“Friendfluence”: Carlin Flora on the Impact of Friends on Our Lives

In our changing social world of flexible networks, shifting families and blurred boundaries, many of us sense that friends and friendships have increased in importance, but we can’t say why. In Friendfluence, Carlin Flora tells us precisely why in her lively account of both the science and poetry of friendship. Worthy reading for anyone who is not a hermit in the woods–or, perhaps, especially by the friendless. Dalton Conley, sociologist

Journalist Carlin Flora has a brand new book on friendship. As described by the publisher, Friendfluence: The Surprising Way Friends Make Us Who We Are examines “the unexpected ways friends influence our personalities, choices, emotions, and even physical health.” In short, friends are friendfluential.

Publishers Weekly explains further:

…Flora coined the term ‘friendfluence’ to suggest that friends provide us with more than just social recreation; with successful friendship comes a range of physical, emotional, and professional benefits…Flora shows that friendships are often formed through unconscious strategies (such as the evolutionary impulse to cooperate), and tend to bind individuals together in ways that are in some sense more resilient than marital or familial ties. Yet friendfluence is not without its darker counterpart, and Flora does not shy away from issues like teasing, lying, and betrayal, topics that—perhaps tellingly—segue into a discussion of friendship in the age of Facebook…

In the following book trailer, we’re introduced to three sets of friends. Included are at least a couple recognizable names—e.g., Daniel Smith (author of Monkey Mind), and Nate Silver (author of The Signal and the Noise):

Previous Writing By Flora on Friendship 

Flora’s post of last fall called “God’s Consolation Prize” (in her blog Under a Friendly Spell) is titled after this saying: Friends are God’s consolation prize for the family he gave you. Some of her points about families, friends, and “families of friends”:

  • While some people idealize their family of origin and try to recreate this in their friendships, others want in their friends anything but what they had in their families.
  • Whereas family members don’t in fact always share genes—take the issue of adoption, for example—some friends actually may! (according to research by James Fowler and Nicholas Christakis).
  • Peter Nardi and other social scientists have found that gays and lesbians often have closer friendships, and “these friends perform many different roles not traditionally ascribed to them.”
  • “We might assume that losing a family member is harder on someone than losing a friend. But sometimes it’s not, though good luck trying to get reduced air fare to go to a friend’s funeral.”
  • “Thinking about these distinctions might get us into an ‘either/or’ mindset when it comes to friends and family. But the strongest friends are often integrated into our families (whether of origin or of procreation) and the strongest families allow for individual members to cultivate friendships.”

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