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Humans are social beings, which means they have abilities that allow them to communicate with one another. The aim of such relationships is to foster friendship for a variety of reasons. It is impossible to argue that the vast majority of people on the planet have at least one mate. In most people's minds, the phrase "mate" seems to be a clear expression. Individuals initially interpreted the term as a denotation for those they could depend on in times of need. Some commentators claim that the word is now being used as a catch-all phrase that seems to have lost the bulk of its cluster. Some people use it to refer to the people that they know or have heard about in life. Others use it to describe the people that they have interacted with or talked to on one or several occasions (Baatarjav et al. 5). Another perception is that it means people that come to help when needed. It appears that the current world does not hold the ideal concept of friendship and the meaning of the term ‘friend.'
Historical Definition of a Friend
On the surface, the word ‘friend’ appears insignificant with a few letters in its composition. The word comes from an Old English word ‘freond' that implies loving and favoring. It has been translated into several languages all over the world, thus adopting other meanings that are similar, yet somewhat different. In Italian, Portuguese and Spanish, the term means to love. By contrast, the Arabic versions bring in a different concept. In Arabic, Sadeeq is used to imply to a friend (Schönher 7). In fact, it is the root of the word friend, and it refers to the truth. The implication is that in Arabic, a friend means a person that tells other the truth (Garrison 11). Lies and deceptions are detriments of friendship according to the Arabian cultures and values. In Arabic, a friend tells the truth, and has absolute belief in what one says. Importantly, the root of friendship varies according to various languages and cultures making the term ‘friend’ to adopt different meanings in the world.
Ancient Greece perceived friend in a moral, philosophical concept. The term friend was based on the teachings of Plato and Aristotle. Openness was considered a fundamental aspect of friendship. According to the teachings of Aristotle on friendship, a good friend must relate to their counterpart in a manner that they relate to themselves. In fact, Aristotle argues that a friend should be seen as part of an individual in, what he calls, the ‘other self.' A friend is regarded as an image of an individual and should be treated with value and worthiness (Schönher 27). In an indication of how valuable a friend was in Ancient Greece, ‘philo' was used to refer to a lover aside from implying a friend. In most parts of Africa, a friend is esteemed more than a relative because he or she has more value than the former.
The Dictionary Meaning of ‘Friend’
The dictionary is the first reference in explaining the definition of friend. With regards to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word friend refers to any individual that one prefers to be with or a person that comes to help whenever needed (Merriam-Webster 1). Historically, a friend is derived from an Old English term ‘freond' that was employed to mean ‘to favor' or ‘to love.' Subsequently, favor and love form the prime tenets of the word friend. It implies that one has to like and love an individual so that they can be qualified as a friend. Importantly, love towards a friend can be expressed in several ways (Garrison 24). Additionally, the person perceived as a friend must be able to extend the favor to an individual through assistance in various ways to meet the significance and implication of the term friend. It is therefore important to note that other definitions and meanings of the term ‘friend' that have evolved near the tenets of favor and love in one or multiple ways discussed above.
Aside from the dictionary definition of a friend, globally renowned personalities have attempted to break down the concept. Through their experience, they define the term friend in their own perceptions. According to the late Muhammad Ali (former world boxing champion), friendship can never be taught and learned at school. He argues that without comprehending the meaning and significance of friendship, one has certainly not learned anything in life. Ali asserts that having friends is significant in life, since they will come to the rescue and help others (Leib 19). Additionally, friends help others in becoming who they are and who they intend to be in life. Other personalities hold to the fact that true friendship entails having friends who can understand others regardless of the past, have a positive influence on the lives of others, and be in a position of accepting others the way that they are. A real friend is seen to be loyal and not subjective. The views of the globally renowned personalities regarding the concept ‘friendship’ rest on love and the willingness to do a favor for a person who is believed to be a friend.
Psychological Concept of Friendship
As people’s desire for knowledge grew, psychology emerged. Psychology was created to help in explaining the behavior of human beings. One of the behaviors was the creation of friendship. Human beings wanted to understand what a friend is and how friendship is created by scientifically explaining the thoughts of human beings. Subsequently, psychologists have their conception of ‘friend.'
Psychology has equally attempted to define the term ‘friend.' Developmental psychologists argue that friendship is integral for the cognitive development of human beings. Friendships are formed from unique emotional development immediately after the parental bonding. Friendship is regarded as the most vital relationships in adolescence (Baatarjav 23). Child psychologists view friendship as sharing of items, such as toys, among the children. Additionally, a friend emerges from the enjoyment of activity undertaken together. Resultantly, a friend in childhood implies sharing in a psychological perspective. Some of the perceived benefits that children enjoy from friends entail enhanced social success and boosting the child's esteem. Several studies have argued that friendship and other forms of supporting relationship have a positive influence on the self-esteem of the child. Other known benefits of friends to a child include the chance of learning problem solving and empathy.
In the adolescent stage, friends shape the behavior of individuals. Studies conducted by the Purdue University revealed that at this stage of development, adolescents perform activities in groups and peers (Garrison 45). Resultantly, the individuals either imitate what the friends in the group or feel the urge to do so. From a psychological perspective, a friend is anyone with a positive influence on one's actions or life, as revealed by the lifecycle of adolescents. The aged people need friends to be linked with the community. Thus, friends are the connection that one has with the community and the society. Friends enhance societal interactions among the adults.
Cultural Conceptions of ‘Friend’
Various cultures agree that friendship entails mutual affection that occurs between different people. Friendship is regarded to be a formidable form of an interpersonal bond. It is deemed to be stronger than association. Importantly, there are different forms of friendship in several cultures. These forms come through affection understanding, compassion, honesty or sympathy. Additionally, most cultures view friendship as the ability of one person to enjoy the company of another person (Baatarjav 37). Trust is significant among friends. Friends are aware that they can make mistakes without the fear of being judged by others. Culturally, friendship aims to enhance cohesion and mutual understanding for the well-being of the society.
The cultural conception of friendship is coherence. Friends are individuals that share the same backgrounds, interests, demographics, and occupations. According to sociologists, having similarity is a recipe for mutual understanding of one another. For instance, people from one culture are likely to become friends because they are aware of their cultural obligations towards the friendship (Leib 28). Additionally, they know how they are supposed to conduct themselves as friends. Demographic factors, such as age, gender or economic status determine the formation on friends. For instance, people of the same age, same sex, and same socioeconomic status are more likely to become friends than people from different demographic backgrounds (Leib 29). Ideally, these factors set the table for the formation of friendship by anchoring some important ingredients, such as trust and understanding for mutual benefits. Resultantly, coherence is a crucial factor for several cultures in forming a friendship.
Social Media’s Influence on Friend
As mentioned earlier, the term friend is frequently changing. The advancement of technology has altered the way people interact. Through the emergence of social media, the definition and the meaning of a friend have changed. Social network sites have made the world a global village where people can interact across continents (Baatarjav 30). For instance, a Facebook user in Africa can become a friend with another user in Asia or Europe, regardless of whether the two have met physically. The friendship in social networks is guided by the frequency in which the users communicate, as well as other things that they share in common (Schönher 41). In fact, chat groups have emerged in the social network sites, where people with similar interest meet and interact and therefore forming ‘friendship.' Some sociologists have argued that such friendship does not last and appears to be false, since people who hardly know each other can’t call each other ‘friends' (Garrison 29). By contrast, others who propose such forms of friendship argue that it has the most important pillar of friendship, which is communication. Regardless of what opponents say, digital way of forming friends appears to be the next definition of friends now and in future.
Given the above discussion, the term friend has varying meanings, depending on the context and situations. Its meaning has evolved over time and depends on individual perception. This paper reveals that the term friend is primarily focused on ‘to love' and ‘to favor’. All definitions appear to have the two concepts in significance and application. Interestingly, the new form of friendship powered by social network sites must be academically reviewed for us to understand how it operates. All in all, friends are important in the lives of human beings.
Baatarjav, Enkh-Amgalan, et al. "Are you my friend?." Consumer Communications and Networking Conference (CCNC), 2010 7th IEEE. IEEE, 2010.
Garrison, John S. Friendship and Queer Theory in the Renaissance: Gender and Sexuality in Early Modern England. Routledge, 2014.
Leib, Ethan J. Friend v. Friend: The Transformation of Friendship--and What the Law Has to Do with It. Oxford University Press, 2011.
Merriam-Webster. Friend Definition. Merriam-Webster, 2017.
Schönher, Mathias. "The Friend as Conceptual Persona in Deleuze and Guattari." (2010).
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