What are friends for? Not self-advancement, that’s for sure

Have you done an audit of your friendship group lately? Have you measured the return on investment of each of your acquaintances? Have you used a pandemic that has killed millions of people as an opportunity to “prune” your social network and drop any pals who might have an unacceptably high BMI or experience depression? No? Well, in that case, you may be doing friendship all wrong.

That’s according to a viral piece in the New York Times, anyway. Titled How to Rearrange Your Post-Pandemic ‘Friendscape’, the article argues that we ought to think about friendship in terms of self-advancement. “Evolutionary anthropologists say it behooves us to take a more curatorial approach when it comes to our friends because who you hang out with determines who you are,” the article noted. It went on to explain that: “Depressed friends make it more likely you’ll be depressed, obese friends make it more likely you’ll become obese, and friends who smoke or drink a lot make it more likely you’ll do the same.” Yikes. Yikes. Yikes. Unsurprisingly, there was an outcry about this paragraph and the Times removed it.

You know what else the NYT ought to have removed? The reference to “post-pandemic” life. Things may be returning to normal in western countries, but much of the world is still a long way away from getting a vaccine: according to one study, it will take most developing countries until 2024 to achieve mass Covid-19 immunisation. We have the resources to vaccinate the globe, but a “post-pandemic” world is still some way in the distance. And you know why that is? Because of greed and capitalism. Because we live in a world where some people’s lives matter more than others. We live in a world where everything is a transaction: even friendship, it would seem.

But I don’t want to hate on that article too much, because it has a point. There are certain qualities that should make you drop a friend, and quickly. Per esempio, if you have any friend who talks about a “curatorial approach” to friendship, ghost them immediately. Se non lo fai, you may slowly find yourself talking like a LinkedIn Influencer, pure. One day you’ll wake up and find yourself saying the word “gamechanging” in an un-ironic way and, by then, it’ll probably be too late for you. I say that kindly, as a friend.

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