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Friendfluence
Cover of Friendfluence
Friendfluence
The Surprising Ways Friends Make Us Who We Are
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Discover the unexpected ways friends influence our personalities, choices, emotions, and even physical health in this fun and compelling examination of friendship, based on the latest scientific research and ever-relatable anecdotes.

Why is dinner with friends often more laughter filled and less fraught than a meal with family? Although some say it's because we choose our friends, it's also because we expect less of them than we do of relatives. While we're busy scrutinizing our romantic relationships and family dramas, our friends are quietly but strongly influencing everything from the articles we read to our weight fluctuations, from our sex lives to our overall happiness levels.

Evolutionary psychologists have long theorized that friendship has roots in our early dependence on others for survival. These days, we still cherish friends but tend to undervalue their role in our lives. However, the skills one needs to make good friends are among the very skills that lead to success in life, and scientific research has recently exploded with insights about the meaningful and enduring ways friendships influence us. With people marrying later--and often not at all--and more families having just one child, these relationships may be gaining in importance. The evidence even suggests that at times friends have a greater hand in our development and well-being than do our romantic partners and relatives.

Friends see each other through the process of growing up, shape each other's interests and outlooks, and, painful though it may be, expose each other's rough edges. Childhood and adolescence, in particular, are marked by the need to create distance between oneself and one's parents while forging a unique identity within a group of peers, but friends continue to influence us, in ways big and small, straight through old age.

Perpetually busy parents who turn to friends--for intellectual stimulation, emotional support, and a good dose of merriment--find a perfect outlet to relieve the pressures of raising children. In the office setting, talking to a friend for just a few minutes can temporarily boost one's memory. While we romanticize the idea of the lone genius, friendship often spurs creativity in the arts and sciences. And in recent studies, having close friends was found to reduce a person's risk of death from breast cancer and coronary disease, while having a spouse was not.

Friendfluence surveys online-only pals, friend breakups, the power of social networks, envy, peer pressure, the dark side of amicable ties, and many other varieties of friendship. Told with warmth, scientific rigor, and a dash of humor, Friendfluence not only illuminates and interprets the science but draws on clinical psychology and philosophy to help readers evaluate and navigate their own important friendships.

Discover the unexpected ways friends influence our personalities, choices, emotions, and even physical health in this fun and compelling examination of friendship, based on the latest scientific research and ever-relatable anecdotes.

Why is dinner with friends often more laughter filled and less fraught than a meal with family? Although some say it's because we choose our friends, it's also because we expect less of them than we do of relatives. While we're busy scrutinizing our romantic relationships and family dramas, our friends are quietly but strongly influencing everything from the articles we read to our weight fluctuations, from our sex lives to our overall happiness levels.

Evolutionary psychologists have long theorized that friendship has roots in our early dependence on others for survival. These days, we still cherish friends but tend to undervalue their role in our lives. However, the skills one needs to make good friends are among the very skills that lead to success in life, and scientific research has recently exploded with insights about the meaningful and enduring ways friendships influence us. With people marrying later--and often not at all--and more families having just one child, these relationships may be gaining in importance. The evidence even suggests that at times friends have a greater hand in our development and well-being than do our romantic partners and relatives.

Friends see each other through the process of growing up, shape each other's interests and outlooks, and, painful though it may be, expose each other's rough edges. Childhood and adolescence, in particular, are marked by the need to create distance between oneself and one's parents while forging a unique identity within a group of peers, but friends continue to influence us, in ways big and small, straight through old age.

Perpetually busy parents who turn to friends--for intellectual stimulation, emotional support, and a good dose of merriment--find a perfect outlet to relieve the pressures of raising children. In the office setting, talking to a friend for just a few minutes can temporarily boost one's memory. While we romanticize the idea of the lone genius, friendship often spurs creativity in the arts and sciences. And in recent studies, having close friends was found to reduce a person's risk of death from breast cancer and coronary disease, while having a spouse was not.

Friendfluence surveys online-only pals, friend breakups, the power of social networks, envy, peer pressure, the dark side of amicable ties, and many other varieties of friendship. Told with warmth, scientific rigor, and a dash of humor, Friendfluence not only illuminates and interprets the science but draws on clinical psychology and philosophy to help readers evaluate and navigate their own important friendships.

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Excerpts-
  • introduction

    introduction








    Each friend represents a world in us, a world not possibly born until they arrive.
    — anaïs nin



    When I was fifteen, my family mo v e d from North Car- olina to Michigan. The relocation was difficult for one reason above all: I had to leave behind my friends. For the first few months at my new school I was a puddle of tears as I attempted to connect to other kids but didn't feel I could truly be myself. I read and reread letters from my old friends and felt painfully excluded from their latest escapades. Then one day I saw them up in the bleachers during a pep rally: They were a boisterous group of "alternative" girls (this was the '90s) who were none- theless not too alternative, I soon learned: They were adventur- ous and artsy but still cared about getting good grades. From the first time I sat at their lunch table, my isolation began to subside. I started to feel excited about life again.
    I was sentimental to begin with, which is probably why leaving my North Carolina friends was so painful. But my experience is far from unique: Friendship is a crucial facet of life, and not just for melodramatic teenage girls.
    During the eight years I worked at Psychology Today maga-

    zine as a writer and editor, I noticed a steady increase in scien- tific findings about friendship. Study after study pointed to its surprising benefits. Who knew that friendship could be so good not only for one's mood but for one's health? Solid friendships can help you shed pounds, sleep better, stop smoking, and even survive a major illness. They can also improve memory and problem-solving abilities, break down prejudices and ethnic rivalries, motivate people to achieve career dreams, and even repair a broken heart. Yet very few of the many social science and self-help books that crossed my desk covered all of these aspects of friendship. Walk through the relationships section of any bookstore and you will be overwhelmed with titles about finding and keeping a romantic partner or parenting a child. An alien perusing this body of literature might assume that lovers and families are the only relationships we humans have.
    Of course we also have friends. We might think all of our traits and life decisions can be traced back to our genes or the influence of our parents or partners, but it has become increas- ingly clear that our peers are stealth sculptors of everything from our basic linguistic habits to our highest aspirations. And while friendships are a staple in most of our lives, very few of us are fully aware of the effect friends have on our personal growth and happiness.
    The converse holds true, too: A person without friends will become unhappy or worse. Loneliness sends the body and mind into a downward spiral. A lack of friends can be deadly.


    e volutionary psychol ogist s theoriz e that friendship has roots in our early dependence on others for survival. Hav- ing a friend help you hunt, for instance, made it more likely that you and your family—and your hunting buddy and his

    family—would have food cooking over the fire. While most of us no longer rely on friends for house building or meal gather- ing, we still have a strong need for them. Anthropologists have found compelling evidence of friendship throughout history and across cultures. Universally, we're built to care deeply about select people outside of our kin group. It's hard to construct a personal life history that doesn't include important parts for one's friends.
    Now happens to be a prime time for increasing our aware- ness of how friends affect us. Friends are...

About the Author-
  • Carlin Flora was on the staff of Psychology Today for eight years, most recently as features editor. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan and Columbia University School of Journalism and has written for Discover, Glamour, Women's Health, and Men's Health, among others. She has also appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CNN, Fox News, and 20/20. She lives in Queens, New York.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    November 5, 2012
    Psychology Today features editor 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. Her interdisciplinary discussion draws on scientific research, philosophy, and anecdotes to examine friendship across a lifespan, from playground pals to adolescent and adult relationships. She also alights on the particular struggles some—like those diagnosed with Asperger's—face when trying to make friends. 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. The book is far-reaching, and the natural consequence of such a massive scope is that some sections feel limited, and unifying themes can be hard to parse. But just as the "dance of disclosure" allows individuals to get to know one another, so too does Flora's compelling book disclose many of friendship's secrets.

  • Kirkus

    November 1, 2012
    A wide-ranging look at the many forms of friendships and how those relationships can affect our lives. There was a time when "friend" wasn't a verb, but Facebook has put an end to that, and with the number of users topping 1 billion, it's unlikely to be reversed. Facebook has also broadened the definition of a "friend" to include acquaintances, business associates, high school buddies, parents and others. Former Psychology Today features editor Flora argues that what some critics decry as a watering down of what used to be a significant relationship is actually not as simple as the "Internet is good/bad" dichotomy suggests. Drawing from interviews, academic studies and sociological research, the author explores the nature of not just online friendships, but also friendships in a variety of other contexts. How do we respond to "good friends" who withhold difficult truths to preserve the relationship? What roles do friendships fill that spouses, family and other relationships do not? Is pairing up with "bad seeds" a necessary part of a well-rounded adolescence, or should it sound alarms? Flora explores the criteria that we use to determine who our friends will be. The research is mostly intriguing, and the author cites sources from Cicero to Mark Zuckerberg, explores the friendship of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Fidel Castro, and provides anecdotes from her own experiences. "The closest of friendships contain the mysterious spark of attraction and connection as well as drama, tension, envy, sacrifice, and love," writes the author. "For some, it's the highest form of love there is." A convincing case for nurturing friendships in many of the same ways we nurture relationships with partners and other family--both online and off.

    COPYRIGHT(2012) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    August 1, 2012

    Friendship likely had its roots in our need to cooperate with others to survive, and it confers enormous benefits. With the recognition that friendship skills are needed to thrive in today's world, research on the subject has exploded. By a former features editor of Psychology Today.

    Copyright 2012 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • The Huffington Post

    "Friendfluence provides a charming and informative examination of the impact of friendship at a time in which family relations and social structures have been scrambled.....awash in arresting insights with practical implications, many of them counter-intuitive.... timely, savvy, and judicious"

  • Book Page "If you've been thining of starting a book club with your BFFs, here's your first assignment."
  • Kirkus Reviews "Intriguing...A convincing case for nurturing friendships in many of the same ways we nurture relationships with partners and other family--both online and off"
  • Publishers Weekly "[Flora's] interdisciplinary discussion draws on scientific research, philosophy, and anecdotes to examine friendship across a lifespan, from playground pals to adolescent and adult relationships....Compelling....Discloses many of friendship's secrets"
  • Gretchen Rubin, New York Times bestselling author of THE HAPPINESS PROJECT "Contemporary scientists and ancient philosophers agree: friendship is a key to happiness, and FRIENDFLUENCE is a fascinating and thought-provoking examination of the new science that explores this crucial element of our lives. FRIENDFLUENCE is so persuasive that the minute I put the book down, I made three dates to see friends."
  • James H. Fowler, co-author of CONNECTED and Professor of Medical Genetics and Political Science at the University of California, San Diego "Carlin Flora has written a delightful book on the power of friendship. Combining the latest research with engaging stories, Friendfluence shines with authenticity and is a must-read for anyone who wants to know more about our ancient human desire to connect."
  • Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D., author of Succeed and Director of the Motivation Science Center, Columbia Business School. "We tend to think of friends as relationships we simply have, when in profound ways, friends both reflect and determine who we actually are. Happiness and success begin with self-knowledge, and as Carlin Flora shows us in her compelling and delightful book Friendfluence, the key to understanding yourself may well lie in your friendships, past and present. This is a must-read for anyone looking to experience greater well-being... in other words, for everyone."
  • Dalton Conley Ph.D., author of THE PECKING ORDER and Profes "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."
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