We have many more acquaintances than friends. An acquaintance exists in the margins of our social lives. Quoting a study of the University in Vancouver, Rakhi says that people with a larger number of casual acquaintances tend to be happier. In this era of social networking, acquaintances acquire a new meaning. Here’s a report.
I remember, once while I was out on a walk with my brother and we met someone I knew. After a brief and generic conversation, we bid bye to each other. My brother asked me if this person was a friend and I replied, “No… He is just an acquaintance.” I was just thinking that we so easily categorise people around us into categories for our convenience.
The standard meaning of ‘acquaintance’ is someone you know a little about, but they are not your best friend or anything. It is said that the root of the word acquaintance is the old French word acointier, a verb meaning ‘make known’.
If someone is your acquaintance, that person knows something about you. The person is kind of less intimate than a friend, may be someone who lives in your vicinity or someone who attends some class with you or commutes with you in a same train or bus. Usually, when we meet someone for the first time, we are acquainted to that person.
We all talk about strong family bonds and social relationships and how they help us in various aspects of our lives. Studies show that people with strong friendships and family bonds enjoy significantly better emotional well-being, greater psychological and physical health, and even increased longevity as compared to people whose connections are weaker.But, what about acquaintances? If we sit back and think, many of us may realise that we tend to have far more acquaintances than friends. Well, we are surrounded by them… be it our neighbors, who just always nod ‘hello’ and ask if all is well and we in return nod replying all is well (No matter how bad the life is); a colleague, in some other department, with whom we might just exchange a few chit-chat; the grocery store owner or the vegetable vendor, who knows your name as well as your family member’s and order by heart; your occasional work-out partner at the jogger’s park or at the gym; your hair stylist or barber; or the friends of your friends, whom you happen to meet at the occasional parties. Well, the list of acquaintances goes on.
According to the reports of a research on human relationships, we usually share extremely close relationship with on an average four to 10 people and somewhat close ties with around 13 to 40. During the study, when participants were asked to make a note of everyone they interacted within over 100 days, the average number reported was 445. Well, it may not be wrong to say that all the people in the periphery of our social networks do not qualify as actual acquaintances. However, a significant number surely do.
So now when we have so many acquaintances in our lives, it is obvious that they must be having an impact our emotional health and well-being. A study conducted by a University in Vancouver says that people with a larger number of casual acquaintances tend to be happier. Also, more the number of interactions with acquaintances, happier the person is. The study also concentrated on the feeling of loneliness, which ruins oneself emotionally and physically and came to a conclusion that more the interactions with acquaintances, lesser is the loneliness a person feels. Isn’t it surprising that acquaintances have a greater impact on our happiness and still they are one of the most neglected or least thought about areas of our lives.
In this digital era, people are more active online rather than anywhere else. Inclination towards ensuring online presence is more rather than presence in any other social place. The reason being, the people we know casually play a far more important role in our lives and success than our closest friends. It’s like ‘Weak ties’ versus ‘Strong ties’, where in the value of weak ties in our lives is simply more than any other. Through these casual people in our life, we get connected to other social groups that help us some or the other way in our social connections and success as well.
Well, if we see social networks are nothing but platform to meet acquaintances. More the number of acquaintances, bigger the social network is the new mantra of the social economy. And such networks play a critical in getting employment, marketing activities and what not. But point to be noted that presence of acquaintances have always been there in our lives long before internet and social networking platforms came into picture. Moreover, they have been a helping hand all the things that they are even today, in the digital era. They help us find employment or a baby sitter, introduce us to books and movies and even help us with random details that are sometimes not accessible through our close knit friends.
However, the only major difference that I see after existence of social networking platforms with regards to acquaintances is that now the number of acquaintances a person can handle is comparatively more than earlier. This, in turn, has contributed in flow and access of information exponentially. It would not be wrong if with this we conclude that our weak ties are now stronger than strong ties.
But truly speaking, it has always been this way. It is just that we never noticed it. And it will for sure continue to be like this.
Yes, in the pursuit of success, we all are so absorbed in our lives, either by habit or choice that most of us usually do not bother about the ‘just an acquaintance’ people around us. We take people for granted. Our lives rotate around those, who matter to us or could be benefit for us. The rest remain just in the edge as fringes of insignificance. And when the person is gone, we wake up to that person’s existence. The fact is, we forget that we all will be gone someday!
I know it is difficult, while we are struggling amidst our own battles. But, still we may try to value people,
who may be just an acquaintance to us. They may exist in the margins of our social lives. We may encourage and appreciate their existence and in our lives. Pause and ponder, surely worth it!
Pix from Net
Rakhi Surendra Kankane has been a media professional for more than a decade. She began her career with the leading publishing houses and has participated in some top Indian television shows. She was Deputy Editor with well known movie magazine. She headed corporate communication team globally. She hails from Jabalpur, India.