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On the Value of Friendship

Updated: Feb 21

Friends can be a most wonderful asset, but they can also be a big thorn in your side. It would be only natural then that some people will become very social, as well as more aloof or even wary of other people than most. Much of how we percieve other people depends on our with them, as well as ourselves.

Regardless of who you are, any person with a common interest or a goal can become a friend, or at least an ally. However, once drama begins, then the value of the friendship in your life should be questioned. Dramas can be seen as usually-unintended tests for the resolve of your friendship. Fortunately, unless you are locked away or stuck with certain people, you are technically free to choose your friends, and not only have some of them by the common circumstance of force.

While you are forced by public education to be in the same class as other students, as an adult you are free to choose different workplaces, and thus a different pool of potential friends (who are more than co-workers).

It is well understood that a good friendship is one that can bring many benefits, which do not have to be one-sided. However, despite friendship being an elementary connection, it doesn't necessarily mean that all humans are social animals. That is because not all of us seek friends, nor want them, in our lives. And still, when you need to interact to survive in life, some people may still call you a social being despite actually being a more solitary one.

This is why I think the concept of us humans as "social animals" should be changed into "communication animals," for we cannot survive within civilization without basic communication skills. It is the same with cats, which are often seen as solitary animals — and yet even they need to interact in order to survive, don't they? Not every form of communication is socially-based.

Since kindergarten, we are taught the "imperative importance" of having friends, even though technically, they are not always necessary for our survival. When going to the grocery store, does the shopkeeper have to be our friend? Entire cities and metropolises today are built on the fact that you do not need a close relationship – at all – in order to survive. Who is the neighbor beyond your wall, below your floor, next door? It doesn't matter in the city, even if you are to die somehow by yourself. As long as you are an adult, can pay your bills, and do not cause trouble, you will be left for your own devices. Alienation is a natural feature in contemporary era.

When we have so many alternatives to friends, in the form of electronics, for example, one should doubt the importance of friendship as one that is vital to a well-lived life. Of course, it may be seen as an unpopular opinion, but when you have certain entertainments, such as videos, reading material, and games, do you actually need to hang out with others anymore, when you can avoid their drama and the emotional investment – and spend the time alone? For some of us, friends is something that drains our energies. It's called social fatigue.

It appears that this world has portrayed solitude as something incredibly negative, even though it is not necessarily. Does the mere fact of spending time in solitude mean that you will die shorter than usual? What some fail to realize is that as long as you are lonely, and not enjoying your own company, you may get to have your life expectancy decreased, NOT because you're alone but because you're lonely. After all, why would someone who is in good health, both physically and mentally, live shorter than a constantly-stressed and preoccupied, social individual? Loneliness is possible even within extroverted settings.

Solitude isn't something to be feared, in a world where even when alone, you still have a great reach to, theoretically, anyone who uses the internet, along with those who have their phone numbers in public. Must your voice not be heard, even by total strangers, just because of your distress from the loneliness? Few of us actually live as complete hermits, rarely going out of their urban or rural hermitages (like myself). We are known as Hikikomoris. Since I take care of myself, I don't find that a problem, necessarily.

Why then, do we all need friends, when we are literally surrounded with service men and service women, waiting to help us in whatever we need in exchange of funds?

I am not afraid to admit that I did not have any true friends since 2010, which is 11 years before the initial publication of this article. I had fellow classmates, a few colleagues, and even love interests since then – but since that year I have yet to experience once more true friendship. Regardless, I can at least testify from my own experience, that when you have alternatives to friends, and use said alternatives to the max, the need for friends can significantly be reduced over time.

Do you know what is a better role than a friend in this world? Followers, if they are interested in what you have to say, and if you have, at all, something to share with the world. The relations with followers can be a bit strange for some, because on one hand they are technically strangers, but on the other hand they are interested in you enough to be willing to receive more virtual content from you. That is something a friend wouldn't necessarily do, no matter how emotionally attached you are. You may find out that having followers will save you the drama often found among friends, and find that you don't need much emotional investment to keep them around.

The follower can also save you both the time of getting to know each other, and yet still take above-average interest in your content. After all, the uninterested do not follow. By all of this I think I can safely say that friends, even if a great asset, is basically a privilege. Why is that?

Because not all people get to know people so much to the point of becoming their friend. Furthermore, you are not entitled to have friends if people do not want you as their friend. I myself don't have friends where I live in, and if I wasn't so fit for solitude, I would probably go mad or at least be depressed. On the contrary, socializing can be a very addicting activity, and not necessarily for good.

As to having followers, it is arguably far less than a privilege than having a true friend; all it takes to follow is a single button on a screen, while friendships change over time, and usually take more time to build and to maintain. They come more spontenously, the more content you upload online.

As long as you have mastered the art of being alone, AKA, the ability to endure it for so long, the desire for friends would gradually decrease. This is especially true when they become a bit of a burden on you, and you don't appreciate them enough to dedicate any more time to their existence.

Even in love, the same as in friendship, perhaps the heaviest blow you can get from those kinds of interactions is the realization that your existence is no longer relevant to their lives. When a friend or partner leaves you for good, and you genuinely care about them, the feeling of being expendable is at times, is most insufferable. To be seen as a "minion" who has fulfilled their part in the lives of those who judge you in accordance with your contribution to their personal lives.

Therefore, being solitary is a form of strength, and a one that can be honed; the strength of not needing friends as much as those who are not accustomed to the company of themselves. If we practice being alone on a regular basis, we would need less and less friends to keep us company, to talk to, and to spend our time with.

Then, not only are there alternatives, the very need for social interactions will decrease in favor of other types of communication. Not everyone who interacts, ultimately, is necessarily a social being. Most of us need to communicate to survive.

I was told, several times, by my psychologist, that I am not a social being. I agreed. I do not like to socialize, but I communicate with others nevertheless.

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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