No doubt, we’ve entered into a highly digital, automated and a rather virtual world where the inhabitants are increasingly interacting with each other without actually knowing each other in the physical sense. Transparency, the avowed goal of digitization, will indeed be achieved in a whole lot of interactions though the electronic slips generated thereof. However, the desired transparency in terms of human relations is getting more and more shrouded in ambiguity, suspicion and blatant paranoia.
Basic definitions of a ‘friend’ are available on various dictionaries online. One says, ‘a friend is a person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically one exclusive of sexual or family relations’. Another says, ‘a friend is a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard’. The common factors among various definitions are ‘affection’, ‘attachment’, ‘lack of hostility’, ‘esteem or regard’, ‘patron or promoter’ and ‘belonging to a group or nation’. Even virtual friends are also mentioned as ‘a person associated with another as a contact on social media or website’.
Likewise, basic definitions of an ‘enemy’ are also available. ‘A person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something’; ‘one that is antagonistic to another, especially, one seeking to injure, overthrow or confound an opponent’; ‘something harmful or deadly’ or ‘a military adversary’ or ‘a hostile unit or force’. So basically friend implies lack of hostility while enemy implies its overpowering presence.
The apparent clarity in the definitions is only an illusion in the modern world we live in where relationships have ceased to be unconditional or without ulterior motives. ‘Mutual affection or regard or esteem’ could now actually mean ‘mutual interest or business or greed’. With invisible or virtual friends you know only of the ‘interest’ to evolve out a friendship. However, even with visible or physical friends you know only that much revealed by them to you, the hidden or dormant feelings or stirrings or sentiments are totally lost on you. You are no longer sure if friendship really implies a lack of hostility.
Enemies are not so hard to determine as per the actions, reactions, diatribes, invectives and even fisticuffs visible on both sides. However, the problem becomes really complicated when it comes to differentiate a friend from an enemy. The ‘interest’ syndrome here too goes undecipherable thanks to the various ‘conflicts’ involved in various ‘interests’. Mutual interest could soon degenerate into mutual distrust as one’s apparent interest is hereby manipulated to result into a drastic loss to the other. Hidden agenda, lobbying, selfish motives, manipulations, plain corruption and so on are factors now common to both friendship and enmity making your task all the more uphill to stick or not to stick to a ‘friend’.
Let us take few examples to explore the dilemma a bit further.
• You start a venture with one you consider your best friend. Once the venture is successful and it pays up dividends your ‘friend’ is discovered trying to throw you out.
• The craze for credit-grabbing for a task completed often makes enemies of friends, be it on the home front or in offices.
• You are in a serious personal crisis. Friends abound around you giving you advice round the clock. And you understand only later that one or more of them wanted your crisis to continue or they conspired against you solving the problem.
• Your boss seems to be a benevolent one to you by all indicators, however, the moment you walk out of his/her room something gets written on file against you, and you come to know of it when it’s already too late.
• A friend of yours remains your ‘friend’ as long as s/he continues with his/her rants against your designated ‘enemy’; the moment the rants become praises your friend suddenly becomes your enemy.
• Sometimes you don’t get the expected responses from friends for a good job done and you get frustrated. Let it be the virtual or the real world, here you can never be sure of anything. Maybe, your friends are acting out of plain envy and they are trying not to give you the deserving publicity or maybe their apathy is due to some other conflicting interests.
• Although blood or family relations are excluded from the ‘friend’ list by some definitions the ambiguity of ‘friend or foe’ applies equally powerfully within modern families too.
As a way out of this dilemma you must always trust your gut feelings, and always analyze actions, reactions, comments or the lack of it or any other indicator concerning your friends and enemies together. Sometimes a veritable enemy could turn out to be your biggest benefactor. All is well as long as you are positive and hopeful. As experts advise you, give a second chance always, friend of foe.