We’ve all seen them: Those alleged “besties” who post countless Instagram photos of each other, complete with tags like #bff, until one of them moves to a different city or graduates from college and suddenly, those pictures mysteriously cease.
Our generation is obsessed with putting our lives on display for others to see to the point that we begin to stretch the truth.
We try to make everything seem more glamorous than it really is and as a result, we tend to lose sight of who is truly important to us.
So, I’m trying to set the record straight on what really classifies someone as a “true” friend by suggesting you ask yourself these nine simple questions:
1. Is your primary source of interaction because of a university club/class/extracurricular activity?
First off, it’s easy to have friends in college; it’s honestly just a numbers game. You’re surrounded by a variety of people your age and forced to interact, whether it's for group projects, extracurricular activities or because they are your roommates.
As such, I would say it’s statistically likely you’ll find someone you can relate to or, at least, stand being around.
However, you should only consider someone a close friend if you actually enjoy spending your own free time with him or her.
I’ve had many “friends” with whom I only spent time because we had common commitments, like interning at the same company.
Of course, once those circumstances changed, the people quickly faded from my life. A true friend should not just spend time with you because it is convenient for him or her to do so.
2. If hanging out with this person required a one-hour commute, would you still do it?
As you get older, your free time becomes much more valuable. I recently graduated and now understand that in the “real world,” everyone does not live within a 5-mile radius of each other like they generally do in college.
You might need to drive or take the subway for an hour just to meet up with someone.
This act of spending your time just to interact with someone forces you to consider how much you value the friendship.
I’ve realized that in many cases, it is simply not worth it for me because I just do not feel that excited to spend time with someone who I just see as a “casual” friend. It is only for friends about whom you truly care that you should be willing go that extra mile.
3. Do you only ever hang out with groups of other people?
If you only ever hang out with someone in a group setting then you probably do not have enough information to assess whether he or she is really a true friend.
There have been times when I was subject to the illusion the being “close” to someone simply because we always were part of the same crowd.
However, when I actually spent time alone with this individual, I realized we really didn’t have that much to say to each other.
The point here is that if someone is really a close friend, your interactions should not just be limited to a group setting because then, you never get a chance to see how he or she truly is.
4. Are most of your interactions due to external circumstances instead of things that you actually planned?
This is closely related to question number one, but more general. If you don’t take the time to actually plan hangouts with someone and instead, rely on external circumstances to motivate you to spend time together, it pretty much means you don’t care enough.
While external circumstances might help instigate friendship, they should not be the glue that holds it together.
5. Do you consider yourself to have the same level of closeness with this person as you do with many of your other friends?
Close relationships take time to maintain and it’s probably not physically possible to have very many unless you literally spend your entire day talking.
By definition, a “close” friend implies that you should probably have “non-close” friends. Thus, in a way, you should feel different about certain friends.
From my experience, you're more comfortable talking to a true friend about more personal aspects of your life. The bottom line here is that true friends should stand out as meaningful and definitely feel more special than the average person you know.
6. Is your main form of communication with this person through social media?
I’m not saying that it is wrong to post pictures with your friends, but the number of selfies you have taken together does not define your level of closeness to a particular person.
Social media tends to distort our perception of how close people actually are. It’s easy to take a quick selfie with someone at a party, but the very fact that it’s easy is what makes it not so special.
As I’ve said before, a “real” friendship is one that is meaningful and requires more effort.
7. When you hang out, do you actually spend time meaningfully?
This might sound silly, but in today’s digital world, just because you physically hang out with someone does not mean you are interacting on a deeper level.
The other day, I went out for sushi with some friends, and at the table beside me sat two girls.
When their order of sushi came, all they did was take pictures of each other posing with their food and then they spent the duration of the meal silently immersed in their smartphones.
Clearly, it is important to assess whether the time you spend with someone is really meaningful before you can view him or her as a real friend.
8. Do you only talk to them a few times a year?
Is it really enough to just update friends on your life every couple of months?
One of the important qualities of a true friend is consistency, which means being able to talk on a regular basis instead of just giving a quick summary of your life whenever you happen to meet.
When you briefly condense what has happened to you over the past few months, you exclude a lot of detail, which consequently, makes your conversations shallower.
This also has to do with convenience; if you care enough about people, you’ll make the time to talk to them or see them, even if it requires some planning.
If the only time you care to communicate with friends is when you all happen to be home for the holidays, it’s a strong indicator that they probably aren’t close friends.
9. Do you feel comfortable asking them for help? Will they actually help?
A true friend is someone who is dependable and willing to help, even if it requires some effort.
This question incorporates the overall theme I’ve been trying to convey in all the previous questions; close friends are not just around because it is convenient for them.
They are willing to be flexible and adjust their schedules because, ultimately, they believe that you are worth their time.
While I had fun writing this list, I do hope that it gets people thinking.
Examples from my life and situations when I thought I was close with someone, but later realized he or she wasn't actually that significant were what motivated these questions.
That’s why I believe it is valuable to spend time thinking about the people who are truly important to you.
You should focus on developing those relationships while spending less time on the common “situational” friends.