Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Friends in the Real and Virtual Worlds

Like in any other relationship, even in friendship, it helps to take stock of your life and plot a path of what you want in a friendship.

You can ask yourself these questions. Where do you want to go, Where are you, are you going in the right direction to get where you want to be. These are general questions about life that can be applied to friendship too. Today, the emphasis on the 3 minutes of fame and success is so much that we tend to forget ourselves. In pursuit of this fame, we forget our priorities in life. In order to keep a certain life goal we need to define our own terms of success and not base it on what somebody else would want.

Anybody would agree that life without friends is difficult and lonely. In India, given our culture we are well supported by family and relatives but still they cannot be a complete replacement for friends. Remember though that sometimes somebody in the family can also be a good friend, as good as or even better than your peers. We often tend to neglect or understand friends in the family and tend to take them from granted. We need to treasure them like any other valuable friend.

Even though communication has made it much easier to keep in touch with friends, it has also created the problem of quantity over quality.

In this article, lets examine life through the prism of friendship. For the sake of argument, lets assume that the better friendships you have, the better your life is.

In today’s age social networking tools like Orkut and Facebook have become almost mandatory in maintaining friendships. If not anything, these sites serve as good contact and calendars reminding you of every birthday and every anniversary. The danger though is that you can have too much of a good thing. According to a British medical journal Priory, there is new phenomenon call Facebook ‘friend addiction’ that includes an obsession to build a large group of friends on the site.

Rita has 763 friends on Facebook. Reena has 100. Does that mean that Rita is more popular and hence happier?

Think about this, even if Rita took an average of two hours in a year to keep in touch with each of these 763 friends apart from the many hours she spends with ‘real’ friends, she would be spending almost 4 hours everyday, just to keep in touch with each friend just once a year!

Reena on the other hand would just need 20% of the time to be more in touch with her friends than Rita.

As human beings we are such sheep that we always value people by how others treat them, rather than by our own experiences. Logically, shouldn’t you be wary of being friends with a person who has 763 friends because you would be just 1 of 763? You are ensured of never getting attention from this person.

In defense of Rita though, it could be just that she uses Facebook as a networking tool and actually only has a core group of a few friends who she is regularly in touch with.

On the subject of Facebook though, did you notice that when you take a vacation or are doing something really interesting, you tend to be less on Facebook? Time on social networking sites is generally inversely proportional to how interesting a life you have.

On the flip side though, it is such a useful tool to reconnect with old friends who had apparently disappeared from your life.

And what about ‘Friendship Day’? Do we really need a ‘Hallmark event’ (Hallmark is a card company in the US which apparently creates these events as a marketing gimmick to sell more of its cards).

Now lets take another example pertaining to the real world on friendship.

Raja and Farhan are two really good friends. They both work for a small IT company which is a very benevolent employer and always treats their employees well. One day, Raja leaves the company and starts his own business. He then invites Farhan to join him. When Farhan goes to meet him, he realizes that Raja has stolen the software of his company and the client that his company worked for.

What should Farhan do? There are three options that he has.

  1. Join Raja
  2. Do nothing and stay with the old company
  3. Ask Raja to hand over the software and apologize to his employer

In most cases, Farhan will choose option b. based on a false sense of loyalty to his friend. Even though his employer may have groomed him, made him what he is, he will have this ‘friendship’ thing which will stop him from doing what is right. It could also be that Farhan is afraid of confrontations so b. will be the option he chooses.

Remember, that friendship normally doesn’t come above all principles. You have to take a stand for what is right. It is up to you to convince your friends to do the right thing and if they don’t the right way would be to expose them. If we all did this in all walks of life, it would contribute to reducing the corruption that we have in India as a country.

If you have to do something for a friend, let the effort come from you, rather than the company. As an example, as a manager, instead of giving the best assignment to somebody you are friends with, groom her after working hours so that she automatically becomes the best deserving candidate for that job.

In essence, you need to manage friends, based on time available, distance and your energy level. If you are having trouble keeping in touch with the friends that you want to, then there is a problem.

One more thing, in a friendship, do not take gossip too seriously. Generally the carrier of bad tidings is more of a problem than the one who created the gossip. By the time gossip is carried to you, it takes on a new shape and form. It could begin as funny, simple comment but by the time it reaches you, it may sound many times more malicious than it start out as.

Also, when you gossip about a friend to another, make sure you also provide updates. As an example, Megan, Nisha and Vijay are friends. One day when Megan and Nisha are to meet, Megan makes Nisha wait for hours and finally ditches her. Nisha gossips and disses Megan to Vijay. After this Megan meets Nisha and clarifies how she was with another friend going through a crisis and that’s why kept on postponing the appointment and finally couldn’t make it. Nisha understands, but never conveys this news to Vijay. Vijay is still left with the impression about how wrong Megan was and how upset Nisha is with Megan.

CTizm: When having a bath, try to use less soap. Soap dries the skin and dry skin can lead to BO (Body Odor). Also, remember that Air Conditioned rooms tend to dry the body and increase BO. Always use a deodorant and check your breath frequently. A simple test is to scratch the surface of your tongue and see if it smells fresh. Always keep a brush, toothpaste and deodorant at work. Remember that these things may actually make a difference to your career growth. If you drink enough water (a glass every 45 minutes), you can almost completely eliminate BO.

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