurotypical people do not see the dynamic exchange of ideas as a relevant part of friendship. Autistic people have a hard time understanding what to do with a friend if there is not an exchange of ideas.
I am not making this stuff up, okay? I’m actually shocked by it.
And there is the truth: the only people who I think are friends are people who share ideas with me. It’s why I always come back to you.