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Just as the role of friends is expanding in our culture, Friendfluence explores their powerful and often under-appreciated influence on our personalities, habits, physical health, and even our chances of success in life. In this fascinating book, packed with the latest research findings, Carlin Flora traces friendship from its evolutionary roots to its starring role in childhood and adolescence to its subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) impact on adults—both positive and negative, online and offline. Told with ...
Just as the role of friends is expanding in our culture, Friendfluence explores their powerful and often under-appreciated influence on our personalities, habits, physical health, and even our chances of success in life. In this fascinating book, packed with the latest research findings, Carlin Flora traces friendship from its evolutionary roots to its starring role in childhood and adolescence to its subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) impact on adults—both positive and negative, online and offline. Told with warmth as well as rigor, Friendfluence not only illuminates and interprets the science of friendship but will help you reflect thoughtfully on your social history and wisely navigate your present and future friendships.
“[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.”
“A seminal contribution to the literature on friendship. In this meticulously researched and eminently readable book, journalist Carlin Flora has mined the extant research on this complex topic and woven it together with real-life examples (both her own and others). In so doing, she helps explain how these relationships evolve and their impact on our day-to-day lives from childhood through adulthood.”
—Irene Levine, Ph.D., author of Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend
“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.”
—Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D., author of Succeed and Director of the Motivation Science Center, Columbia Business School
“A captivating read about an eternally fascinating subject—friendship. Flora’s easy-to-read prose blends narrative and scientific research seamlessly. You will finish the book with a better understanding of why good friends are worth keeping.”
—Jane Gradwohl Nash, Professor of Psychology and one of the “Girls From Ames”
“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 Ph.D., author of The Pecking Order and Professor of Sociology at New York University
“Friendfluence offers a penetrating look at our most taken-for-granted relationship. Carlin Flora’s observations, backed up by the latest research, will not only prompt you to dissect every key friendship you’ve had since kindergarten, but inspire you to become a better friend.”
—Sally Koslow, author of Slouching Toward Adulthood: Observations from the Not-So-Empty Nest and the novel, With Friends Like These
“I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t be who I am without my dear friends. Now Carlin Flora explains why and how friends matter so much. A fascinating read!”
—MJ Ryan, author of This Year I Will: How to Change a Habit, Keep a Resolution or Make a Dream Come True
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 not just more impor- tant than you might think; they actually are becoming more important sociologically. In his 2004 book Urban Tribes, jour- nalist Ethan Watters posed the question: “Are friends the new family?” Watters entertainingly depicted city-dwelling buddies who relied on one another throughout their twenties and even thirties, as they delayed marriage and found their vocational callings—a phenomenon of his class and age-group. While big, stable “tribes” might not characterize most Americans’ social circles, people of all ages (and from all areas of the country) are relying on friends to fulfill duties traditionally carried out by blood relatives or spouses.
The median age of first marriage is still rising: In 2010 it was 28.7 for men and 26.5 for women, up from 27.5 and 25.9 in 2006. Americans aren’t merely delaying marriage; many are divorced or widowed or are opting out completely. One hun- dred million or so Americans (that’s almost half of all adults) are not married, and a 2006 Pew Research study found that
55 percent of singles are not looking ever to get married.
College students and young adults seem to be less inclined to have steady romantic relationships and are instead “hooking up” casually with one another. It stands to reason that without
the psychological support of a serious boyfriend or girlfriend, this group is also relying on friends more than their demo- graphic equivalents have in the past.
Sociologist Eric Klinenberg points out that “more people live alone now than at any other time in history.” In cities such as Atlanta, Denver, Seattle, San Francisco, and Minneapolis, at least 40 percent of all households are made up of a single per- son. Klinenberg blows apart the stereotype of the lonely, quirky singleton by concluding that these people, whether young or elderly, socialize with friends more than do those who live with partners and families.
So, for the increasing number of people who are not living in traditional family structures, friends are often primary ties, providing close emotional support and “instrumental” help as well. It’s not necessarily an either/or proposition, where friends must replace family, however. Singles are often close to their parents, nieces and nephews, and siblings, after all. But friends, in part because they are free of the heavy weight of obliga- tion, can be even more beneficial and life-enhancing than relatives, particularly if they live near us.
It’s not just single people for whom friends matter—a lot. Friends are also important for parents and those who are mar- ried or living with a romantic partner. Time with friends is actually our most pleasant time: We are most likely to expe- rience positive feelings and least likely to experience negative ones when we are with friends compared to when we are with a spouse, child, coworker, relative, or anyone else. We’re not surprised when we hear people grumbling about how they have to attend a family holiday party, yet it would puzzle us to hear the same people complain about having to go to a celebration full of their friends.
Why do we prefer spending time with our friends over our families? Some say it is because we pick our friends (God’s con- solation prize) while we don’t pick our families. Insofar as we choose our spouses and decide to have children, we do have some say over our families. More likely, our time with our pals is more enjoyable because of our expectations. When we’re with friends, we bring sympathy and understanding and leave out some of the grievances we carry into interactions with fam- ily members. We tend to demand less from friends than we do from relatives or our romantic partners, and each friend provides us distinct benefits. For instance, one might be our confidante, another might make us laugh, while a third is our go-to person for political discussion. We don’t insist that they be everything to us; thus we are less disappointed when a friend falls short in a certain way than we are when a parent or spouse does the same.
When working parents devote every scrap of free time to their children, their friendships are the first thing to slide. We know from research (and our own intuition quickly confirms this) that expecting one’s spouse to be everything is a recipe for disaster. Leaning on friends for intellectual stimulation, emo- tional support, and even just fun activities relieves the pres- sure of the overheated nuclear family. Busy moms and dads would do well to stop considering friends to be a nonessential luxury.
Kids themselves might also be more friend centered than they were, say, fifty years ago. Back then only children made up
10 percent of American kids under the age of eighteen. The latest census reveals that the ratio of “onlies” has doubled. There are about fourteen million of them, and they are likely seeking out pals more because in-house playmates aren’t available.
In some ways we put friendship up on a pedestal. Think of all the popular movies and TV shows (such as, um, Friends) about tight clans whose members see one another through life’s awkward moments and dramatic trials alike. But if we under- stood how beneficial real friends are, I think we’d be less passive and more careful about how we treat them, even if other peo- ple, such as our partners or kids, officially occupy the primary places in our hearts.
Friendfluence, then, is the powerful and often unappreci- ated role that friends—past and present—play in determining our sense of self and the direction of our lives. In the pages ahead, you’ll learn how friends affect us during different devel- opmental phases. As children, we’re attached to our parents but preoccupied with our pals. Preschoolers who have trouble making friends tend to go on to have bad relationships with younger siblings, for instance. As middle schoolers, kids who don’t care what friends think of them do worse academically and socially in high school—and beyond. It’s not just that good friends are nice to have; the skills one needs to make good friends are the very abilities one generally needs to be success- ful in life. (“Tiger Moms” should rethink sleepover bans if they want their children to thrive in the social jungle, for which there is no adequate cramming course.)
When we are teenagers, friends co-create our fledging iden- tities. Drug use, smoking, and early sexual activity are highly influenced by peer behaviors as well as parental behaviors. The often overlooked flip side, though, is the positive influence of peer pressure. Teens who befriend academic achievers, for example, will often work to get their own grades soaring.
Adult friendships subtly steer our beliefs, our values, and even our physical and emotional health. Although resolutions
to enact new diet and exercise plans and vows to change our character are all too easy to break, if we befriend people whose philosophies and habits we admire, we naturally start adopting aspects of their personalities and lifestyles through a positive desire to be with and to be like our friends. The health-friendship connection is particularly compelling: One study of nurses with breast cancer found that women without close friends faced mortality rates that were four times as high as those nurses with at least ten friends.
The book will explore the “dark” side of friendship, too, to help you understand some of the uglier feelings that come along with amiable affection. Since friends have a hold over us, their power can damage and destroy just as it can heal and help. I’ll also tease out the conflicting findings about online friend- ship to clarify how the latest modes of electronic socializing alter our flesh-and-blood bonds.
Friendship has always been, and will always be, a cherished aspect of human life. But now, just as friendship is rising amid the rescrambling of social structures, we’re finally getting a handle on the complex ways that this relationship affects us. Learning how we can get the most out of our friendships is an important endeavor for anyone concerned about well-being, and unraveling the thick narrative strands contained within just one friendship is a fascinating exercise in its own right. The closest of friendships contain the mysterious spark of attraction and connection as well as drama, tension, envy, sacrifice, and love. For some, it’s the highest form of love there is.
Posted January 17, 2013
Carlin Flora in her new book, “Friendfluence” published by Doubleday shows us The Surprising Ways Friends Make Us Who We Are.
From the back cover: 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.
The Bible tells us that iron sharpens iron or, in other words, those that we hang out with help to sharpen us while we help to sharpen them. The choice of our friends is very important if we choose bad friends we will start to behave as they do. As human beings we need to have friends that we can share with, open up with, be ourselves with, more than family alone can provide. Ms. Flora has written a book that clearly points out the need of our friends and the enormous benefits we receive from them as well as provide in return. In eight chapters that include defining friendship, the perks of friendship, the dark side of friendship and how media affects friendship and others Ms. Flora goes into great detail about our strongest connection after our families. This is a book that you can read and put on your shelf close by as you will want to come back to it a few times for a refresher. This is a book that you should give as a gift to your friends and family, which they will thank you for, as they need their friends as well. Everyone should have this book! It is that good and that needful to have!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Providence Book Promotions. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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Posted March 5, 2013
Easy-to-read yet academic level how friends influence you
Carlin Flora has done a beautiful job in explaining the dynamics of friendship in this easy-to-read, yet academic level book. She cites lots of research material, other writers’ books as well as many real life examples to clarify the points being made. Friendship and its influence is looked at from many different ways – the childhood and adolescent friends, the perks as well as the dark side of friendship, the online friendship and what it means in relation to real-life friends.
She has done her research well, and therefore knows what she is writing about. She lifts friendship up, outside of the brackets of parental and familial relationships and the romantic ones, and shows us how they fulfill a key position in our lives. After reading this book you will be far more conscious of how friends are affecting you, which helps you appraise the friendships you have and decide how to move forward to get the most out of it, or realize the relationship has come to an end and gracefully slide out of it. You will no longer underestimate friendfluence – the influence of your friendships!
Posted February 15, 2013
Usually self-help books and psych books aren’t my thing but Friendfluence is your one stop shop for everything friends. Wanna know why you’re still hanging out with that toxic friend that seems to suck the life out of you? Or would you like to know why you still feel lonely even though you have real friends and internet friends right at your fingertips on Facebook? Carlin Flora provides insight with figures, facts, quotes and stories.
You’ll find no jargon or wordiness in Flora’s writing and while I didn’t find the things she pointed out very surprising, it did make me think about not only myself and how friends have influenced me but about my friends and what they’re contributing to me and vice versa. I even found myself reading parts to my friends and having discussions about it. There were things I agreed with and things I disagreed with but all in all I found this book to be a very sound read if you’re into understanding why we form relationships, why some stay and some fall apart and really love a book that incites discussion.
Thank you to Carlin Flora, Doubleday and Providence Book Promotions for the review copy. It in no way influenced my review.
Posted February 13, 2013
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings
A nonfiction read that is definitely out of my usual reads, but with a center on friends, I was definitely excited to read this one. I value my friends very much and just as the book states, my friends are really close to me and may even know more about me than my family and spouse. As this book centers on friends and the influence they have on our lives, I wanted to read about the good, the bad and the big deal with friendfluence.
Posted January 28, 2013
Friendfluence investigates the types of friends people have and how these friends have influenced different types of behaviors.
The novel looks at the development of friendships, male and female, over many years. From adolescence to adulthood, friends or lack
thereof can provide significant influence. The onset of social media is examined and how this “instant contact” has altered the “face to
face” friendships of the past. You may agree or disagree with the findings in the book, but I think you will find it is very captivating and
filled with *aha!* moments.
Two of the most profound ideas that she discusses is how two people destined for different things can become disastrous if they
become friends. This is highlighted in many shows such as Wicked Attraction on the ID Channel. The other is that those the student
who move constantly have a harder time retaining friends. I did find as a military brat that it was harder to keep friends because I was
constantly changing schools as were those peers of mine. I could be at a school for 6 months and then have to move to another. It did
make it harder; however I find that I developed a strength to adapt to change better than those that didn’t.
I disagree with her statement “while friendships among people of different races are statistically rare in the United States, having such
a friend lowers your levels of prejudice and even those of your friends.” As a military brat I always had interracial friends so I knew my
perception could be inaccurate. I do however have five girls ranging in age from 13 – 23 and many of their friends I have “adopted.” I
asked them this question and was told they didn’t believe this to be true. Yet, I think this shows the evolution of friends over the years.
One of my favorite comments from the book is: “If you are not willing to be bored sometimes, you can’t have friends.” I know we have
all listened to a friend drone on about something we could care less about (we have done it ourselves as well…admit it). But we do it
because the other person needs to *vent* and that’s what friends are for. We listen, we agree, we disagree, but in the end we are there
for each other.
Even with the disagreement I found the book interesting because it made me think about the friendships we had and how they have
changed over time. Ms. Flora use of surveys, studies, and interviews reinforced her points that friends influence our lives and can push
us to do better. We found it to be an intriguing dissection of something I wouldn’t normally have though about. From Michelle & Tammy The Nook Users Book Club
Posted January 23, 2013
Carlin pens "Friendfluence" in a story line that teaches us the basic social skills to interact with one another. A hard to put down book that will change your live and the way you look at things. Highly recommended and important subject for all readers.
This review is based on a complimentary copy from the author which was provided for an honest review.
Posted January 21, 2013
In lucid, compelling language, Carlin Flora offers a gently radical new way to think not just of our friends but of ourselves. In a world full of self-help books that dissect romantic relationships and nuclear families, we tend to overlook the people who may influence more
than anyone else: our peers.
From earliest childhood on, friends and playmates teach us empathy and the basic social skills needed to interact with others. The lessons we learn (or fail to learn) may have more of an impact on our future lives than what test scores we get or where we go to college. Flora also explores the way peer pressure is real--and not always bad. Did you know that kids from troubled, unstable families do fine in school--if their friends come from stable homes? Peers who exert a positive influence overpower the effect of a bad home situation. But if kids have friends who also tend to come from unstable homes, grades suffer and risk of dropping out, drug abuse, etc. increase? It doesn't end there. Throughout life, people whose friends are happier--people who set reasonable but ambitious goals and then take steps to meet them--will be happier themselves, while those whose friends are negative and self-defeating will absorb some of those tendencies, even when they think they aren't. If your friends gain weight, you are likely to. If your friends lose weight, you are likely to. Friendships are also great test cases for dealing with interpersonal conflict, so those with more healthy friendships will tend to have healthier romantic relationships. Moreover, Flora shows us that couples who have more couple friends are happier than those who don't.
All in all, this is a very engaging, hard-to-put down book that develops a very powerful idea. It will change the way you think of your life--and might make you both happier, and more empathetic and engaged with others.