Surrounded By Strangers

by Patrick Appel

Drake Bennett ponders studies showing that individuals know far less about their friends and spouses than they think:

[It] may be that our selective blindness about our friends provides a clue to what is so nourishing about friendships in the first place. While researchers are in agreement that friendships are good for us, they’re still not sure exactly why. There’s evidence that gender affects what someone wants in a friend - men seek out “side-by-side” friendships that center on sharing activities and interests, women look more for “face-to-face” relationships that provide emotional support and a chance to comfortably unburden themselves. Both require some measure of mutual knowledge to work, but they depend even more on a sort of nonjudgmental steadiness and presence. As much as anything else, what friends do is simply keep us company.