Post No.: 0595
Regarding our friends, colleagues, acquaintances and other relationships, strong ties are the ties we have with those we strongly trust and whom make us feel less lonely and more socially supported. But a risk is that our strong ties can lead to echo chambers and close us off to external ideas and alternative views.
Meanwhile, weak ties are good for exposing us to different views and are thus useful for promoting innovation and creativity. Weak ties are also good for mobilising a large group into action, and for finding new opportunities via acquaintances and professional connections. For instance, they can help us to find a new job not only by increasing the number of people we can ask when we’re looking for a new job but by increasing the number of opportunities we otherwise wouldn’t hear about when we’re not currently looking for a new job. However, the demands on one’s time for having so many connections can increase the risk of burnout.
Significant others are those we turn to for support and comfort. They improve our mental and physical health, create bonding capital, and are more close or intimate than other relationships. But those who can give us the most joy can also hurt us the most too when they cheat, say the wrong words or otherwise let us down. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t risk getting close to anyone though because the upsides far outweigh the downsides.
A partner can effectively double our network; although just focusing solely on your partner can engender insularity and disconnect you from wider networks and thus reduce your social capital i.e. your overall social resources. One person cannot meet all of your different needs, and expecting them to can be damaging on the relationship itself. So even if you’re really in love with your partner, do spend time with and don’t neglect other friends and people in your life. Healthy relationships have partners who spend time together but also allow each other time to see their other friends and networks too, because it’s unlikely that your partner shares every interest mutually with you. So don’t be jealous or possessive of their time. Their friends may help you too so don’t lose them.
Trust is the glue in any intimate relationship and it’ll be lost if someone starts to think that they can do better than the partner they’re currently with. Well if one is in an abusive or neglectful relationship then yes one can definitely do better, but it’s otherwise a sign of encroaching emotional divorce. Please read what Fluffystealthkitten wrote about that subject in Post No.: 0531. When we think this way – we turn away, cease to care, and we lower our investment in them and our gratitude for them. The relationship must feel roughly balanced in give and take – either feeling incompetent or over-depended on can feel negative, as can feeling inadequate, ingratitude or resentment.
So always let your partner know you’re there for them – sometimes this simply means a furry gesture of caring that’s not particularly costly or burdensome. One could maybe sacrifice a little work time to spend some time with them – as long as one doesn’t emphasise the sacrifice! It however obviously won’t be a bad thing for the receiver to appreciate the sacrifice. Generosity and gratitude for one another will create and reinforce a virtuous cycle.
Focus on giving, not getting – and give them what they want, even if you think getting them something more expensive would be more appreciated. Give when unexpected, and definitely give when expected! People are more grateful for unexpected acts of kindness; yet don’t take the expected for granted. Practise taking your partner’s perspective, recognise yet accept their faults even as you cherish the big things you love about them. Say thanks for simply who they are. Woof!
Good friends celebrate with us – they aren’t jealous of us when we do well. And they commiserate with us – they aren’t just using us by being there when we’re doing well but then abandoning us when we’re not. (The worst people are those who are only around when you’re, or they think you might soon become, rich and/or famous but then they’re nowhere to be seen when they don’t think you will. You’ll know who your real friends are when they’re (especially) still there even though they think you cannot give them anything material.) They give us a sense of belonging, make us feel known and appreciated for who we are, and allow us to understand others more deeply than strangers. Being friends with people of other ethnicities and cultures also helps us to be more considerate around those ethnicities and cultures, so they expand our worldliness.
We however tend to prefer friends who are similar to us hence friends can be at times sources of jealousy and competition. We tend to be happy with our friends’ successes much above our own level of successes but only if they’re in domains that we’re not competing in ourselves, or if they’re not too close to us as friends.
But we should see a friend’s success as a potential shared benefit. The more we shift from maintaining our own individual self-image to remembering to feel and express bona fide concern for the well-being of our friends, the better for all involved. Don’t view these people as just to be used then ditched once you think they’re no longer useful to you – treat them as genuine friends, because you never know how valuable they might be to you in the future. To improve your bond with someone – invest your time, interest and other resources in them, create shared goals with them, and ask for feedback from them to show that you value their thoughts. Albeit don’t base your own self-esteem according to their approval.
If a friend was, say, involved in a road accident with another road user, it’d be fair to state that you cannot pick sides because you didn’t witness the event – but it’d be loyal to trust your friend’s account. Also, if social media platforms ceased to exist yet you still kept in touch with a friend, then you’re more likely to be real friends with them.
In general, online contacts are better for serving market norms i.e. work, self-promotion and information sharing. Yet they can also be used pro-socially, such as when giving or receiving advice or emotional support. Online social networks are better than having nothing too, but don’t expect too much from them – they’re great for sharing joyful news, but the positive feelings may be short-lived and they can’t replace the power of physical presence. (During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, most people missed physically being in the same room as those they cared about even though they were thankful that they could at least have a regular video chat with them.) Another problem is that, for many users, online social media is used more for serving narcissistic and self-promotion objectives – people consciously or unconsciously carefully craft their public personas on these platforms whilst they’re inevitably more honest and authentic in face-to-face relationships. Social networks that are more specific – to serve specific goals and interests like a hobby or a social cause – are better than general ones.
Most of all, try to be a giver on social media – post and give others your attention and time rather than just passively scroll and read other people’s posts and profiles. Don’t spend too much time on social media yet do allow yourself a certain amount of time on it every day or two to engage with others for updates, responding and offering ideas.
Professional contacts and neighbourhood acquaintances act as ‘bridging capital’ since they connect us between groups, as opposed to ‘bonding capital’, which connect us within groups. The breadth and diversity of the ties possible can open us to new ideas and opportunities that wouldn’t happen in narrower circles. They help for one’s career, for one to feel more connected to the broader community, to encourage a more open-minded attitude in us, and they allow a greater ability to mobilise support for a cause. They’re also great for promoting a product or clinching business deals.
To make more connections at work – smile more, listen more, respond to messages promptly (with just a ‘got it’ and a timescale for a proper reply if one is currently busy), admit to your mistakes, tell personal stories, and create shared rituals. (There are pros and cons or differences when it comes to remote-working compared to working in an office environment – such as remote-working tends to lead to making more communications and connections within one’s inner network, but then our collaboration networks have a tendency to become more siloed as we make fewer interconnections across workgroups. Remote-workers will also spend more time on asynchronous forms of communication like email, text and messaging platforms.)
But like with all weak ties, if we view people as merely potential connectors and work references then we can miss opportunities to connect with these people at a deeper level. We might be able to create stronger ties with some of them if we employ some social norms such as altruism i.e. don’t always be in ‘professional networking mode’ otherwise you might miss opportunities for making some real friends.
Professional contacts are practically unsuitable for providing emotional support. Like on social media (professional and online social networking are often interlinked after all) – perhaps join one or two organisations relevant to your interests or goals and be actively engaged in the professional community (like serve on a committee or organise an event). Maximise your limited time with others here by focusing on meaningful exchanges – for example, if you give rather than just single-mindedly think about gain then people will more likely reciprocate with you.
Increased loneliness is correlated with a shorter lifespan – but it’s not the quantity of people you’re around but the quality of your interactions with them i.e. meaningful contacts. It’s similarly not so much about the amount of time you spend with others but the quality, such as a focused one-on-one time with someone rather than being in the same room as them but being distracted by something else. It’s important to make regular intentional high-quality moments of connection with those close to us, even with those we live with because even though you might be working from home and see them most of the day – distracted interactions aren’t as beneficial as focused ones.
Ultimately, both strong and weak ties, personal and professional connections, and social and market purposes, have their use and place. But don’t spread yourself out too thin because you logically cannot give quality time for everyone. If you find that you are spreading yourself out too thin then cut off a layer of weaker ties and/or prioritise your connections. Remember that social capital, unlike economic capital, is not a concrete entity but a fluid and ever-shifting network of relationships that must be nurtured continually. It’s not like leaving money in a bank and it’ll still be guaranteed to be there (up to a regulated protection limit) even though you haven’t touched it for years. The true value of social capital is what it allows us to build and create in collaboration with others (win-win situations).
Most friendships end, or appear to end, because other obligations get in the way and people lose touch with each other, rather than because of a sudden and dramatic falling out. But it can just take a quick ‘thinking of you’ call or message to keep a friendship going or to even reconnect after a long time without contact.
Woof! So if you’ve not gotten in touch with a buddy in a while – why not cock a leg against a lamppost and give them a quick pee-mail?.. Or a text, e-mail or some other messaging method if you prefer!