Anyone who’s read Montaigne’s Essays will probably be slightly jealous of his friendship with Étienne de La Boétie. The latter tragically passed away at the age of 32, something that Montaine, it seemed, never fully got over. I’ve never had a friend like that. I doubt many men have.
This article from sociologist Randall Collins talks about five different types of friendship. I’ve got plenty of ‘allies’, some ‘backstage intimates’, and ‘mutual-interests friends’. I definitely lack, mainly out of choice ‘fun friends’ and ‘sociable acquaintances’.
It would be interesting to learn more about the history and sociology of friendship. This article goes a little bit into the realm of social media friends, but I’m not sure you can learn much about just studying the medium. That reminds me of a Douglas Adams quote I can’t quite find but goes something along the lines of people always talking about terrorists planning things “over the internet” but would never talk about them planning it “over a cup of tea”.
Allies: talking about money; asking for loans; asking for letters of reference, endorsements, asking to contact further network friends for jobs or investments. In specialized fields like scientific research, talking about what journals or editors to approach, what topics are hot, giving helpful advice on drafts. In art and music: gossiping about who’s doing what, contacts with agents, galleries, venues.
Backstage intimates: Speaking in privacy; taking care not to be overheard. Don’t tell anybody about this.
Fun friends: Shared laughter, especially spontaneous and contagious. Facial and body indicators of genuine amusement, not forced smiles or saying “that’s funny” instead of laughing. Very strong body alignment, such as fans closely watching the same event and exploding in synch into cheers or curses.
Mutual-interests friends: talking at great length about a single topic. Being unable to tear oneself away from an activity, or from conversations about it.
Sociable acquaintances: General lack of all of the above, in situations where people expect to talk with each other about something besides practical matters (excuse me, can I get by?) Banal commonplace topics, the small change of social currency: the weather; where are you from; what do you do; foreign travels; do you know so-and-so? Answers to “how are you doing?” which avoid giving away information about one’s problems or matters of serious concern. Talking about politics can be conversational filler (when everyone assumes they’re in the same political faction), as often happens at the end of dinner parties when all other topics have been exhausted.
Source: FIVE KINDS OF FRIENDS | The Sociological Eye