DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Sep 27 2010

Please Be My *BFF — For Now

by Veronica W

HEAR YE, HEAR YE, all you Facebook, MySpace and Twitter members (which includes me). According to anthropologist Robin Dunbar, if you are accumulating friends like acorns for the coming winter, you are wasting your time, spinning your wheels, running in place. He says “the brain can’t handle many more than 150 friends, so lining up thousands of them on social networks is a pretty meaningless exercise.” Actually I think 150 is rather ambitious. My list of friends is much, much smaller than that and I still feel guilty at the end of every month because I’ve forgotten someone’s birthday or anniversary.

This poses the questions, how many friendships do we actually want and how many can we keep healthy? In a recent article in MORE magazine, Sally Koslow quotes—and makes—some rather startling statements, with which you may or may not agree.

1. The average person now replaces half their friends every 7 years. (It seems seven years is significant in  other ways too. I’ve heard couples start to “itch” at this point also.)

2. Many close bonds are marriages of convenience based on mutual need rather than deep regard. (Hmmm. Not a nice thought)

3. People do not have friends at work…they have “work neighbors.” Once you move out of the “neighborhood” you’re no longer thought about or included. (Now that’s harsh. Is it true?)

I found these “facts” very distressing because, upon reflection, I realized I’ve lost touch with most of my childhood AND college buddies. There were no major blow ups, but the relationships simply died a natural death. My moving almost a thousand miles away was perhaps the final nail in the coffin. John Steinbeck says, in his book East of Eden , “There’s nothing sadder to me than associations held together by nothing but the glue of postage stamps. If you can’t see or hear or touch a man, it’s best to let him go.” It also didn’t help that one of the first books on the subject upon which I stumbled was The Friend Who Got Away: Twenty Women’s True Life Tales of Friendships that Blew Up, Burned out or Faded Away. Wow. I read a few and got a bit down, so to cheer myself up I decided to list all the “buddy” books and movies I could think of. I’m glad to say that wasn’t very difficult because good and lasting friendships are a prevailing theme in literature and in Hollywood . Check these out:

Books: Of Mice and MenFried Green Tomatoes, Frog and Toad Together, The Red Hat Club, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Siserhood, Kite Runner, Bridge to Terabithia, The Wind in the Willows, The Joy Luck Club

Movies: Lord of the Rings, Shawshank Redemption, Monster’s Inc., Thelma and Louise, Toy Story, Stand By Me, The Bucket List, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Lethal Weapon

I’m sure there are many more. In the middle of the night, I will sit up suddenly and yell, because I thought of a good title I didn’t include.  However I started the list—maybe you can add some titles of your own.   If you do, I’ll be your friend.

*Best Friend Forever

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

ES September 27, 2010 at 11:25 AM

I’m not so sure it’s a bad thing that relationships fall away. New ones rise up in their place, and given opportunity, the old can return. Why spend time trying to hold so tightly to something that has a natural cycle? Enjoy it while it lasts and be thankful for the people you’ve had a chance to interact with, look with hopeful joy for the new ones to come.

David September 27, 2010 at 12:03 PM

The first two that came to my mind were BRIAN’S SONG (movie) and THE OBJECT OF MY AFFECTION (also a movie, but I prefer the novel).

Lynne September 27, 2010 at 2:35 PM

Interesting topic. Movies seem to portray all these people with friends that go back to high school or college. It’s nice to see something written which is more true to life. Thanks.

Lillian September 27, 2010 at 7:03 PM

How about the wonderful story of the friendship between Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan, The Miracle Worker?

PG September 30, 2010 at 11:47 AM

I believe what they say is true, mos people today doe not have friends or many friends.There are two books at the library on this, 1. the lonely american and the friendship crisis. Most people won’t admit to not having friends, that’s probably why you don’t hear much talk on the matter. But they have done studies on it and have found that with time as we get older we lose friends and many of us have a hard time making new ones. Now a days many people are truning to the internet for thier friendship, but even so could you really call posting and aiming a strange a real friendship. Depends who you ask!

Jimmy L September 30, 2010 at 12:06 PM

It’s probably harder to make new friends as you get older, mostly because people are usually so involved with their own lives, whether it be family or career-oriented, that fewer and fewer people are open to new friendships. But I also think that as you get older you are more selective about your friendships, so when you do find a new friend, it can be a more meaningful one.

Kay October 6, 2010 at 2:51 PM

A thought-provoking post, Veronica. I may be unusual, but I have a number of friendships which have lasted more than half of my life. Perhaps this was more likely because I grew up in a very small town and attended a very small college. Three more friendship-themed movies come to mind: Steel Magnolias, Arranged, and Grumpy Old Men.

Veronica W October 7, 2010 at 1:15 PM

Thanks for reminding me Kay. I loved Steel Magnolias.

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