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Our society has watered down the true meaning of friendship. On social media, we connect with people as “friends” even when they are acquaintances that we know very little about. And even when we run into our acquaintances in public and introduce them to those closest to us, we call them our friends.
Maybe I am splitting hairs, but there is a vast difference between someone who is a good friend and an acquaintance. If our lives were houses, acquaintances are the people who stand on the front porch until if and when we feel comfortable to invite them into the living room.
True friends, on the other hand, have seen the most intimate parts (of us)… like the bathrooms, kitchen, and even the bedrooms. They truly know us inside and out.
While there are many differences between the two labels of friendship and acquaintances, there is no rule saying a relationship cannot blossom into something more significant as time passes.
What is an Acquaintance?
An acquaintance is someone you know slightly, but you don’t consider them to be a close friend of yours. For instance, I recall watching TV shows taking place in the late 19th century and early 20th century. I would see how an acquaintance was used to describe someone you were close to. Someone on the show would introduce a person as a “close acquaintance,” but it has since changed. Now it is used to describe a person we barely know.
In the mid to late 20th century, Southerners (those living in the southern part of the United States) would meet someone new and politely say, “I am pleased to make your acquaintance.” In other words, it is nice to meet you.
If relationships were swimming pools, acquaintances would be the shallow end. You need more information about an acquaintance to know if they are genuinely a good or bad person at heart. Furthermore, you don’t know any personal details, nor have years of shared experiences with each other.
If relationships were racetracks, acquaintances are the starting line. However, if all goes well, an acquaintance of yours can turn into a close personal friend, maybe more.
What is a Friend?
A friend is someone who is there for us and to whom we feel connected to. In other words, you two share a bond. The bond could be over shared values and beliefs. A friendship can be formed with a person because they are for what you are for or against what you are against.
For example, Janice went to her daughter’s school to protest the new rule requiring students to wear uniforms. While she was there, she met Nicole, who was a mother protesting the change as well.
The two connected and became friends. As a result, they looked forward to opportunities to work together to get the rule overturned. As the saying goes, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
Also, friends can be made with others, even if they aren’t in the same room as you. We can also make friends with people online. Whether they are in our hometown or thousands of miles away doesn’t matter.
Moreover, friendships can be casual, where you talk occasionally. But when you’re around each other, or on the phone, the chemistry between you is strong.
Then there are close friends you are more deeply connected to and can trust to give you much-needed support. The two of you can openly share your deepest feelings, and they are reliable to listen to you when you need them the most.
Also, if it has been a long time since the two of you have talked, it is easy to pick up right where you left off. This type of relationship works because you care for each other’s well-being, and the two of you have mutual respect for one another.
There is no set time to know a person before they become a good friend. You could have known someone for years or just a few months. The two of you can bond over anything and come from all different walks of life.
Lastly, true friendships can be seasonal. You can connect with people for 5 or 10 years, then due to circumstances in life, you drift apart. But then, some friendships can stand the test of time.
Acquaintance VS Friend: 5 Ways to Label a Relationship
Difference #1. On Sincerity
Acquaintances may keep score within the relationship, but true friendships have no strings attached.
Acquaintances will keep score in relationships, possibly to earn brownie points with you to enhance the relationship. Friends show care and concern out of mutual respect, love, and a sincere desire for your welfare.
For example, Dennis really likes Carol. They were acquaintances who worked together, but Dennis wanted to know more about her and become close friends. So, he learned how Carol liked to drink her coffee and brought her a cup every morning. She often thanked him, but that was the extent of their interaction.
Later, Dennis asked Carol to dinner on a date, but she declined. As a result, he became distraught and felt she owed him because he had been giving her coffee every morning.
Finally, Dennis went to his friend Sheryl to vent, with whom he also bought coffee in the morning but never felt she owed him anything. Because friendships have some degree of balance.
Difference #2. On Involvement in Each Other’s Lives
Acquaintances may not know the names of your family members or pets. However, friends invest in each other’s lives, and the information shared is reciprocal.
Carter and Dan were classmates and fond of each other. After being invited to Dan’s birthday party, they became close friends. As a result, the two alternated spending time at each other’s houses and got to know many family members.
In fact, each friend was invited on vacations with the other’s family during the summers. They spent many holidays together and shared gifts at Christmas as well.
After graduation, Dan went to college 6 hours away, while Carter stayed local. Yet, Carter frequently visited Dan’s family and was invited to barbeques and birthday parties in Dan’s absence.
Difference #3. On Sharing Resources
Friends freely share resources with one another, but acquaintances are often reluctant to do so.
Stephen and Keith are acquainted because they attend the same church. Keith always knew when Stephen was in attendance because of the big pickup truck he drove.
One day, Keith needed to borrow a truck to pick up some new furniture, but the only person he knew that had one was Stephen. Yet Keith was unsure if Stephen would allow him to use his truck because they were not close friends.
Danielle, a close friend of Keith’s wife, had just bought a truck. She found out Keith’s need and allowed him to use it, no questions asked, because of her friendship with his wife.
Difference #4. On Emergencies
Acquaintances are fearful of calling you late at night or on the weekend. True friends know they can call anytime, day or night, when in need of help or if something goes wrong.
Lance received a call from his friend Sara at 2 o’clock in the morning, saying that her car broke down on her way home from work.
Lance had been friends with Sara for over 20 years, going back to elementary school. So, when she called, he got up immediately and talked with her on the phone until he got to where she was and picked her up.
As a true friend, Lance wanted Sara to feel safe until he arrived. He was glad she called him because he was often worried about her getting off work late at night.
Lance even made sure to help her get towing service at daybreak so that a local shop could fix her car.
Sara was always a popular person, and many people liked her. Still, when she desperately needed help, Lance was the only person she felt comfortable enough to call to help her out.
Difference #5. On Depth of Relationship
Acquaintances can be formed overnight, but not friendships.
With acquaintances, encounters are usually void of mutual affection and can be meaningless in a person’s life. For instance, Joy, a journalist, went to a national journalism conference in Atlanta in the fall. The conference lasted for 4 days and 3 nights.
While there, she met some great people, and they immediately connected. Those people went to lunch and dinner with her, and they even sat beside each other during the conference sessions.
However, after the conference ended, many of them exchanged contact information, but it’s six months later, and none of them have kept in touch with her. And Joy doesn’t have a burning desire to call them either.
It felt like friendship when the group was all together, but the relationship couldn’t stand the test of time amid the busyness of life. In reality, the connections were shallow. Joy barely remembers their names or the companies they worked for.
Final Thoughts on Acquaintance VS Friend
If you are a person who makes acquaintances reasonably fast, it is a good thing. Because it shows that you are a very likable person overall. For an acquaintance to grow into a friend, it takes time.
Then when you become a friend, there are levels to every friendship. It’s like planting a seed in the ground, and as you get to know one another, you build a bond like the seed taking root. Furthermore, you know you have made a solid friend when you see the plant break ground and blossom into something beautiful as it grows.
True friendship should be cherished. There are 7.88 billion people on the planet and yet most people only have a handful of good friends throughout their lifetime.