What is the true meaning of the word “Friend”?
A friend is someone who is caring, comforting, accepting and generous to another person. There are many definitions and meanings for the word friend and that is due to how people are raised and how society has affected the word. In Joseph P Kahn’s essay “What Does “Friend” Mean Now?”, he describes how “friends are not what they used to be”(Kahn 379). He believes that word friend has become a looser term which I agree with as well because of social media and how people are being raised today. In Kahn’s essay he describes how people are raised in their earlier years to consider their classmates as friends. This changes the word friend because it makes the word seem less exclusive and distorts the meaning which makes people who should really be considered acquaintances appear as friends to those who do not know better. The consequence for growing up and considering acquaintances as friends is that these people may not know what a true friend is and how to make them. Because these people do not understand true friendship and what makes someone their real friend, they are not able to distinguish between a true friend and someone who they “friended” on facebook.
The word friend is starting to be used looser than it was in the past due to social media and how people are raised. There is a crucial difference between being someone’s friend in everyday life versus being someone’s friend on facebook. Kahn quotes a Boston University student who describes how he differentiates between social media friends and real friends by saying, “… in college you can’t bring all your friends along. So that narrows it down to two or three”(380). Kahn uses a student as a source in his essay in order to get an opinion from a younger generation. The simple analogy that the BU student uses in Kahn’s essay makes it clearer to see that there is a difference between knowing someone and being their friend because someone would not take another person who they are not close with to a party. In college I have also noticed that I have acquaintances and friends. The difference between the two is simple; my friends are the people that I would go to and ask for help or advice and the acquaintances are the people who I will talk to around campus and see randomly throughout my day. Kahn quotes an MIT sociologist who states that “Friendship is about letting something happen between two people that’s surprising and new”(380). Turkle believes that people need to share a physical bond that is surprising and new in order to have a friendship. This bond allows the people to become closer which sparks a friendship. Therefore when I use the word “friend” I make sure that it is not used lightly and that I have an actual friendship and physical connection with the given person otherwise I would be calling everyone that I have “met” my friend.
Does Being Someone’s Friend Mean Having Obligations?
I would not say that being someone’s friend has obligations because if someone feels like they are forced into doing things for their friends then they are not a real friend. Because of this I believe that there is an unspoken norm for being a friend and that is to always be there for the other person whether it is in person or by some form of electronic communication if one cannot physically be there. This is important to me in a friendship because it shows how real someone’s friendship is. When my grandfather passed away I was very upset and my best friend knew that there was not really a way to make me feel better, however she stayed by my side through the entire grieving process and because of this caring gesture, I will always remember how loyal and caring she was and still is to me. She was not “obligated to stay with me; however she knew that because we were close friends that it would be the right thing to do by comforting me. This expectation would not be placed upon my “friends” on facebook because like Turkle has mentioned from Kahn’s essay, I have not shared a physical bond so I do not feel close enough to them to expect them to be there for me.
Are there benefits to friendship?
Although friendships may come with hardships such as fights it also has it benefits. For me the biggest benefit is having someone that will always be there for you and enjoying the company. Having someone to keep you company is always the best feeling. I used to be an introvert because I never experienced what a true friend is like. My friends are always willing to go along with whatever the majority of everyone wants. Therefore we would keep each other company whether it was going to someone’s sibling’s sports game or sitting in the passenger seat while the other person ran errands. Being able to have someone always there for you is a great feeling to have in life and the benefit of this is that it makes you feel better about yourself and self esteem. Another benefit from friendship is that there is always someone who you can trust to confide information in and ask for help. This person will be able to help give an opinion with out you feeling uncomfortable with what they might think about the situation. I value this benefit more than the other ones simply because it is important to have another person as an outlet to go to if stressed, upset or even excited about something.
Friendship versus Favors
I do not believe that friendship is all about favors because like obligations, people should not feel like they are going out of their way to do a favor for a friend. They should enjoy doing the favor and helping their friend because if they were mad at doing each other favors then their friendship would not be as good as they think. Friendship is about two people enjoying the company and presence of the other person and it should not have to be about who owes who a favor. The meaning of a friend should not be used in such a loose manner because of how tight knit a true friendship really is between two people and it ruins the meaning of what a true friend is supposed to be. Kahn acknowledges the opposing side to his argument in which he quotes a linguist who believes that the word is still used the same however it does have other meanings. The linguist also states that the word “friend” “as the inherent flexibility of language taking on new guises over time”(382). Kahn concludes with the linguist’s point that people often use the excuse of word meaning changing in order to point out flaws in the society; however Kahn cleverly connects this anxiety of words to anxiety of meeting friends face to face rather than online through typing. This shift serves to prove that people have changed the true meaning of the word “friend” and have made it more difficult to find the real meaning and definition of the word. This difficulty is what leads to people not knowing what a real friend is and how to make or keep one.
Joseph P. Kahn, “What Does ‘Friend’ Mean Now?” From The Boston Globe, May 5 © 2011 The Boston Globe
Steven Pinker, “Words Don’t Mean What They Mean.” From The Stuff of Thought.