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Joseph Kaminski

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October 18, 2019

The Sociological Story of Fake Friends

It is our primary goal, as members of a productive society, to interact with one another. It is a reaction within us – on a more psychological level – that is made up of one part emotional involvement and one part cognitive effort. This social interaction allows us to communicate with each other, to express our emotional responses, to boost our individual confidence, to reduce our mental stress, and to create relationships – both professional and personal.

Such professional relationships are not the focus of this piece. A personal relationship, one of friendship, is set aside from the social relationships that one would have throughout their life. Friendship is a “mutual affection” between people, and it must separate itself from the typical “association” that we give in every day social interaction.[1] Just because one person talks, interacts, or associates with someone else – whether it be through school, work, or community – that does not necessarily fall into the psychological and sociological definitions of a ‘friendship’.

For the remainder of this piece, I must showcase my personal basis for how a ‘net positive’ friendship, acquaintanceship, or relationship must work. As the famous song by Simon & Garfunkel proclaims, friendship is “like a bridge over troubled water”[2]. Keeping the symbolism intact, any serious relationship is a suspension bridge: with each person standing strong as the anchorage and the relationship itself creating the deck. Such a relationship is held up by emotional attachment (the cables), and has high points (the towers) and low points (the piers).

Suspension Bridge.

Figure 1 “Suspension Bridge Basics: The Parts.” Tacoma Narrows Bridge: Suspension Bridge Basics. 2005. Accessed September 04, 2017. http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/TNBhistory/Machine/machine1.htm.

An important factor to remember when it comes to these modern-day suspension bridges would be that every part works together, and that every part is important to the construction, creation, and withstanding of the architecture. A bridge must be strong on both sides to stay intact and strong. Just as a bridge would weaken and eventually collapse if an anchorage on one side decided to cave in or disintegrate, a friendship relies on two strong individuals that keep it strong. When one ‘friend’ decides that the friendship is only secondary to the overall scheme of things, it will be unable to stand against the pressure. This brings us to the first of three topics that this piece is focused on: falsified friendships, or, to put it in a lighter tone, ‘fake friends’ that destabilize and figuratively burn the social bridges that form our perception of friendship.

It has become a bit of a trend in social media to label people as “fake”. It appears common these days to drop friendships the moment they no longer become beneficial. Whether this be in an educational environment (consider ‘study groups’ during the week of midterms) or social terms (consider friends that only join the ‘clique’ when they have nothing ‘better to do’), the current social definition of ‘friend’ warps into whatever situationally works for common interest. This so-called falsified form of friendship only exists as a shadow of the existing format.


1. someone who says one thing but always does another.
2. someone who performs an act of betrayal against you.
3. someone who does something without you.

In my 2015 work The Endless Flow of Society[4], I outline my attempts to merge the lines between institutions and individuals. A friendship would be the perfect example of individuals making up an institution. Multiple individuals can come together as ‘friends’, and thus a friendship is suspect to individual flaws, as depicted in the definition above. Think of it this way: an institution is only as strong as the individuals that are a part of it. A government composed of fools finds struggle in terms of governing just as a religion without competent messengers and pastors finds it impossible to spread the word of ‘God’. These examples translate excellently into the health of a friendship; and it helps us categorize such a friendship as a miniscule version of an institution as a whole.

If the bridge collapses, then the bridge is gone. If the individuals are weak, then the institution in turn is as well. Sociologically speaking, there remains a significant problem in the way people interact when people halfheartedly put themselves into the situation. A so-called ‘fake’ friend isn’t worth keeping around, as they merely prolong the lifespan of an unstable bridge and/or institution. “Old” translates into “New”, and a rather negative situation finds it hard to translate into a newer one if such a traditional mindset keeps such negativity from leaving. If there is no sign of renovation to the bridge or transition in the institution, then there is no reason to keep trying with broken and/or harmful situations.

To put it in simpler terms, ‘fake friends’ are not in the right state of mind or heart to keep around for any personal reasons. Just because our social mentality is to interact with others (usually those with likeminded ideologies and ways of life), no individual should force themselves nor trick themselves to cloud their social life and mentality with negativity through people that aren’t there for them.

It seems that many people try to keep their social clout open to such negativity. Perhaps this is out of our nostalgic tendencies to remember ‘the good times’ we have had with people that no longer offer a more beneficial ‘healthy’ relationship, or perhaps it is out of our inability to ‘let go’ of those our mindsets have deemed as important. Although it becomes clear that a friend is no longer who they were (as we can witness through the collapsing bridge of friendship), we desire to feel empathy.

The idea of empathy for all ignores the limits of human psychology. [5]

Although our society has pushed for this form of empathy, we must look at this from a philosophical perspective. I’d like to use Robert Ringer’s Look Out for Number One as an example. As Ringer stated in a section within Mary William’s Constructing a Life Philosophy, “Before moving forward, it will be extremely helpful to you to attempt to clear your mind of all preconceived ideas, whether they concern friendship, love, business or any other aspect of life.”[6] Our idea of friendship is a simple effect from a chain of social interaction, and it tends to cloud our individualism.

Look Out for Number One does a fantastic job at depicting the ‘moral philosophy’ of having social interactions to begin with. As Ringer claims, our primary and oftentimes singular goal of preserving our own happiness is usually overshadowed by the presence of said friendships![7] Our human psychology pushes for social interaction, yet the desire to have social interaction can harm our human psychology. ‘Hanging out with the wrong crowd’, from bad-minded folks to the everyday ‘fake friend’ can have devastating effects on our mentality – whether it be subtle or not.

[1] "Definition for friend". Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford Dictionary Press. Retrieved 4 September 2017.

[2] Bridge Over Troubled Water . Produced by Roy Halee, Paul Simon, and Art Garfunkel. Screenplay by Paul Simon. Performed by Simon & Garfunkel . United States: Studio B and Studio E, 1970. Uploaded April 16, 2013. Accessed September 4, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4G-YQA_bsOU 
 "Like a bridge over troubled water; I will lay me down."

[3] Scudder, Misa "Define Fake For Me." Facebook post. September 04, 2017.

[4] Kaminski, Joseph J. "The Endless Flow of Society." Joseph Kaminski. Originally Written October 2015. Electronically Published February 15, 2016. Accessed September 04, 2017. https://josephkaminski.org/category/sociology/the-endless-flow-of-society/.

[5] Waytz, Adam. "No, You Can’t Feel Sorry for Everyone - Issue 51: Limits." Nautilus. August 10, 2017. Accessed September 04, 2017. http://nautil.us/issue/51/limits/no-you-cant-feel-sorry-for-everyone-rp?utm_content=bufferf359c&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer.

[6] Williams, Mary E. Constructing a Life Philosophy. Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press, 2005. Page 192.

[7] Williams, Mary E. Constructing a Life Philosophy. Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press, 2005. Page 193.

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