I ran into a friend, or rather for lack of a better word, “a friend-ly” on the bus the other day, and as usual, we made a little bit of small talk. We talked about pre-enroll, I brought up a few common acquaintances of ours and we caught up — just simple chit-chat. And as the bus pulled up to the stop, we got up, got off and parted our separate ways. The interaction we had was quite typical, and I didn’t think too much of it at the time. But in some ways that interaction was very representative of our relationship: Nothing more than acknowledging each other in between campus commutes or brief conversations at most.
Delving a little more deeply into the matter, I realize there are many more of these “friend-lies” in my life. And to generalize this term in order to give somewhat of a definition, these are people I know and see often, whom I may even consider to be my friends, but don’t really know. I may have hung out with them once, twice, or even daily, but oftentimes I’m unable to move my conversations past basic small talk, and I never get closer to them. To characterize this phenomenon of “friend-lies,” I propose that there are several reason for why “friend-lies” exist in the limbo state between friends and acquaintances and never move into friend-territory.
A combination of time and effort, I believe, is the most common limiting reagent in the friendship-building reaction. For a number of my “friend-lies,” I simply don’t see them enough or put in enough time and effort to nurture a solid relationship. Other than bumping into each other occasionally, we don’t make time to grab food or hang out. And from these failed attempts of establishing camaraderie, sometimes a certain awkwardness will develop to further prevent friendship from blooming. For example, we all have those people that we “kinda know,” with whom we have tried to become friends with, but no longer speak to because we just don’t see them enough. And thus, these relationships fall flat due to what efforts have been put in: half-assed attempts to build some sense of amicability, which quite frankly, is just about enough effort for the good-old “ ‘How you doing?’ ‘Good, how about you?’ ‘Good.’” exchange to take place every time two “friend-lies” see each other.
And while it makes sense that building friendship with people you barely know doesn’t always work out, it’s curious to me why sometimes “friend-lies” are those whom you’ve known for quite awhile. From my own experiences, “friend-lies” of this nature are often those I have I’ve gotten to know in a very niche environment — whether that be in a professional, classroom or club setting— and it’s perhaps a certain sense of comfortability that keeps the relationship where it is. In some ways it ties back again to the aforementioned effort and awkwardness: It may be because you already know so much about these “friend-lies” through a certain discipline or realm that you share, it feels uncomfortable to start probing at other parts of their lives.
But over-analytical musings aside for how and why “friend-lies” come to be, there’s no doubt that in each and every one of these “friend-lies,” there’s potential to establish a new friendship. And with a bit of persistence and effort, such friendships can be forged —unless, perhaps, it is overblown thoughts like these that explain why I don’t have friends :/