Gary’s March Gems – The Are Old Friends Best Friends Issue
“There’s not a word yet for old friends who’ve just met.”– Jim Henson
I am blessed to have many “old friends”.
That’s one of the advantages of living in the same city all your life. It’s not unusual to run into a classmate at Home Depot or get an email from someone from my high school graduation class. My friends and I shared the same classrooms, teachers and recesses. We played a reality version of snakes and ladders, climbing and sliding from grade to grade.
We were from different backgrounds and classes. But the classroom was a great equalizer. We shared each other’s achievements and failures, embarrassments and glories. Our small world included buddies and bullies, popular kids and nerds (before nerds ruled the world). Whatever the clique – and it could change from year to year – we had a history in common that would last a lifetime.
As much as I love “change”, I admit to enjoying the familiarity of faces and geography I see every day. A sense of belonging comes with having driven and walked the same streets for over a half-century. The pandemic has pretty much extinguished any chance of running into a friend. But technology saves the day. Social media and web-conferencing apps like ZOOM give us a digital substitute for in-person meetings.
Do old friends make the best friends?
Is it possible to make new best friends once we’re fully formed adults with fully formed opinions? As soon as we were out of diapers, our parents set about to domesticate us. We were taught to socialize with others in daycare then in school. It was survival training.
As a business owner, I “networked” at conferences with hundreds of others. Some became dear friends. Through “Art for Healing”, I’ve connected with artists and medical professionals who inspired me and became role models. They and others I met later in life are friends. Every new friend I make is put into a compartment based on the context of how we met. There are my “work friends”, “art friends”, “dinner party friends” and “old friends”.
According to anthropologist Robin Dunbar, our brains have a limit on how many meaningful relationships we can keep track of. Dunbar says most people can have up to:
5 intimate bonds: spouses, best friends, and so on
15 close friends: people you trust and spend time with regularly
50 friends: people you would invite to a personal event like a wedding or dinner
150 casual friends: people you would invite to a big party
A recent survey seems to support Dunbar’s theory. Researchers found the average Facebook user
Has 155 friends on the platform
Only considers 43 contacts to be a genuine friend
Would only trust 4 of their Facebook friends in a crisis
We’re social animals and forming bonds with others is a fundamental need. During this pandemic, it’s important we reach out to as many friends as we can.
In last month’s Gems – The Lost Art of Saying Thank You Issue – I mentioned how important it is to recognize generousity. Everything that grows requires nourishment, friends are no different. If we take friendships for granted, they wither and exist only as shapeless mists in our memories.
Before we get to the gems, I have a little game for you. No prizes, just honour.
Can you pick me out from my grade five class photo? (Hint – I’m in the last row.)
Here are some “friendly” gems to ponder over until next month.
Gary Blair is Owner and Chief Engagement Officer for i24 Call Management Solutions and Founder of the Art for Healing Foundation. He's passionate about creating connections between people through both his for-profit and not-for-profit activities. Communication is the name of the game.