Twenty years ago when people referenced their friends, they generally talked about people they knew for a very long time. Relationships lasted long, friendships lasted even longer. Basically, most friends you made back then were going to stick around till the bitter end and you’d meet up with them on various occasions.
I’m no researcher, but I think that the above concept of relationships and friendships is outdated. Don’t get me wrong, I value people who stick around for a long time, stand by you during the good and the bad times and help you overcome obstacles, but I personally don’t see it happening for many people I know.
Let me elaborate, during the last decades, our mobility increased by 500%, going shopping in London in the weekend (no matter where you live) is easily accomplished. Participating in a relationship with someone who’s living some 2,000 miles away is doable. Making acquaintances all over the globe and meeting them at some point is daily life for some people.
With all the added mobility however, comes another feat: priority and prioritizing. Many people have various levels of friendship – there are the close friends, the very close friends, the good friends, the normal friends, the friends –friends, the yeah-I-heard-his-name-kind-of-guys (and gals). Two decades ago you had best friends, friends and people you knew. Now, with all these added layers, people are prioritizing, some on a conscious level, most on a subconscious level.
Friends are like information in today’s world. Everyone has a story to tell, everyone has one quirk or another and we have to remember each and every one of them, or at least a great deal. One might note all this information in a notebook, another might use digital technology to track the attributes of their friends and someone else might just remember most stuff. Either way, people have to cope with loads of extra information that wasn’t available (because of the lack of different layers) twenty years ago.
Naturally, it’s important to remember many attributes of your friends; after all, that is what partially makes you a good friend. Supporting each other, no matter if romance is involved or not is still as important as it was two decades ago, but today you have a lot more choices. Do you want to talk to your best friend or your partner? To which one are you going to talk to? The one you are romantically involved with or the one you’ve been dating a year ago?
Added layers mean lower intensity. At least, they do for me. I have a certain amount of time I’m willing and am able to spend on friends every day, week, month and the more friends you have, the more you need to spread that time out in a fair way. If you have loads of friends, you’re probably not spending half as much time as you should (and would like to) with them, if you have few friends, you can focus a lot more on the individual, but you lack the added information; information that can be turned into knowledge to improve yourself, your character or your creations, in the most broad sense possible.
All in all, I personally experience micro relationships as very positive. I believe that these relationships are a lot more flexible and they don’t have a clearly defined beginning (or end). You meet ad-hoc, whenever it suits both persons, you have fewer expectations to meet, yet you can still contribute a lot to such friendship, it’s all up to you.
Naturally the concept of micro relationships doesn’t apply to people in a marriage, but then again, some might argue that marriages are a form of the past too …
I wonder what others are thinking - feel free to contribute.