From the start, I find a number of the assumptions about this piece to be problematic and misplaced. Not only does the first visual
let us know that we will be working in hierarchical framework, which is modeled within a capitalist and colonial set of constraints and shapes of social interaction, but the first sentence,
“When you’re a kid, or in high school, or in college, you don’t really work too hard on your friend situation. Friends just kind of happen.”
assumes out of existence the thing I did most effectively and constructively growing up, which was intentionally making and nurturing deep, complex, loving relationships with my peers, a horizontal network of support that continues to care for each other today.
My dedication to the practice of being involved in serious, filling, friendships and relationships with people certainly did make college an exciting playgrounds for these practices, as the author says:
"Then in college, you’re in the perfect friend-making environment, one that hits all three ingredients sociologists consider necessary for close friendships to develop: “proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other.”
But then the author goes on to take all agency away from the college body, saying
“Maybe they’re the right friends, maybe they’re not really, but you don’t put that much thought into any of it—you’re more of a passive observer.”
I, and especially in my friendships, was anything but passive in college. The world was turning over (again), and this time we were expected to play some grown ups part in it. The ages of 18–22 were traumatic, and serious, and too often deadly for my community, and passivity, especially in relationships was not an option for well being and survival. Hierarchical models of friendship or social networks, or networks of support, become irrelevant pieces of speculative fiction once trauma, or alternative family structures, or anything the least on the margins of society becomes involved.
This becomes clear as the author goes on to explain the tiered model of friendship, relying heavily, and almost exclusively on weddings as a site to explain the different relationships,
“Tier 1 friends…who make speeches at your wedding,”
“ Tier 2 friends—your Pretty Good friends. Pretty Good friends are a much calmer situation than your brothers and sisters on Tier 1. You might be invited to their wedding, but you won’t have any responsibilities once you’re there.”
creating a framework that apparently only has space for people who maintain their relationships through marriage? Or for whom marriage is an option or desire?
My proposal would be for a change in visual metaphors, moving away from a mountain approach, and towards visualizing our relationships and friendships as a constellation, which flattens the framework and allows us to focus on the beautiful connections, shapes, and strength provided us by our social networks.