Types of Friends

Epistemic Status: My best guess. I present a framework for thinking about things, not absolute truths.

Not all friendships are created equal. There are two main scenarios when reflecting on friendships becomes important:

  1. When understanding your friendships, which ones are most valuable to you, and which types you want to build more of.
  2. When building software that targets friendships (i.e. social media apps) in order to know which types of friendships you are targeting.

There are two important dimensions that define a friendship. The bond type, and the enhancement type.

Friend Bond Type

Friend bonds are the forces that keep friends together. Different types of bonds often reinforce one another when coding a strong friendship.

Bonds of Proximity

These are bonds formed by the power of physical proximity. This includes living in the same neighborhood, same dorm / group home, being in the same class at school, etc.

These bonds are rarely strong enough to maintain a friendship are their own. They are often just a supplement to reinforce another type of bond.

Purely proximity based friendships are often superficial and cast in a negative light, but just because your friendship has an element of proximity does not mean this is the case. Adding an element of proximity to strengthen a friendship can be very useful and should not be viewed negatively.

Bonds of Longevity

This type of bond appears between two people with a long history of friendship and memories. These are friends that are kept together by a common history. Old high school friends are a good example; You form very close bonds with one another during high school, and then are kept together by those bonds even after changing significantly in college to the point where you likely would not be friends with one another if you were to meet one another for the first time.

Bonds of Affinity

These are friends that are kept together by a shared interest often seen in the form of a hobby. You can think about it like proximity of interest.

Examples of common interests:

  • Math
  • Startups
  • Parties
  • (insert interest here)

Communities of people often form around a shared interest.

Bonds of proximity over power other bonds when you are younger and less defined in your interests/values, but as you grow older and more defined in your interests/values you reach more for friends of affinity.

Enhancement Type

Good friendships are some of the most effective ways to enhance a person’s life. There are three main areas of life that friendships enhance; most friendships enhance all three to some degree, the extent to which of each varies between each friendship.

Personal Development / Growth

Friendships can be very powerful for helping people grow in their character, abilities, etc.

Fun / Adventure

Friendships often increase the level of fun and adventure in a person’s life.

Emotional Support

Friendships can be a source of emotional support.

What is the Relationship between Bond Type and Enhancement Type?

  • Proximity bonds increase the accessibility of the enhancement.
  • Longevity bonds increase the trust in the enhancement.
  • Affinity bonds increase the compatibility of the enhancement.

Why Does Any of This Matter?

I mentioned at the beginning that not all friendships are created equal. By better understanding your friendships and friendships in general, you can optimize them better both for yourself and businesses.

In my own life I’ve used this framework to understand that I want to hone in on friends built around bonds of affinity and development/growth. I don’t especially value bonds of longevity partially because I have more friends than I can dedicate my full attention to. This means I don’t try too hard to maintain relationships with childhood friends that I no longer share affinity with.

In some ways it is sad to view friendships as something to be optimized, but at the same time I don’t think people dedicate enough time to such optimizations; The people you surround yourself with probably has more of an effect on the course of yourlife than anything else!

On another note, it is important to consider friendships types when building businesses/tools that target social relationships. It’s crucial to understand which types of friendships make up your target market in order to properly cater to them.

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