How do you judge how good a friend is?
September 5, 2012 7:55 PM   Subscribe

How do you know if someone is a good friend to keep around? Is it judging them by their support or their company?

I've had a history of making bad choices when it comes to friends. I'm one of those people that offer up a lot and contribute a lot when it comes to relationships and I don't mind. I don't ever expect them to repay me favour by favour. For instance, I'll drive people to the airport, take them grocery shopping if they don't have a car, be there for them when they're sick or help them out when they ask and I do it without expecting that they do something similar for me in return. Essentially, I feel like this is what friends are for – to help each other out, to support each other and to be good company at the same time.

However, recently, I started a company that required a lot of social networking. I asked all my friends to share and go to an event briefly just to show their support. A few of my friends jumped on board right away and helped me while a few others, especially the ones that I have helped the most in the past, hinted to me that they didn't want to participate, show up or help me. All it required was a simple 'like' but they didn't want to do it. I have never asked them for anything and I mean this. I am very independent and I always prefer to do things myself. This is the first time I have ever requested them to do anything for me.

And it wasn’t that I expected them to do it because I have helped them out in the past, but it was the fact that this is something really important to me and I’ve been super excited about it. It could be the rest of my life. If it was the other way around, and I knew how important it was for them, I would leap at the chance to help them out.

I feel a little used and a lot hurt because I have always eagerly supported them in whatever ventures they undertook if I could do it because I felt like that’s what friends do. But like I said earlier, I have always been bad at these things so I don't know if I'm being unreasonable in my requests or if this is something that I can reasonably expect from my friends.

By the way, it is mostly guys that are refusing to help. They are all single, if this makes a difference. Most of my girl-friends have eagerly helped me out and a few have acted the same way the guys did.

Anyway, should I be more cautious when it comes to helping them in the future? Am I making the wrong friends? Is this normal behaviour? How do I deal with this? I like these people and their company however I have done things for them and treated them in a way that put them as really ‘close’ friends and yet I don’t feel like they are treating me the same way. I do feel a little miffed and kind of sad that they’re so unwilling to support me even though I have demonstrated that I would do the same for them.

Throwaway email:
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This is the nature of social networking. If you ask a hundred people to click "like," maybe eight will. The remainder will feel imposed upon by a breach of what they (not you) consider to be the social contract and/or will just ignore it like they ignore coworkers asking if they'll donate to the coworker's 5k to cure tennis elbow. It is the nature of the, how you say, beast. Their priorities are not your priorities. This is not a crime.

Anyway, should I be more cautious when it comes to helping them in the future?


Am I making the wrong friends?


Is this normal behaviour?


How do I deal with this?

Let it go or stop talking to them. Pick one.

I like these people and their company however I have done things for them and treated them in a way that put them as really ‘close’ friends and yet I don’t feel like they are treating me the same way. I do feel a little miffed and kind of sad that they’re so unwilling to support me even though I have demonstrated that I would do the same for them.

Their priorities are not your priorities. I have friends I would open a vein for but if they asked me to click "like" on something that didn't interest me, I would not do it. You are currently miffed and having a hard time seeing this from their point of view. Avoid making decisions until your emotions have cooled.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:13 PM on September 5, 2012 [11 favorites]

A friend is someone you like to be with, and whom you can trust. It doesn't mean they will do everything you ask them, even if it feels important to you or is something your business needs, but if it's a fundamental necessity – food, shelter, clothing type necessity – you should be able to turn to your group of friends and expect those that are able to help out.

Good friends: help each other move, console each other in tough times, and enjoy each other's company.
posted by zippy at 8:14 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

They probably see social networking stuff or general promotion efforts as being in a distinct category from favors that involve actual physical activity and that are private/between two people, since lots of people also view social media as a means of self-expression and communication, or they're just downright uncomfortable with that kind of promotion.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 8:16 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

People have really different philosophies about the use of social networking. What seems like a small action to you could be a breach of a personal policy - for instance "I don't ever "like" commercial pages." It doesn't even matter. I think the expectation is not just quite reasonable that people will use their own personal social media accounts - by definition, leveraging their own networks to enhance your reach, something they might not be comfortable doing.

I'd make a list of other favors people could do to support your business that don't involve them doing something with their public, online profile. This isn't about your friendships, it's about people who have a different idea about the use of social networking.
posted by Miko at 8:22 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

This is the first time I have ever requested them to do anything for me.

Before you make any conclusions about whether or not people are willing to help/support you, you might try asking them to help you in a different way and see what happens. Try it more than once. One instance of not providing social networking support probably isn't the best barometer of friendship. It may be that they didn't understand how much this meant to you.

I personally have a Rooted Objection to "liking" anything on Facebook because I don't feel that Facebook needs any more information about me than it already has--your friends may have some reason for not "liking" a page that has nothing to do with you.

In other words, see if this is part of a larger trend before you determine whether or not these people are worth keeping as friends.
posted by corey flood at 8:22 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

I absolutely drive my friends to the airport, I have taken friends grocery shopping, I would help clean a kitchen, I am there for my friends.

I ignore every single Facebook request I get - both from friends and acquaintances. I have a policy of not "liking" anything; I have apps disabled; that's not how I use social networking. If we were friends, I would be there for you in person, but I wouldn't like your page - nothing personal, just how I operate.

If you invited me to an event on facebook, I would automatically ignore it. If you called / emailed me, and explained that it would mean something to you if I went, I might go - but I still might not because I'm fairly introverted and social events just aren't my thing.

Don't read too much into this - some people will 100% be there for you when you need it, but see social networking as a different thing entirely.
posted by insectosaurus at 8:29 PM on September 5, 2012 [6 favorites]

I judge my relationships with others based on the lengths I'm willing to go for them and the extent to which they're willing to reciprocate. It's a difficult and often unpleasant stance to maintain.

Even so, your social networking enterprise just doesn't feel very vital to me. It's not a blood transfusion, a ride to the store, it's not helping you move your sofa. Speaking entirely for myself, as a disinterested stranger, your request feels opportunistic and, well, gauche.

Maybe this is irrational, but as willing as I'd be to help you with the first three things I mention, I'd cast a jaundiced eye on your efforts to turn our relationship into profit.
posted by Nomyte at 8:41 PM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

I feel like helping someone with their work is different to personal favours, and I would quite likely avoid it unless I was interested in your specific event/company.
posted by jacalata at 8:43 PM on September 5, 2012

Is this a MLM thing? Anything that even remotely resembles a MLM is going to get a very cool reception.
posted by 99percentfake at 8:48 PM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'd blame Like-fatigue. Facebook Likes simply aren't that important to people, and there's a lot of admonitions to Like things in our everyday world now.

I think there's something else going on, though. Nobody questions their friends over a Facebook Like. I thought I was going to be able to relate my story of realizing that none of my friends ever ask me how I'm doing, but it doesn't seem germane to the way your story turned out.
posted by rhizome at 9:14 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have a few friends to whom I would gladly give my time for, but I ignore their requests for social networking thingies such as likes or shares. This does not make me a bad friend, I don't think, as I am still seen in their eyes as a good shoulder to cry on, or a good listening ear for their daily troubles. I say give them other, different, opportunities to show you if they're worthy friends.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 9:21 PM on September 5, 2012

If you ever end up sick in the hospital, you'll know who your true friends are. They will be the ones who visit you. The best litmus test of friendship bar none.
posted by Dansaman at 10:09 PM on September 5, 2012

I'm another person who won't use my personal social media presence as a commercial endorsement platform, period.

That said, if a friend asked me personally to help out by showing up at an event, I'd do my best to make it. And if s/he were actually in any kind of trouble, I'd be there as soon as I could get on a plane.
posted by tangerine at 10:29 PM on September 5, 2012


Their priorities are not your priorities.

and this

One instance of not providing social networking support probably isn't the best barometer of friendship.

I have driven and been driven to the airport and the mechanic and etc.; I have given/loaned and vice versa money; I have made tea and had tea made; I have scooped litterboxes and...

You get the idea. You give support in ways that feel best to you; your friends are doing likewise. If this is literally the first time you've ever asked any of them for anything (no spotting of $10 when you're short on cash at the bar? No helping to clean up after or before a party? That kind of thing?), then yeah, don't judge an entire friendship on this one thing.

I'm another facebooker who rarely "likes" organization/commercial-type pages.
posted by rtha at 11:09 PM on September 5, 2012

To me, being asked by a friend to Like something is the equivalent to having attend an Avon or Mary Kay party and buying some lipstick or whatever. Ok, even worse is that Liking something is totally free and just a click you can do from home without getting out of bed, but social networking has that unquantifyable variable where it represents yourself and interests, and being asked to Like something versus self-electing yourself just feels kind of icky.
posted by peachtree at 12:21 AM on September 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've been kind of confused by this in the past, too, but I agree that people are weird and picky about social networking. On the other hand, I tend to make really great supportive-friendship type girl friends (who I don't always have a ton in common with), and really great conversational/good company guy friends (who kind of suck at being supportive when it comes to shows of outright enthusiasm). There are plenty of counter-examples by gender in existence but these are the types of people that I tend to befriend, for whatever reason, so maybe you're like me. I would chalk this up as no big deal unless they continue to be dismissive in a variety of situations, in which case I'd probably dial back my investment.
posted by stoneandstar at 1:23 AM on September 6, 2012

Liking something on Facebook is a public action, and it's taking part in marketing something which is not your product, and that's very different than, say, driving someone to the airport. I would probably not have liked your page, either.

That said, you don't get to cause a relationship or friendship to become a certain type of relationship (such as a particularly close friendship) simply by doing favors or acting in a particular way. I have no idea how they feel about you, but it sounds like maybe you don't either, and your expectations of reciprocation likely aren't helping (and you do expect reciprocation, if not in a precise tit for tat manner).
posted by J. Wilson at 6:15 AM on September 6, 2012

I have a fair amount of experience with giver-types - the kind of people who help anybody who asks them for assistance. In my experience, they tend to fall into negative patterns of behavior where the script runs somewhat like this:

1) Giver makes it clear that they have a giving personality and are willing to do whatever it takes to help their friends.

2) Exploitative "friends" surround the Giver and start asking for favors constantly. The giver does these favors unhesitatingly.

3) Genuine friends do not ask for favors - in fact, they tend to avoid doing so because they don't want to be conflated with the exploitative circle that surrounds the Giver.

4) Eventually the giver asks for something in return.

5) The exploitative friends don't help because they don't care. They were just using the Giver for what she could provide.

6) The genuine friends don't help because they are offended by the way the Giver trivialised their own friendship by lavishing attention on people who were obviously using her. "If she cared about those manipulative jerks so much that she helped them all the time, why is she asking us for support now? Let them help her, if they're such great friends," is the not-unreasonable thought process.

Obviously, I may be projecting here (it's hard to answer an AskMe without a certain amount of projection) but it may be useful to at least ask yourself whether there is a possibility that you may be stuck in that script. If you might be, then you need to start tracking the favors you do for people and determine whom the primary beneficiaries of your support are. If you're expending a lot of energy helping the same people over and over, you're probably being exploited and you need to wise up.

I want to make it clear that tracking favors is generally unhealthy for friendships, and this should not be a general guideline for life. However, if you frequently find yourself in situations where you find yourself giving much more than you get, that is one of the few occasions where monitoring the investment of energy versus the return you get is essential to ensure that you are not being exploited. Don't think of this as being selfish towards your friends; think of it as a way to get rid of the trashy hangers-on and ensure that you maintain focus on helping people who genuinely care for you.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 7:05 AM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Why are the answers mostly fixating on the Facebook aspect? Note that the OP's friends also declined to make a brief appearance at an in-face reception.

I mean, take me as a data point. I'm a guy....and the idea of me lurking around an art gallery is pretty laughable to anyone who knows me. But as a friend, I have consistently put in an appearance at someone's art show or book signing unless I was otherwise engaged. Either they wanted moral support or a quick confidence boost, both of which I could provide with no additional obligation and wearing whatever clothes (typically business casual) I already had on.

So...either the business itself is problematic or nearly all of the OP's social circle balked at what I would consider a very basic request (brief appearance at an in-face reception).
posted by 99percentfake at 7:37 AM on September 6, 2012

It is hard to know without a lot of specifics but boiled down it sounds like you've done A, B and C for these friends without asking for anything in return. Then you ask them to do D and E for them they have refused/demurred/balked. People have given you reasons why they don't Facebook type things and I think it is easy to think of why people wouldn't want to do an in person event.

So what this comes down to is that you need to decide if these friends are just using your giving nature in general or if they don't want to do D and E for you whereas they'd happily do X, Y and Z for you. In almost all cases your circle of friends will consist of people who are there for you on different levels (i.e. the one you can have a deep emotional conversation, the one that helps you move, the one that likes adventure, the one that is good listener, etc. Sometimes you find this all in one person but more likely these attributes are unevenly distributed.
posted by mmascolino at 8:08 AM on September 6, 2012

It's fine to have a variety of friends -- those who are great to invite to a dinner party because they liven up the conversation, those who you know will be there with a couch, a loan and a shoulder to cry on if you ever run into real trouble, those who will do you small favours, etc. Different people may fill different roles in your life, and you can't expect every one of your friends to fill all of them.

The one that people are least likely to fill is any role involving any kind of business transaction, no matter how small. Many, many people don't like to mix commerce and friendship.

In particular, business models that rely on selling to your friends are a complete no for me. I happily chauffeur my friends all over town since I'm one of the few people in my immediate social circle with a car, but I don't attend their Stella & Dot or Scentsy parties. I will pick up dinner tabs for the unemployed but I don't buy from their Avon catalogues. I will attend gigs for their band (and maybe their comedy troupe, though that's iffier), but I will not hit 'like' on the Facebook page for their MLM sales job.

So, depending on the precise nature of what you're involved in, their reaction may well have nothing at all to do with their opinion of you or their closeness to you, and everything to do with their opinion of the type of business you're trying to involve them in.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:11 AM on September 6, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'm a girl, so I don't know why the guys would be less likely to help. Maybe they're just less interested in your event.

Here's the deal, though: If I have to bake things for a charity, I'd ask help from my friend who knows how to bake and likes doing it. Yes, she's doing me a favor, but she should enjoy the process. If nothing else, she's spending time with me.

It doesn't mean that I'd do any baking for her. I'd be happy to fix her computer problems or give home-buying advice, but baking is just not something I'm very interested in.

If your event is not interesting to your friends, they'd probably feel awkward and like they're wasting their time. Furthermore, it's not like any one person was going to make or break the event (unlike asking a specific friend for baking help). Even worse would be if they won't even get time to hang out with you (which you didn't specify whether that would be the case).

Besides, businesses (IMO) should be built on their own merit. For example, if a friend wanted to use my computer and internet to back up her personal files on my computer, I'd be happy to set it up and do so for her. If she's doing it for her business, then I'd be charging standard fees. (So the only bonus she'd get is that she knows I'm hardworking and reliable.)

Also, you don't get to have more favors because you haven't asked for any in the past. In my experience, that's not how it works. Being vulnerable enough to ask someone for something is a very important part of the friendship, and maybe your friends just didn't feel like you ever let yourself be that level of a friend with them.

Lastly, yeah, there are some people who are just takers. Or the way they give is not something that you really want. And that's okay. It's okay to not maintain all friendships and potential friendships. It's okay to grow apart (and hopefully also get new friends).
posted by ethidda at 12:20 PM on September 6, 2012

Also, you don't get to have more favors because you haven't asked for any in the past. In my experience, that's not how it works. Being vulnerable enough to ask someone for something is a very important part of the friendship, and maybe your friends just didn't feel like you ever let yourself be that level of a friend with them.

This is what I came in here to say. You need to ask your friends for more, different kinds of favors. If you've never asked them for a favor before, and the first one you ask is this kind of "mass action" favor, none of them are going to be thinking of themselves as "the person you're relying on".
posted by endless_forms at 1:52 PM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

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