The Integers of Relationships

September 11, 2011

There’s a proverb I often think about these days.  It goes, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”  It has some corollaries that make sense:

  1. The friend of my enemy is my enemy.
  2. The friend of my friend is my friend.
  3. The enemy of my friend is my enemy.

The easiest way to remember these is to think of the rules of multiplying positive and negative integers, where positive 1 is a friend and negative 1 is an enemy:

  1. 1 x -1 = -1  (The friend of my enemy is my enemy.)
  2. 1 x 1 = 1  (The friend of my friend is my friend.)
  3. -1 x 1 = -1 (The enemy of my friend is my enemy.)

. . . which takes us back to the original proverb:

-1 x -1 = 1  (The enemy of my enemy is my friend.)

I believe these guidelines make eminent sense.  But trouble comes when Friend A’s enemy is also Friend B’s friend.  One friendship is in danger.

Nothing is more guilty of worsening these situations than the supposed “friend” networks of Facebook.

Who really is a friend?  What does that word even mean?  Can one compartmentalize his relationships and tell Friend B, “You can have Friend A’s enemy as your friend, but just don’t talk to me about it?”  If so, does that reduce the friendship with Friend B to superficiality?

Fucking math.