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Friendship is about loyalty, not laws. Should it be policed? - Leah Plunkett | Aeon Ideas

Friendship and the digital domain

Friends are tied to each other through emotions, customs, and norms. With social media, we can share information about our friends without their permission and legal restrictions. We can share information even beyond our friendship network.

As we apply for jobs, prospective employers will likely use social media to learn about us and judge us. Therefore, what our friends show to the world matters.


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Friendship is about loyalty, not laws. Should it be policed? - Leah Plunkett | Aeon Ideas

Friendship is about loyalty, not laws. Should it be policed? - Leah Plunkett | Aeon Ideas


Key Ideas

Friendship and the digital domain

Friends are tied to each other through emotions, customs, and norms. With social media, we can share information about our friends without their permission and legal restrictions. We can share information even beyond our friendship network.

As we apply for jobs, prospective employers will likely use social media to learn about us and judge us. Therefore, what our friends show to the world matters.


In recent years, oversharing information gave rise to an army of monitors and spies that imposes surveillance and top-down control of our online lives.

We know that Facebook controls our interaction by what shows up in our newsfeed from our friends. Third-party companies also use our information to push target ads.

Friendship restrictions

Amid all this chaos, friendship itself remains unregulated. You don't need a license to become someone's friend. However, the lawless nature of friendship and the lightly regulated space of social media cause many jurisdictions to set out laws of what you are not allowed to do because it makes you a bully. 

For instance, in New Hampshire, the Pupil Safety and Violence Prevention Act (2000) for students in primary and secondary school says you are considered a bully if you cause emotional distress to a pupil or interfere with a pupil's educational opportunities.

Protecting our friendships

The instances of friendship policing we see have powerful implications for individual friendships and also for the institution of friendship itself.

We have to protect the lawless nature of friendship. As friendship becomes more prescribed by law and more guarded by cyber-surveillance, it might also become less about loyalty and trust, and more about strategy.


The antidote to loneliness
The antidote to loneliness

When people were forced into social isolation, a light was also shining on another crisis - loneliness.

The antidote to loneliness is accessible to all of us: friendship. The shared global ...


Science shows friendship is critical for our happiness, health, and longevity.

* In the 1970s and 1980s, some epidemiologists and sociologists showed that socially isolated individuals over age 66 had a 30 percent increased risk of early mortality.

* Studies reveal that social connection improves cardiovascular functioning, reduces susceptibility to inflammation and viral disease, sharpens cognition, reduces depression, lowers stress, and even slows biological aging.

Definition of friendship

Friendship requires at least three things: It should be long-lasting, positive, and cooperative. Friendship nearly always includes a willingness to help, especially in times of crisis.

In short, friendship is creating bonded groups that act as a buffer against life's stresses.

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Vulnerable Time for Kids

A child's pre-teen and teen years are a high-emotion transitory period. This is due to shifting classmates, social pressure, multiple classrooms and a period of many 'firsts'.

Deep Friendships

A study on sixth-graders revealed that friendship is crucial and real for kids, and can be as deep as a parental relationship.

Most parents and teachers do not understand the importance of deep bonding among friends at school and tend to regard friendships as a distraction or a nuisance.

Social Isolation and Bullying

Social isolation is the dark side of the school, in which many kids with no friends are at risk of anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. There is a perceived sense of threat with being friendless, and the young, immature mind can deeply internalize the resulting difficulties, leading to depression.

Bullying at this age is also a major problem, with those who are socially isolated becoming the most vulnerable to being bullied.

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Friend-zoning is a notion that men and women have different perspectives.

Men are more frequently attracted to their opposite-sex friends, even if they state that it's just a platonic rela...

We Don't Know Ourselves

A recent study showed that men overestimate how good-looking they are to women. Women, on the other hand, think they are less attractive to men, which is not the case.

People who think they are highly attractive may incorrectly assume that the other person is sexually interested in them.

Taking The Lead

Men look for signs or attraction more than women do, like it has always been. Men initiate the love and take the lead, deciding to move out of a platonic relationship faster than women.

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Safe To Forget

As machines become increasingly capable, along with computer memory, power and space being abundantly available, our brains are in a transition phase.

Earlier we had to remember a lot, do cal...

Information In Your Head

As technology advances and the internet gets dramatically more powerful, the need to retain information in our heads diminishes.

Google and other search engines which deploy AI, work as our 'memory partners' and provide us access to most of the human knowledge.

Peer-To-Peer Memory Networks

Our ancestors had a manual 'peer-to-peer' memory network to pass on knowledge to the future generations; it wasn't reliable but worked for a long time.

Now we believe AI is better and more objective to provide us with information, which might not be the case.

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Understanding friendships

Understand why some friends stay for years, while others fade away after a few months, or weeks. 

If you understand the nature of the friendship you have with a person, you can better...

Simple Friendships
  • Associate:  The relationship revolves around that specific thing, and you barely ever talk about anything else.
  • Useful Contact: With this type of friend, you exchange useful information, job opportunities, industry news, you introduce each other to people, exchange tips on good deals, etc. But, you don’t discuss personal matters with each other.
  • Favor Friend: This the type of friendship you could have with a nice colleague or neighbor. You help each other with the simple stuff.
  • Fun Friend: This is the type of friend that makes you take yourself less seriously. The friendship doesn’t require a lot of investment from you; it’s just about relaxing, having a drink, partying, laughing, etc. 
  • Helpmate
    This is like having two simple friendships in one; you socialize with this person, and you help each other as well. 

    This one you can ask for lifts to the airport, and call during emergencies like car accidents. You don’t rely on your helpmate for emotional support.

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    The importance of friends

    Having a weak circle of friends carries the same risk as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

    Researchers suggest that the core factors in a happy life are the number of friends, the closeness of f...

    Reconnect with old friends

    You have probably met a large number of friends through just a handful of people. Those are your superconnectors. Rekindle those friendships and ask them if there is anyone you should meet.

    Connecting to people

    Don’t be interesting. Be interested.

    • Listen to people and ask them to tell you more. 
    • When they mention something you have in common, point it out.
    • Be enthusiastic and encouraging.

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    The Non-Question-Asking Friend

    No matter what's going on in your life, good or bad, this type of friend will never ask you anything about it. 

    He is either: extremely self-absorbed and only wants to talk about ...

    The Friend You Can't Be Alone With

    Not because you dislike each other, but because you have no individual friendship with each other whatsoever.

    This makes alone time very awkward for both of you.

    The Friend Terrified Of Earnest Interaction

    He has tall walls up, at least toward you, and so he builds a little skit for you two to hang out in to make sure any authentic connection can be avoided.

    Sometimes that person only does this out of social anxiety and can actually become a great friend if you manage to break through that wall. 

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    Close friendship

    To be best friends, you are committed to always be on standby. It's not that hard to be there for someone when you can physically be there, but when you're separated by state or time zone, ...

    Keep creating shared experiences

    When you see a friend regularly, you develop a collection of shared memories. You will also have an intimate understanding of what they're up to generally. If you're separated long-term, those experiences will shrink.

    It's important to create something you share with the other individual, not just exchanging information about past experiences. The more opportunities you give yourself to connect, the more organically you'll get to know your friend's new life.

    It's going to take more effort

    The idea that you can sustain a friendship and pick up right where you left off after long stretches of silence is a myth. A relationship grows stronger through nurturing.
    Although long-distance hacks can work for a time, there's no replacement for in-person interaction. It's more expensive and more of a hassle, but it's the best way to recharge a long-distance friendship.

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    We see things differently
    We see things differently

    Two people can look at the exact same situation and see it completely differently.

    We see life as we are, not as it is

    There is no objective reality when it comes to people.

    Facts may be facts, but our viewpoint and our vantage point impact our ability to process the facts. We look at life through our own personal filters, our own past experiences, beliefs, and paradigms.

    Giving in relationships

    If you do something for someone just because they did it for you or you want something back, you are doing business, not kindness.

    If you choose to give 300 percent, then go for it, regardless of what others give you in return.

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    A Friend Indeed
    A Friend Indeed

    According to a report in The Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, an acquaintance has a chance of being your friend after about 50 hours of shared activity or discussions. A frien...

    Benefits of Friendships

    Long-lasting, high-quality friendships lower the chance of chronic illnesses, and mortality rates. They boost one’s happiness and can also be a buffer towards anxiety, stress and even depression.

    One can consider looking back and reconnect with a lost but cherished friend for emotional support or to relive the long-forgotten times.

    Considering Reviving A Friendship
    • We need to ask ourselves if a certain friendship is even worth resuscitating, or if one of us has moved on to such an extent that we really don’t recognize the person any more.
    • The circumstances of growing apart also matter. If it was betrayal or a falling out, the process of getting back may require reconciliation and may not be easy.
    • People evolve due to the various life events that happen in the course of their lives, like medical issues, marriage, children or a divorce. It’s important to keep one’s guard up, as the person that one gets to meet after years might be a complete stranger in some ways.

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