I was recently invited to eavesdrop on a conversation between Millenials — a motley bunch of six people — four girls, two guys, roughly between the ages of 14 and 16, talking about friendship and the kind of people they would like to date. The informal chat, in a hipster coffee shop in Boston, that specialises in selling only non-dairy slow-brewed coffee sold in cups without handles, was a fascinating journey into looking at how many young people are traversing the realms of friendship in the age of social networking. The entire conversation is too meandering and unstructured for me to encapsulate, but there is a particular snippet that is worth recounting. They were in the middle of discussing a particular person in school, who was recently subjected to “mass unfriending” because of school-room politics of the he-said, she-said, and then he-did, she-did style, and there was a clear division in the group, where two people had unfriended him and the other four were questioning them about it. Here is how the dialogue emerged (I am reconstructing them from notes I made, while I was pretending to be a fly on the wall).
Person 1: And I was thinking of unfriending him anyway. I mean, he is not the kind of person I would want to be friends with.
Person 2: But you DID become friends with him, originally, right?
Person 1: Yeah, sure. But we are in the same school and same form. So, you know, I accepted his request. But then I was thinking that it is not working out.
Person 3: Why? What was wrong?
Person 1: Oh, nothing was wrong. It was just, you know, we didn’t have anything in common. I mean, I have known him all my life, but he is not the kind of person I would want to be friends with.
Person 2: What kind of a person would you want to be friends with anyway?
Person 1: Well… I would want somebody smart, and responsive, and responsible, and independent…
Person 5: Right… like somebody who knows what I want, and gives me feedback when I ask for it…
Person 1: And, you know, somebody who is dependable, and flexible, and cares for me, but also gives me space.
Person 2: You know, you just described your phone, right?
(Two seconds of silence)
Person 5: Yeah, well, you know, if my phone were a person, it would be my best friend.
Person 1: Yup. Exactly