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Sunday, August 6, 2017

Happy Friendship Day

I woke up today and was greeted with a WhatsApp notification. I thought it was Sunday morning and it took a bit of time for me to open up my eyes. With half closed eyes, I unlocked my phone and checked the detail of the notification.

I was greeted with a friend's message - "Happy Friendship Day!"

Throughout the day on numerous channels like Facebook, Twitter, blogs - you name it, this message trended. In fact I checked Indiblogger a while back and saw this message trending as well.

Then I thought where did it generate. We all know about Valentine's Day. But friendship day! Since when and why?

As per information available here and here, the tradition of dedicating a day in honor of friends began in US in 1935. The International Friendship Day was first proclaimed on July 30 in 1958. Today in several countries including the United States and India, the first Sunday of August is selected for friendship day festivities.

But the idea was proposed even earlier than that.

Courtesy: Wikipedia
According to documentation available, Joyce C.Hall, the founder of Hallmark Cards first proposed the idea of celebrating friendship day. He intended August 2 to be celebrated world over amidst festivities and it is hardly surprising that the idea met with resistance specifically because, it was perceived as a commercial gimmick to promote greeting cards, in those days. 

The life of Mr. Hall was pretty inspiring. You may like reading it here.

Although I did not find an older documented chronicle on the advent of friendship day, the history of friendship is arguably as old as the history of civilization. Human beings have forever celebrated friendship in as many ways as we could imagine.

In the age of social networking, a person can have a thousand friends and sometimes even more. However, it conflicts with the theory of Dunbar's number. The number proclaims a cognitive limit of the number of friends a human being can have stable relationship with. As per research conducted by Mr. Dunbar, 150 is the number.

Facebook today threatens this number - at least we think so! Mr Dunbar himself realized this and in 2010 did a study on Facebook.

Here is what Mr Dunbar had to say:
The interesting thing is that you can have 1,500 friends, but when you actually look at traffic on sites, you see people maintain the same inner circle of around 150 people that we observe in the real world. People obviously like the kudos of having hundreds of friends but the reality is that they're unlikely to be bigger than anyone else's. 

Now, this is something each of us can realize and probably tell how much of it is true. But the question remains, commodification of friendship wherein we send greeting cards and call people reminding them of the special day is probably fine. However, if we go beyond and flaunt number of contacts on a social networking site branding all of them as friends, does it align with our basic human abilities? We do not know. Getting a like or a positive comment does add a feel good factor to our psyche and it does provide impetus to our brain's reward center. But does that classify the actions as borne out of friendship? Does it always do that?

That's a question, that I leave to you readers to ponder upon.

I'll close this with this lovely quote by Edgar A Guest.

"I'd like to be the sort of friend that you have been to me. I'd like to be the help that you've been always glad to be; I'd like to mean as much to you each minute of the day, as you have meant, old friend of mine, to me along the way."

Happy friendship day!

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