The widespread adoption of social media has made it possible for us to become friends with another person merely through the click of a button. But do these social connections constitute real friendship? This question is on the minds of research scholars and lay people alike, as more and more people are now curious the nature of modern friendships. According to the renowned author and professor, Dr. Alex Pattakos, each of us have far less people who we can call friends today than ever before, even though we’re collecting thousands of “friends” on social networks. It seems that it is now more important than ever to know what it truly means to be a friend.
According to Dr. Lickerman, author of The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self, true friendship embodies three qualities: the friends are committed to each other’s happiness and won’t refrain from confronting bad or harmful behavior; the friends never ask each other to compromise on their values and principles; and the friends influence each other in positive ways and encourage each other to live up to their full potential. He adds that people are often drawn together in friendship because of common interests, shared history from being through difficult experiences together, common values and a feeling of equality.
People often ask Sadhguru what friendship means to him, in order to gain insight on the nature of this human relationship. Below, we share Sadhguru’s words on his own friendships:
“I made my first friend at the age of three or four, after they sent me to school. I built such a bond with him, he was more than anything else to me. I still remember his name. I am sure he doesn’t.
I had a wide variety of friends, hundreds of friends all over the place, but that’s different. I am talking about the bond that I built with real friends – I always thought it was absolute. But over a period of time, with the experience of life, I realized there are very few people who see friendship like that. Most people see friendship as context-oriented. When you are in school, you have one kind of friend. When school is over, you just drop them and pick college friends. When college is over, professional friends, and whatever else. That’s how people look at friendship. I’ve not been able to look at it like that. I am not disgruntled, but it has been a learning experience about human nature.
My need for friendship was never too much but the moment I formed a friendship, I always thought it was for good and in every way absolute. I’ve found good friends here and there, but even for them, as life situations change, their needs and their focus on the friendship changes. For me it never changes.
I wouldn’t say it is heartbreaking, but definitely it is disappointing that most people cannot form deep relationships in their lives. They can form relationships only according to their needs; they cannot form relationships beyond their needs. A relationship just for the sake of relationship, that is not there in most people. They form a relationship when they need it; when they don’t need it, they break it.
I am a little bit of a fool in such matters. Even now if I meet an old school friend, I still approach him the way I knew him at that time. But he is somewhere else, no longer the way he was. Probably they move on with life and I don’t. I have always stayed a little outside of it. I valued life that way, so I always kept it that way. I think it continues to be so even today.
Even now when I travel around the world and meet all kinds of people, I don’t network with them, I don’t keep their phone numbers, I don’t try to contact them, but I share something very deep with them in those few moments of being together and many of them do share that with me too. But my sense of that sharing is a permanent process while I see that for most people, it is a passing process.
Probably my idea of friendship is too old-fashioned, or I don’t know if it was ever in fashion. Maybe it is a little silly, maybe it is not socially savvy, but in terms of life, I think my ability to bond with anything or anyone deeply – whether it is a tree, a place that I sat upon, a piece of land, a rock or people – has in many ways been the key which has opened up dimensions of life and nature to me.
So, for me, friendship is not an advantageous transaction or give-and-take, for me friendship is a certain overlapping of life.”
Whether you choose to find friends on social media or prefer to build connections offline, keep Sadhguru’s wise words in mind to help you build real and meaningful friendships.