Todd May on Friendship

June 28, 2011 § 18 Comments

Check out the NYT column and May’s response to comments.


§ 18 Responses to Todd May on Friendship

  • Friendships are things that just happen, not much work is required in friendship. Art of Friendship has changed over the years making it easier to stay in touch with friends and making it easier to meet new friends since the invention of Facebook. But just because Facebook makes it easy does not mean that they are true friendships. For example in Todd May’s second piece he writes about the bonds that form with the Echo and her friend and also about E. Kelly and his friend, they both formed kinds of friendships that could not have been made with just Facebook. Sure the use of Facebook and other technology now is a good way to keep in touch with a person but you cannot skype them from their bedside in the hospital… it does not mean the same thing as did when Todd May’s friend took time out of his day to sit by his friend and watch him sleep. Technology may be this great thing but I agree it is hurting the way many important things used to be done.

    • Tinamarie Rintye says:

      The argument that May put forth in his articles, that in today’s society we cultivate two friendship one of entrepreneurial and consumer relationship publicly, where there are three categories one being true friendship or so say Aristotle. He then goes on to give fact to reflect that this is really happening for example Facebook where people collect friends as if there Pokémon and reality television, why is this genre around, like Kate plus eight and real world both consumer driven friendship. While entrepreneurial friendship is as old human society. I honestly agree with him argument that media and entertainment push consumer and entrepreneurial into society making it seem ok to accept, but I really like this line that sum up his thought “Conversely, our times challenge those friendships. This is why we must reflect on friendship; so that it doesn’t slip away from us under the pressure of a dominant economic discourse. We are all, and always, creatures of our time. In the case of friendship, we must push back against that time if we are to sustain what, for many of us, are among the most important elements of our lives.” This quote says we must try to overcome these factors to truly pursuit lasting friendships. Anyone who has some moral fiber would agree that true friendship is that person in your life that would come to help you out in the most outrageous circumstances and you do the same, it the reason why Hangover was so wildly popular and it was really funny. These lasting friendships take energy and time, which anything worthwhile does, that one must be willing to do as our society changes.

  • Mai Quynh Ta says:

    Todd May discussed Friendship, a relationship that is diminished by the effect of the Money Economics. He described the nature of this relationship and how it is different from others, the consumer relationship and the entrepreneurial one which dominate True Friendship.

    In his analysis, one aspect that he hasn’t mentioned is the start-up of a relationship. He hasn’t resolved the case when a relationship started as the consumer or entrepreneurial one but ended into a real friendship, for example the bully relationship btw Kelly and Frank.

    To me, friendship is the next stage of the consumer and entrepreneurial relationship. On the other words, if those later relationships are the reason that people come together. If the two person can move up to a new stage, their relationship would just end up as the original intention.

  • jeromiharris says:

    In both articles by Todd May talks about how friendship and the economics of society co-exist with one another. Now if I read these articles before going to college I would have dismissed most of what he mentioned mostly about the entrepreneurial relationships. Most of my life I have felt I have had consumer relationships with people just enjoying the pleasure I bring then and the pleasure they bring me. However, now being in college I do see more and more of the entrepreneurial relationships forming and I myself I feel is guilty of helping them form.
    Now I have a few questions to ask May, if relationships are like a business, why not explain how to start that business or a have general business that all business can follow. Secondly, how does one reconcile if the two parties wish to end their relationship? What is vision and mission of a relationship, and lastly what about competition? Should relationships fear competition? Maybe I’m getting too in depth in trying to figure out the business of relationships or I’m looking at this in the wrong way.

    • davidhanaway says:

      I completely agree with your comment that as soon as you got to college you actually realized the fact that you see much more of entrepreneurial friendships. I’m not sure if its because I grew up in such a small town where it enabled me to form friendships that were actually genuine and in Mays business view of friendships, be called consumer. I also think it might be the fact that there literally was not that much to do at home besides hang out with friends. A typical weekend at home would involve me and my friends playing madden, or just literally hanging out with each other and just enjoying each others company. However, after getting to college I feel like my entire perspective of friendships has changed. I feel like the majority of friendships are entrepreneurial based. I don’t remember the last time me and a bunch of friends just literally hung out on a weekend night. The majority of the time friends need to be doing something and I just feel like the friendships aren’t as ‘true/genuine’ as they were back at home. I can’t pinpoint the exact reason but I think that as I continue to get older, everyone is going in different paths and are just looking out for themselves and in turn the friendships aren’t as valued.

  • smb366 says:

    “To be a friend is to step into the stream of another’s life. It is, while not neglecting my own life, to take pleasure in another’s pleasure, and to share their pain as partly my own.” This quote by Todd May stuck out in my mind so much while reading this article. But first, I wanted to address the arguments that Todd May put forth. In his first article he discussed friendships and the differences that friendship serves for us. May specifically mentions two types of friendship, entrepreneurial and consumer. May also mention a third friendship, true friendship.
    I see entrepreneurial and consumer friendship everyday while being a student at Drexel University. Talking to professors, co-op interviews, and career fairs to name a few happen on a daily basis here on campus. In those situations we are making friendships with individuals that are going to help further our career and potentially offer us benefits. While being a student here, I have acquired true friendships, with people that I would do anything for and vice versa, however I find myself often becoming friends or should I say acquaintances with people who could potentially offer me something in the future.
    May is touching on a topic that is entirely true in our society. He mentions Facebook where people collect friends. I find this true in a website called LinkedIn. Where the purpose of the site is to literally connect you with people and give a member connections in the hopes of potentially getting a job one day. I cannot tell you how many times I get requests on that website to connect with people that I have never met. The only thing us having in common is that we are Drexel students, but we may not specifically be the same year or same major.
    But to go back to the quote that I posted in the beginning of this post. To find a true friend is so incredibly hard these days. There is so much that goes into a friendship that I never thought imaginable. I have always defined myself as a true friend. I would do favors for my friends and truly not expect anything back. But I also sit here and question myself with that statement. Is it entirely fair for a person to do favors and not get anything in return? I have so many so called “true friendships” that resulted in me doing favors and being there for them while nothing was given in return. In my opinion I believe in May’s definition of true friendship, however I do think that there must be some sort of personal gain. But not even a personal gain, more of a mutual respect to one another and a promise that they will do things for one another on an equal basis.

  • Cheng-Hua Wang says:

    A true friend seems difficult to come by. I feel that the true friend evolves from the other kinds of friends, economical or pleasure. This change takes effort, it can be a rapid change or gradual. It can be rapid in the case of a shared life or death experience or gradual over years and years of friendship. Being a friend is a relationship of give and take. In the case of friend of pleasure or economics, only good is given or taken. A true friend however shares in both good and bad. This is the distinction that makes all the difference. A true friend will help you dispose of a dead body or bail you out of jail while coming up with a cover story to hide it from your spouse/parents/someone else. Although these examples are quite extreme, I believe a true friend would actually aid in these situations.

  • prj32 says:

    I would have completely agreed with the author’s point of view if it wasn’t for the fact that he was using the words “friendship” and “relationship” interchangeably. I think that friendship should only be linked to “true friendships,” the rest are simply relationships we have built through the course of our lives. Establishing a relationship can be seen as the first step towards developing a friendship, however, we decide how far we want these relationships to go. For this reason I do believe that, “…one would never become friends with someone unless there was something to be gained.” Nonetheless, once that special bond has been created everything changes.

    In essence, I believe that most people decide to remain friends with others because those relationships bring personal satisfaction to our lives. More importantly, while a friendship is a give or take type of deal, I think that true friends are those who are willing to give everything without expecting anything back. Many might think that my previous statement is too cliche, but I try to live by it and it is how I’ve been able to identify who my true friends are. It is not about what I am receiving from them, but what I am willing to give for them that makes me realize how much I appreciate that person’s presence in my life.

  • Lan Nguyen says:

    May Todd’s article is a strong perspective a about today’s society. True friendships are extremely hard obtain, such friendship comes via hardships and endurance. His comparison to Aristotles thoughts bring out an underlying group of issues, while this article may speak about its comparisons in an economic sense however, it can be said that this could be compared to a political ideology which was slightly hinted near the end of the article.

    We live in a society where people are born in to starvation, misery, grief and sadness; we are taught to fend for ourselves and we must do certain things in live to be “Successful”. We are bought up to understand that if we want to be “Successful” we might have do some unpleasant things to each other, for example like taking advantage of people which is exactly what “friendship of usefulness” and to an extent “friendship of pleasure”. While I do agree, as pointed out in the second article, in today’s society is it extremely unlikely that any of us would make friends that do not have benefits currently or in the future. This boils down to the question are we hard wired like this or is it possible for us to change? It is true that through the development of mankind we have always strived to achieve more than others, however and does this bring us to what we are now and is this, the end of the road? In the context of political ideologies true relationships can be seen as socialism where we all work towards the common greater good, without the mentality of gaining something. On the other hand, the “friendship of usefulness & pleasure” can be seen as neoliberalism/capitalism (capitalism is an economic ideology but in this sense capitalism is usually bound with liberalism). The argument between liberalism and socialism has been an ongoing dispute for a long time; the main argument has been that are humans really hard wired to be selfish? The issue with this argument would be that this has only been observed over the past 300 to 400 years since the enlightenment. What is there to say we would not change in the future where mankind decides to take a different step and finally see the flaws of selfishness? This may be the case or it may not, only time will tell and it would be a huge step of mankind.

    Following on the second article people must understand and think deeper than what is only been said on the surface, people must understand Aristotle’s thoughts were written thousands of years ago, with the development of humans, issues and social relationships have also been overcomplicated. To every friendship, the context must be understood. The context will provide us and hopefully make us understand the situation of which the friendship is in and what could be the possible outcome. In the end as human beings we should always be thinking and question, this is what humanity about and what we should continue to strive for in the future.

  • Steve Ford says:

    “We are friends not solely because you amuse me or assist me, but more deeply because we have rooted ourselves together in a soil we have both agreed to cultivate.” –Todd May
    This point particularly stood out to me. I like how Todd classified friendships into two basic categories of being entrepreneurial or more consumer in nature. Throughout life one encounters many people that only want to be your friend for their personal gain. I believe this will only get you so far in life and in this process this person will hurt many genuine people. True friendship is hard to find and I think to find this a person’s core values have to be the same as your own. I view my friendships like the quote from Todd May about how a friendship has to cultivate. One example I will point out is the relationship I have with my fraternity brothers. We all had to go through the same process to become brothers and I see the membership process as a seed that was planted to grow into lifelong friendships. I admit some seeds have grown quicker for certain brothers and others have not been growing very fast at all. At the end of the day, I know I have the support of 50+ brothers in whatever life throws at me.

  • Evan Samlin says:

    The “friendships” that we claim to participate in today are very different than they used to be. It used to be about people spending time together in each other’s company; May mentioned that true friendship is when people are there for one another, like his friend in the hospital room nearly 40 years ago. Nowadays, “being there” is just a click away. I think some of the most important points in the article are the concepts of physical proximity and mutual commitment.

    With LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter — and even in Drexel’s networking events and group work — it’s more about quantity than quality. Social media and the growth of what May calls entrepreneurial relationships have dumbed down the concept to what has become a game of numbers and artificial networking. A common theme between last week’s video and this is how the Internet has separated us instead of bring us closer together. Most great friendships are defined by the trials and tribulations shared by the participants, but if real effort is taken out of the equation, the result is usually a lot less satisfying.

  • I don’t whole heartily agree with what Todd had to say about the three types of friendship. I believe that there was, at one point, three types of friendship but since the age of economy, as Todd called it, came into play the non-economical friendship merged with the other two. As nasty as it sounds, no friendship is without personal gain. In today’s ‘dog eat dog’ world, you must build up a friendship with someone so that you don’t get destroyed by the economical or the corporate world. In Todd’s example of his friend sitting by his side at the hospital, there was two forces there: the non-economical friendship that truly brought him there and the entrepreneurial friendship. In an entrepreneurial friendship, you give resources you can readily dispense in the present to get resources you need in the future. True friendships do exist but with glimpses of the other two types of friendships. Like most things in today’s world, the lines separating things have become blurred and things begin to mix.

  • Initially after reading the first article my reaction was much less favorable than my reaction after reading the response in the second article. At first I just didn’t understand the writers purpose for the article nor did I agree with his theory about consumer and entrepreneurial friendship threatening “true friendship.” After reading the response I still don’t agree with his theory but I better understand what he was trying to say in the first article and the reason for which he wrote it in the first place. In responding to the people that commented on the first article and obviously taking the time to reflect himself on what he had written, he cleared up much of my misunderstanding, and lack of understating altogether. Firstly, in the first paragraph of the second article, he writes, “Earlier columns in The Stone have raised the question of what philosophy is. Surely among its tasks is to think about matters that are at once urgent, personal and of general significance. When one is lucky, one finds interlocutors who are willing to share that thought, add to it in one way or another, or suggest a different direction. In the comments from readers of my earlier post, “Friendship in an Age of Economics,” I have been fortunate.”

    I get it now; he simply has a thought about something that is personal and significant to all people and is writing about it so that people might share the thought or present opposing ideas. I confess that before understanding what I have just written in the previous sentence I reacted to his initial argument with condescension; I didn’t really agree or disagree with it, I just didn’t see the purpose of it. Now that I get it, I still don’t agree with his argument about the threat on “true friendship” but I can appreciate why he is writing about it. If in fact consumer and entrepreneurial friendship is placing a strain on our ability to foster true friendship, then he is right, something must be done about it.

    He writes in the second article, “Each age has its context, and people in that age — or in one specific aspect of it — cannot escape engaging with the themes of that context, its motifs and parameters. Consumerism and entrepreneurship are dominant themes of our age; if my column is right, they are a threat to our friendships. Other ages have had different themes and their friendships different dangers.” I agree; each age does have its context, and within that context are threats and benefits to all things, friendship included. However, I don’t agree that any threat that may pose itself, no matter the context or age, to something as timeless as friendship, has any chance of doing any damage. As times change, so will our approach to friendship and the way it characterizes itself in our lives, but the purpose it fulfills, and it’s fulfillment of that purpose will never change. At the risk of sounding cliché, “true friendship” may be under threat from other, less pure, forms of friendship, but being that Aristotle thought it necessary to think and write about it, and here we are two millennia later doing the same, I don’t think it has anything to worry about; “true friendship” will prevail.

  • Alex Mandel says:

    My immediate reaction to any article where someone compares old times to new times and talks about how the world is changing, that it’s not the way it used to be and how everything is heading to shit, is to tune out. In my experience it’s usually that the person a certain role as a younger person and saw things one way and then when that person got older they had a different role and now complain that things weren’t they way they used to be. Furthermore people are people. Motivations, incentives, satisfaction doesn’t change. Our culture, communications, and interactions may be constantly evolving but our basic human characteristics are ingrained; point being the end goals, the motivating reasons behind our actions has not changed. If true friendship is what people truly desire than they will find it and won’t spend as much time on the other two types of friendships.

    Todd’s breakdown of the three types of friendships was pretty amusing. I was taking account of the people I interact with and what kind of friend that person is and for the most part I can categorize each friend that way. However his gross generalizations about the changing times are as effective of an argument as an 80 year old man complaining about how the internet is ruining America. He provided little examples of how our new economically driven culture has changed the world.

    I think that true friendship is a force of economics just like the consumer friendship and entrepreneurial friendship. These two must be cultivated and arise out of common experience and mutual gain. True friendship is also driven by economics just not in financial or entertainment gain. It’s still an exchange of value or time that mutually benefits each party. Friendship is not absolute. True friendship enhances the value of our lives and makes our lives more satisfying but again that is driven by economic principal of trade. We trade our time, attention, emotional connection, and in return we have a much more satisfying life. We also cut true friends out of our lives or set up boundaries if they begin to take too much of us. However with true friends we have such a deep routed history, that we aren’t as quick to just stop talking to them as we are to those consumer and entrepreneurial friends.

  • melvinjboban says:

    Argument: Society today cultivates friendships on the basis of entrepreneurial true friendships and consumer relationships.

    Entrepreneurial and consumer friendships in my opinion are the facet of all individuals in the modern world. We are all guilty of creating these “bonds” based with other individuals in order to pursue, in a way, our own vendetta. The basic aspect in its simplest form is the fact that people want to get ahead, succeed and basically become more then what they are today at the current time. They do this by gaining momentum with the relationships they make with other people.

    In my own experience I really do agree with Todd May on the subject of friendships. Before I came to college I had more hope in what friendships were. I basically thought that people in general of good heart and moral intention when being your friend. As I have grown up however I have seen the May’s points come to life. People really do look after what they want, and more importantly wear they want to be. In the second article he describes even further the context of age when it comes to personal life, specifically friendships. This is what I believe happens to all individuals. In some ways its what separates parents from children, teachers from student, even generation from generation.

  • Anqi Li says:

    Before I read these two articles, I believe there is not a exact definition for “Friend” because everyone has different ways to define it. In Todd’s article, the friendship comes from the society, which we can think it as the environment creates friendship. In my point of view, I would say I’m absolutely agree with this idea. To be an international student, I can clearly find the difference between my friends in my country and the friends from U.S. This difference is not only skin color, eye color or other physical presenting, but also the mind, the way to build relationship and the thinking of friendship. Obviously, I cannot say which one is better,but the big difference, which is caused by the society, crashed me a lot. Therefore, if we want to define the friendship, we should first have a completely view of the society and the culture, then we need to have a view of one’s attitude(I think this is a really important role in friendship); after all, although there are still many other conditions can influence the friendship, we already have a basic way to understand what this word really means.

  • Kathy Wu says:

    May defines an entrepreneurial relationship as a relationship that we invest in in hopes of gaining a return. Being a business student at Drexel, I hear about the importance of making connections that will be beneficial to one’s future. Many of the business related clubs hold networking events in which students are encouraged to build relationships with potential employers. I have never attended any of these events and don’t know how effective they are, but finding a job is becoming about who you know rather than what you know. From the employers’ point of view, they are hiring someone who they believe will help their company succeed. This type of relationship ends when either party no longer sees any benefit. Conversely, in order to strength or prolong this relationship, more benefits have to be exchanged on both sides. True friendship, on the other hand, cannot be built quite so easily. Both parties still give and receive but this exchange is not as self-motivated. In a true friendship, you give to benefit the other person without expecting anything in return and vice versa.

  • lc529 says:

    Consumer relationships are always based on the momentary present. This type of relationship is usually one way though and I think can last a while. When it is one sided, people can go on for years having this friendship, but when both people are using eachother it doesn’t tend to last as long.
    Shows like the Kardashians and the Real World do not portray friendship in anyway. They piece together relationships that consist of mostly drama that will keep viewers attention. These relationships are made to seem realistic, but in all honesty are not what so ever.
    Being a true friend does mean diving into another’s life and in part living what they live through on a daily basis. A friendship can mean taking on anothers problems when they are in trouble or are going through hard times. It can take a toll on one’s own life when trying to help another who is close, but in the end will be rewarding for both of the friends.

What’s this?

You are currently reading Todd May on Friendship at Tuesday Morning Blog.


%d bloggers like this: