What constitutes friendship? How do we choose whom to call a “friend”?

These  have never been easy questions. Not now, in the age of social media and  deeply partisan politics; not last century, when your mom’s grandma  worked alongside strangers at the munitions plant; not at the nation’s  founding, when Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr were friends before  they were enemies.

“Friendships are important in the provision of  basic needs for contact, communication, and community,” write Valerie  Hill and Tennille Nicole Allen in “Hanging Out: The Psychology of  Socializing.” “Developing and keeping healthy bonds,” they write, not  only is a boon to our psychological well-being but also provides a long  list of physical benefits, including, not incidentally, a longer life.

Or, as Aristotle put it, “the presence of friends, then, seems desirable in all circumstances.”

So what makes a friendship?

Aristotle  grappled with this lack of clarity more than 2,000 years ago: “Not a  few things about friendship are matters of debate,” he wrote in 350 BCE.  Though he wondered “whether there is one species of friendship or more  than one,” he acknowledged that people can’t “admit each to friendship  or be friends till each has been found lovable and been trusted by  each.”

Lovable and trusted. That seems like a good place to start.

But what constitutes lovable and what trusted? Is a friend that person with whom you can get wasted and get home? Is it that kid from third grade who was nice when everyone  else was mean? Is it a neighbor, a co-worker, a sorority sister? What if  they voted for Trump?

About that last option… I recently had a  spectacularly 21st-century experience: I tweeted about losing friends  over politics, and it went viral. The tweet in question exploded not just across Twitter but also on Facebook, that bastion of friends and friending.

At time of writing, the tweet itself had 6,218 retweets and 22,101 likes, but on Facebook, a single account’s reference to it had more than 40,000 likes, 1,400 comments, and 23,000 shares. I’m not  on Facebook, but, in an exquisite example of 21st-century meta-ness, at  least 10 IRL friends have told me they’ve seen it.

“Someone on  here,” I wrote, “recently tweeted something about ‘I haven’t lost  friends over politics, I’ve lost friends over morals’ and I can’t stop  thinking about it. People think ‘politics’ is this separate, supra-human  thing, but it’s your morals in action.”

I’ve constructed better  sentences in my life (I’ve also constructed better sentences on  Twitter), and I may have misused “supra,” but those 280 characters  appear to have hit a nerve. When we learn that a friend has  fundamentally different politics from ours, is it like discovering they  color their hair, or does it carry more weight than that?

I think it’s clearly the latter. Not always, but much more frequently than we may care to admit.

“Politics”  boils down to how you think other people should be treated, and that  matters deeply to me — not least because I, too, am a person.

If  you support Donald Trump, that tells me a lot about where you stand on  my humanity. It tells me you’re not particularly concerned about the  times I was sexually harassed, about my right to reproductive choice, or  about my fears for my Jewish community. It tells me I can’t feel safe  sharing myself with you. And if I don’t feel safe, why would I call you a  friend?

How do we choose who to love and trust?

“So  much of the language we use about friendship is not precise,” says  “Hanging Out” co-author Allen, professor and department chair of  sociology at Lewis University and (as it happens) my longtime friend.  “We use it so loosely that it doesn’t capture the ways that deep and  meaningful and really intimate friendships occur.”

Some would  argue (and have argued in my mentions) that there’s a question here of  loyalty — that some friends deserve the title because, well, longevity, I  guess. Longevity and, I imagine, gratitude. But at what cost?

As  Allen says, “Loyalty can obscure. It can make you want to hide the  intimacy part. The risk is too high — if I want to maintain the  friendship, I can’t know you.”

I will acknowledge that here I  become less certain. I have a couple of ex-friends whose terrible  behavior has rendered them permanently unlovable and untrustworthy to  me, but most of my losses have been entirely about the politics of a  foreign country where I once lived — people who I no longer wish to call  friends but who once did deeply loving and generous things for me. What  do I owe them?

I’m still not sure.

Ultimately, to deem  another person trusted, you have to be willing to be vulnerable. And, as  even Aristotle knew, vulnerability can be hard to achieve — but it’s at  the heart of that “deep and meaningful and really intimate” experience.  Not every friend has to be your best friend, but if you’re actively  hiding a vital part of yourself to maintain a friendship? I would argue  that, even if you never say it out loud, that person is not truly your  friend.

Most of this is probably internal work — the words we say  in our hearts as we choose what to give, what to say, and when to ghost.

We get to make those decisions according to whatever criteria  matter to us, though. Today it might be about Trump, tomorrow it may be  about who gets to fly to Mars. Who can tell? But you know when you feel  safe — and when you do, that’s where friendship lives.

Source : https://greatist.com/connect/friendship-and-vulnerability#How-do-we-choose-who-to-love-and-trust?