This phrase was said by Aristotle, who had written about what a good friendship is in The Nicomachean. He believed there are three types of friendships: friendships based on utility, pleasure, or virtue. The last type of friendship is the one that we should strive for: long-lasting virtuous friendships built with intention and based on mutual appreciation of character and goodness. The first two are more transactional in nature, lacked depth, and more transient.

Words spoken more than two thousand years ago still remain relevant, as friendships are essential to us. Apart from being with family, we spend most of our lives around friends and searching for meaning connections.

What is the purpose of friendship that drives us to crave for meaningful relationships?

Watch The School of Life’s short video clip to find out:

A clearly defined, or as Aristotle says – intentional – friendship could possibly improve the interactions we have. There are four reasons why we have friends:

  1. Networking to do ambitious work collaboratively  
  2. To have people we can be silly around, and relax from having to be serious in the rest of our time at work
  3. To get reassurance to talk openly about our vulnerabilities without fear of getting judged or shamed
  4. Clarifying our mind – friends can act like our mirror by asking probing questions that help us think when we are unable to gain clarity on problems we face

The first two do not require deep relationships to function, and the friendship can be based on utility or pleasure to enjoy those purposes. Such friends, or acquaintances, may not serve deeper purposes such as the third or fourth, as you would need to be able to trust these people you are opening up to. We would choose our confidants selectively based on a variety of reasons like respect, trust, and even chemistry. However, according to research, we should not dismiss interactions with acquaintances as these interactions have positive effects on well-being as well. Furthermore, the road towards building deeper relationships is a matter of investing time spent with the other person too.

Maintaining friendships in the age of social media  

Many people constantly feel that we are not meeting our friends as much as we should. Studies have shown that there are many benefits of maintaining strong friendships, and we should invest in them.

Technology offers us ways to extend the lifespan of our friendships. In the past, friends are usually those who are physically near you because of the lack of options to communicate across long distances. When someone moves out of town, it would have been difficult to maintain old friendships from their hometown. Now with social media, we can easily remain in contact with people from all over the world.

As we grow up, and our responsibilities at work or in our family increase, time spent with friends may shrink. The choice of friends we make becomes something interesting to ponder over: why are you willing to invest your limited time and energy with certain types of people, and not others? How valuable a friends are you to others? Who do you want to keep close in your inner circle?

Questions for further personal evaluation:

  1. Which is better to you – having many friends, or having a handful of good friends? Why?
  2. Why are friends important to you, and in today’s society?

Useful vocabulary:

  1. ‘salient’: more noticeable or important
  2. ‘leverage’: (verb) use something to maximum advantage

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