Sunday, July 31, 2011

How Diverse and Open-minded Are We… Really?

 This question has had itself stuck in my mind ever since a friend of mine got to witness how life is for me, on a daily basis, in Korea. Although I actually do believe that this particular friend of mine is quite open-minded, it struck me as interesting that this was his first time witnessing this. My story in Korea is no unique one- pretty much every black person I know, who teaches in Korea, experiences this. Then it struck me that perhaps he’d never been out in Korea, around a black person for any significant amount of time (10 minutes lol). It got me wondering: how many people, myself included, have this odd belief of what a diversified friend base is? You know, having friends of various demographics and beliefs. Sure, it’s nice to have like-minded, people around, but do any of us truly have friends that are that different from ourselves?

Of course, the only person I can fully analyze is me, so I decided to start my evaluation by looking at my call log. My boyfriend is whom I speak with the most- I hate talking on the phone- and after him, a lovely Korean-Canadian girl that I met out here. She shall remain nameless. ^^ I thought to myself, okay; there is someone distinctly different from myself, whom I consider to be a very close friend. Next, I looked at all my instant messaging programs; I have about 4 of them. There is where I really saw just how varied my friend base is: Korean-natives, a few white people, black people, Korean-Americans, Europeans, Island people. Although I don’t consider my Facebook pictures to be credible representations of my daily life as far as “friends” go, my messenger “statistics,” and quite a few of my pictures were actually contiguous. I don’t count people I hold laconic conversations with upon passing and never speak to again. I feel pretty good about this. It’s very important to me to be surrounded by a plethora of views and personalities. According to Chris Frith's book (Great Book or Here), because of how our brains work, no two people EVER interpret an experience in EXACTLY the same way. I’m the type of person who prefers to have various perspectives at their disposal.

Can any of you say the same? Some articles purport that we choose friends who are an extension of ourselves. Others say that we choose friends who complete us. According to an article in PNAS (PNAS), and several others, friends are chosen based on similarities to us. However, this same article also poses a new ideal- that genotype actually plays a role in the friends we choose. How interesting! Could our genetic makeup seriously predispose us to be friends (or not be friends) with certain people? I’m a neuroscience nerd, so I’ll spare you all that data haha. An even more interesting morsel for thought was an article which posited “an alliance hypothesis for friendship.” It suggests that we choose friends based on who will side with us. You can read the basics of this article here Genetic Friends, but I’d recommend further research as this particular article on the topic is a bit short.  

Anyway, I’m getting too excited over the science stuff, back to my original question: Are you truly as open-minded/diverse as you claim to be… if say, you are a white person and ALL of your true friends you hang out with are also white? …if you are a black person who has not one single Korean friend…in Korea?  Let’s take race out of the equation. If you’re beautiful, do you have any friends who you consider unattractive, that you actively hang out with? If you’re thin/fit, do you have any fat friends (yea, I said it)?

A proverb from an Aesop Fable said that a man is known by the company he keeps. If one were to view your company, would you prove to be multi-faceted? 

I highly recommend checking out Chris Frith's book, if your interested in neuroscience, without toooo much technical speak. Another great book on friendship is this one: The Meaning of Friendship

Photo from what I'm sure is a hilariously racist website (lol):