The Vast Gap Between Acquaintance and Friend
Relationships

The Vast Gap Between Acquaintance and Friend

Is Facebook responsible for our misperception of our social circle?

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By definition, an acquaintance "is a person known to one, but usually not a close friend". In comparison, a friend is "a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard". What's really interesting is that the 8th definition of friend declares it to be "a person associated with another as a contact on a social-media website", giving an example sentence of: We've never met, but we're Facebook friends.

Does anybody else find this strange? An acquaintance is someone you know, but aren't close to, and a friend can be someone you know through social media yet have never met. The words acquaintance and friend describe your relationship with someone. However, in my experience, the word acquaintance has negative connotations. You would never introduce an individual as your acquaintance would you? Imagine it, you're at a party, standing with a friend, and your acquaintance Jane approaches the two of you. Naturally, you introduce Jane to your friend John to be polite. Do you say, "John, this is my acquaintance, Jane." I highly doubt it. It seems rude because it is clarifying that you do not see Jane as a friend. In order to avoid offending Jane, you smile at John and say, "John, this is my friend Jane," even though it is not true.

A friend is someone you regularly see, have meaningful conversations with, and you enjoy being with. An acquaintance is a person who you know by name, greet when you see them, but do not spend time with. There needs to be a new word added to the English language. A word that describes an individual you see as more than an acquaintance, but are not close enough to, to call a friend.

Or perhaps, the word friend, love, and similar endearments should not be used so loosely. When you leave a group of people and shout "Love you guys!" as you leave, do you really mean it? Are you telling those people that you have "a profoundly tender, passionate affection" for each of them? The definition of love would argue, "yes."


Robin Dunbar proved that the word friend is overused in our society. The anthropologist and psychologist from the University of Oxford discovered this concept while researching primates grooming habits. He noticed the social aspect of grooming correlated with the size of their brains. He concluded that the size of an animal's neocortex can reveal the size of their natural group size. Evidently, the same can be said for humans. "Judging from the size of an average human brain, the number of people the average person could have in her social group was a hundred and fifty" (The Limits of Friendship, The New Yorker). One hundred and fifty people. How many friends do most people have of Facebook? Three-hundred? Five-hundred? Our brain can only maintain so many friendships. Facebook may make it easier to keep track of people we would otherwise lose contact with, but our ability to connect still only stretches so far. Maybe it would be more accurate if your profile read: 150 friends, 300 acquaintances, 50 people you only met once.

If our brain size only allows us a certain number of friends, why do we like to say we have more? Is it merely a need to seem well-liked? Or perhaps the word friend has become so second nature that the word acquaintance seems too foreign to us. Society has the power to develop negative connotations around certain words. Does that mean we should stop using them altogether?

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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