Friendships like transactions | Daily News

Friendships like transactions

How are your friendship metrics—got lots of pals? Would you rate them five stars or less? Are they helping you live your best life?

We can quantify everything now—from our steps on Fitbit to our literary consumption on Goodreads. As a result, we feel we must make everything and everyone count for something. That’s a phenomenon which is both distressing and depressing as it applies to friendship.

Scan the internet and you’ll see no end of posts advising you to toss toxic friends and surround yourself with people who make you feel good instead. The current cultural discourse suggests that friends are people who we use to improve ourselves, and get rid of when the going gets tough or if we’re not having enough fun. One BuzzFeed article goes so far as to suggest forgetting a birthday is a dump-worthy offense, while a Cosmopolitan article recommends tossing friends who binge-drink on a Saturday night.

The way we talk about friendship paints an ugly picture of the new notion of relating—one that seeks maximum return on minimal investment, and outlines an exit strategy anytime a friend doesn’t fulfill our fantasies. These posts reveal more about the toxicity of our society than the negative people they’re describing. It’s friendship as a capitalistic exchange, instead of relationships involving people who care about each other, hanging out, and helping each other through life’s ups and downs.

It’s enough to make you want to cry into a beer with a confidante—you know, a close friend of the kind that’s going out of style.

Take, for example, a recent New York Times article about “the power of positive people” (paywall), which asks, “Are your friendships giving you a boost or bringing you down?” In it, Tara Parker-Pope, just back from a wellness cruise filled with upbeat personalities, advises readers to be mindful of their relationships for the sake of a long life. “Buoyed by the experience, I returned home with a renewed commitment not only to exercise and healthful living, but to simply step up my social life and spend more time hanging out with happy people,” she writes.

Pity her pals. Let’s hope none of them are struggling, sad, or in need of a friend, because it seems she’ll be preoccupied trying to find more positive people. “While many of us focus primarily on diet and exercise to achieve better health, science suggests that our well-being also is influenced by the company we keep,” she writes. The article advises choosing friends wisely for how they improve heath and directs readers to a quiz about “optimizing” friendships.

The Blue Zones quiz—a reference to blue zones of the world where people seem to live longer—measures your health and longevity and that of three close associates with questions about exercise, weight, diet, smoking, drinking, and mood, providing a numerical score (of course!) for you and your buddies. “Research shows that friends can have a long-term impact on our health. In fact, if your best friends are obese, you’re about twice as likely to be overweight,” the site explains. Under the logic of the quiz, if your friends have a streak of bad days, smoke cigarettes, loathe jogging, or have a weakness for pastries, they’re actually dragging you down.

You can find advice on toxic friendships pretty much everywhere else on the internet, too. HuffPo warns that bad pals are smart, stubborn, fussy, harsh, and pessimistic, to name just a few of their negative traits. Presumably the takeaway is that a healthy friend is a stupid pushover with no standards who sees the glass (with a non-alcoholic beverage) as half-full, always, and won’t acknowledge any feeling but optimism.

Business Insider says toxic people do inappropriate things, like show up at your house uninvited and unannounced. They’re needy, make you feel responsible for them, and copy you. Instead, seek friends who find you uninspiring, never inconvenience you, follow strict social rules even in an emergency, and have no sense of protectiveness. - Quartz


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