Friends of all levels have a place in your social life
Sep. 23, 2009 10:38 pm
Think of the last person you waved to. That person may be one of your closest friends, or someone in one of your discussion sections, or even a person you always wave to, whose name you don’t even know.
Friendships exist on many different levels. We subconsciously categorize our circle of relationships and place labels on the people we know.
Though these invisible labels simplify our social lives, they are often difficult to remove or switch around.
This idea of consequential strangers, the people who fall right in between the zone of strangers and friends, is explored in Melinda Blau, and Purdue psychology Professor Karen L. Fingerman’s book “Consequential Strangers: The Power of People Who Don’t Seem to Matter…But Really Do.”
This category is the broadest because there are dimensions even within this level. There’s the person you just smile at, the person you wave or say hi to, and the person you stop and have a small conversation with.
Many of you have probably already experienced the “Hey! How was your summer?” bit these past few days from your circle of consequential strangers. Responses are often limited to replies such as, “Great! How was yours?”
While these brief conversations can be awkward, these confines are fine.
Why spend a good few minutes of your life expanding on your summer experience when you could just walk away after that friendly mini-conversation with this consequential stranger?
These friends are great to have. Stopping and naturally saying hello to someone can make your day. If you really think about it, consequential strangers are great friends to have. They allow us to exercise our networking and social skills.
Then, there are the friends you hang out with every once in a while, such as the ones you randomly have lunch with or who you make a point to say “We have to hang out soon.” These are the friends who are a breath of fresh air, the ones who are nice to catch up with and see how they’re doing.
It’s always nice to go to one of these friends after a long, stressful day and just have a fun conversation to get your mind off of things.
For the party-goers out there, you all know the friends you love to party with. They’re laid back and love to have a good time.
They’re the ones who you don’t have to worry about holding their hand and making sure they have someone to talk to or dance with. They are social and outgoing, so they are just fun to be around and to go out with.
Some of us are blessed to have best friends. Some may have one or two or more, and some may not even have a best friend. They’re the ones you can go to for anything.
According to a study called Very Happy People done at the University of Illinois, the happiest 10 percent of a group of 222 college students showed a strong correlation between rich social lives and happiness.
Having a few close friends is related to a person’s happiness and wellbeing and provides them with social support.
This presence in our lives is very important, especially during our college years when life is stressful.
The separation between levels of friends occurs naturally. We don’t place people in these categories when we first meet them. We don’t really think about what group each of our friends belongs in. The unconscious separation is an important facet of our social lives, but if you really think about it, it’s sometimes hard for some of our friends to move around these labels.
We can’t party with a creeper. We can’t automatically become best friends with a consequential stranger.
Sometimes we need these classifications to make life a little easier. Labels aren’t necessarily the best system for friendships, but maybe they let us pick the best ones to befriend.