We all know that the definition of a friend is a person who somebody likes, knows and trusts. Individuals on the Autistic Spectrum usually don’t understand the crucial differences between friends and acquaintances. Simply put, a definition of the word “acquaintance” is a person known to one, but usually not a close friend. An acquaintance may be somebody you see at work or school on occasions, but really don’t know anything about. For example, every day at around four in the afternoon, I see a woman walking down my street with her dog, which is a chocolate lab. The only thing I know about this woman is that she has a chocolate lab who she walks down the street everyday. If I ever did get a chance to talk to her, it would probably only be about her dog. I don’t think it would be appropriate to talk about anything else with her. In high school, you will have the annoying people who are considered “popular”. They usually hang out with people of similar interests, they consider the twenty or thirty people they hang out with “best friends” when they are either acquaintances or “casual friends”. This entry talks about the differences between an acquaintance and a friend
A casual friend is somebody you may hang around or talk to at events like social gatherings, work or school. If you do hang out with them, you usually don’t share personal information with them. I’ve had trouble with this in the past, I have considered people “real friends” when they really weren’t. I’ve tried “icebreakers” and asked them if they wanted to get together with me when they rejected me. Their response was the typical “no, sorry I’m too busy”. It was obvious that they really were not my friend because they wanted absolutely nothing to do with me. I would rather hear somebody tell me they want nothing to do with me then avoid me. When people avoid me it makes me feel that I am a bad person, or that I did something that offended them. I could tell that this person was avoiding me because they didn’t stop and give me a good explanation of why he was busy. Telling me “I’m busy because I have other stuff to do” tells me you really are not busy, you are just trying to get out of being around me. If somebody honestly tells me they want nothing to do with me, I will just move on and find another person to hang out with. I have been avoided by people my entire life, and it really hurts. Like I said, it makes me feel like I am a bad person and that I don’t deserve to have friends.
Sometimes acquaintances do become friends. After they have spent enough time with each other, feel comfortable around each other and trust each other is when a friendship starts to develop. Before you start to consider an acquaintance a friend, there are three things you should ask yourself.
1.) Do they try to keep in contact with you?
A true friend always keeps in contact with you no matter how far apart you are from them. When a friend moves to a different school or goes off to college, they get very busy and don’t have the time to spend with you. I have learned from past experiences with friends that a little contact goes a long way. Writing a letter takes up a lot more time than emailing or instant messaging a person. However, writing a letter really does show a person how much you really care about them. We teenagers from the 21st century should consider ourselves lucky, we have social networking sites such as Myspace, Facebook and Twitter and don’t forget cell phones! Call them as often as you can, even a five minute “how are you doing” call will mean a lot to the person. But, remember that a friend should also make an effort to keep in contact with you every once and a while. When you reach out to a person, you should expect them to reach out to you every now and then.
2.) Do they show interest in being around you?
This is one of the more difficult things to deal with in friendships. The fact is that you can’t be friends with everybody, and you probably will deal with that one person that just doesn’t show interest in being friends with you. Two signs that show a person is not interested in being friends with you is they will make excuses for why they can’t spend time with you, and they will avoid contact with you. One thing to remember about friendships is that you can’t force a person to be friends with you. When they start to make excuses and avoid you is usually a sign that you should move on and find somebody else to be friends with. If somebody doesn’t want to be your friend, it is their problem, not yours. A true friend is somebody who WANTS to spend time with you and who MAKES time to do it. I can understand when they are busy, but when you are in need, a you should expect a friend to help you. If they can’t be there physically, they should make an effort to call you and talk to you about the problem, whatever it may be. A friend must show interest in being around you, and they must show interest in getting to know you and helping you when you are in need.
3.) Are they accepting of you?
One of the characteristics in people that really turn me off is judgmentalism. You read that in my blog titled “what turns me off”. Have you ever been around a friend that gives a stereotype to every single person they see? I can’t stand people who act like that, being a student in high school, I have been around people like that many times. They can’t find anything else to do besides judging and making fun of other people. As I said in my “what turns me off” blog, I am not trying to sound hypocritical, I have caught myself doing this many times before. I’m sure every person has judged someone they don’t even know at least once in their life. As friends grow closer, they will learn what they tolerate and what sets them off. I have said this many times before, a friend is somebody who loves and accepts you for who you are, and won’t ever try to change anything about you. Those kind of friendships only happen once or twice in a lifetime.
I have learned that there are some real great people out there, and not everybody in the whole world is going to try to bring me down and make fun of me. You never know what will happen when you meet a new person, maybe they could end up being your best friend for life. When I first met Aaron, I never thought we would become such good friends. I am really glad that I had the opportunity to have people like him in my life. If it were not for Computing Workshop, I would have never met him. I have one more piece of advice about friendships, when you meet a new friend, just be cool and find out what happens. Don’t be pushy, because that will just draw the friend away from you. If the friendship doesn’t workout, just move on and find someone else. It is a larger world than you think, there are tons of people out there to be friends with. Close friendships are rare, and they take time to develop. Hopefully after reading this, you should have a general idea of who your real friends are and who they aren’t.