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Friendship is a mechanism by which people form connections with others. Certain people are short-term, business- and school-related or even temporary, while others are lifelong relationships, such as children's friends, people who have somehow profoundly influenced the life of an individual or people with whom we share mutual interests. Regardless of the category in which such relationships arise, they begin early in our lives and continue throughout our lives. When we grow up, we start choosing our mates more diversely than when we were younger. We may start out having friends who are near us, like neighbors and classmates, but as we grow these relationships tend to expand in both scope and distance. In the current age, friendships are formed in several ways which were thought to be impossible just 25 to 30 years ago. Of course, in this instance, it is technology which is assisting us in making friends, some are even from other countries. The Internet has greatly expanded the traditional meaning of friend from someone you know and interact with in the physical world to someone who you are only acquainted with by means of the World Wide Web. However, no matter how your friendships are formed or what form they assume, research into how friendships are formed and why they last or do not last is an interesting topic.
A study developed in 2012 by researchers M. Paz Galupo and Kirsten A. Gonzalez took on the topic of how we form relationships, with whom we form them, and some of the reasons why we form such relationships. Breaking friendship down into “three general friendship values (trust and honesty, respect friend as person, there when needed)” and “three cross-identity salient friendship values (similar lives & experiences, similar values, nonjudgmental)” (Galupo & Gonzalez, 2012), they studied how people from different genders, races, and sexual orientations viewed the friendships which they had formed over their lives.
It interesting to note that Galupo and Gonzalez found that as friendships take on different defining characteristics, race, gender, and sexual orientation, the reasons for the friendship began to vary greatly from the experiences of most Americans just one generation ago. Especially interesting was the difference that sexual orientation made on how people form relationships. In this study, statistics clearly showed that “friendships are particularly important because they represent a social relationship in which individuals experience relative equality” (Galupo & Gonzalez, 2012). For example, Nardi (1999) noted that gay men are more successful in friendships where they have some equality with their friends rather than “where social identity is being bridged and where sexual orientation or gender require constant negotiation” (as cited in Galupo & Gonzalez, 2012, p. 780). Moreover, Galupo and Gonzalez established that beyond the normal homophily, the theory that “people tend to form connections with others who are similar to them in characteristics such as socioeconomic status, values, beliefs, or attitudes” (Homophily, n.d.), there were many diverse reasons why people form relationships with others of friendship.
Overall, we form friendships for a variety of reasons for many purposes. However, within those relationships and friendships we do adhere to a few common tendencies across barriers like race, gender, sexual orientation, age, and other things that tend to separate us. The most important aspect with any relationship or friendship that we form in our lives is that they fulfill some need for companionship or otherwise satisfies our own personal needs in some way. Friendships are important to us as human beings because deep down in our genetic makeup we are wired to seek out others like us and to form groups based on those similarities. Although today these relationships are not based solely on survival, as they once were, but nonetheless they are just as important as when they were first formed those millions of years ago.
Galupo, M. Paz and Kirsten A. Gonzalez. “Friendship Values and Cross-Category Friendships: Understanding Adult Friendship Patterns Across Gender, Sexual Orientation and Race.” Springer Science and Business Media, 2012, doi: 10.1007/s11199-012-0211-x,
Homophily. (n.d.) American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. (2011). Retrieved from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/homophily
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