Judge John Hodgman Episode 181: Amicus Grief

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Will brings the case against his friend Moby. Moby has constructed a "friendship and acquaintance theory" that helps her navigate the relationships in her life. She's entirely upfront about which people in her life are acquaintances, and which are friends. She says it helps her maintain better relationships. Will thinks Moby has gone overboard with the theory, and it's alienating her from other people. Who's right? Who's wrong?

Thanks to Christian Philippe Roulleau for suggesting this week's case name! To suggest a title for a future episode, like Judge John Hodgman on Facebook. We regularly put a call for submissions.

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EVIDENCE

Submitted by Moby

Right click here to download Moby's "Friendship-Acquaintance 6 Stage Theory"

Moby's Friendship Quiz

Comments

Mentioned on Australian TV!

Mobi and her theory was recently covered, with mention of the JJHo podcast, in a story on the Australian Broadcasting Corporations national flagship tv show: http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2015/s4341447.htm

Mentioned on Australian TV!

Mobi and her theory was recently covered, with mention of the JJHo podcast, in a story on the Australian Broadcasting Corporations national flagship tv show: http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2015/s4341447.htm

Excellent ep.

This was a really fascinating episode and a great discussion.

I admire Moby's attempts to combat the superficiality fuelling many friendships these days, and her desire to challenge the idea that being a friend in name only is somehow better than being an acquaintance. In these days of Twitter "friendship," it's nice to see people challenging the superficial replacing in-depth.

Where the theory becomes problematic is in its specificity. What it all boils down to is effort. Her scale is simply a measure of effort people put into seeing/connecting with her. If you like her but put no effort into knowing her better, you are a low-level acquaintance. If you put in some effort, or by repeated group contact begin to know/understand her, you are a higher-level acquaintance. If you are genuinely interested and make efforts to connect further, you become her friend. This is generally how people scale their closeness with each other; they just don't label it or be frank about it.

It seems like a tough and stringent scale because it's so clearly laid out (which helps the argument that she might benefit from keeping the specificity to herself and just explaining she values connections based on mutual effort). I don't think it's very hard for someone to fly up the ranks, which is why she can still find herself in situations where a person becomes a friend and then hurts her. That her "friends" remain such a small number speaks to how little effort people want to put into connections these days.

What I think is very telling is the people like Will who take issue with how Moby has labelled them, but seem to have put no effort into becoming what Moby considers a friend. To be level 3, Will just needs to have quality talks and make plans to see each other. He'd be a friend if those efforts became regular. Being a level 2.8 (I believe?) speaks to what level of connection he's interested in more than how stringent her theory is.

That said, what I think Moby's levels truly miss is the fact that one can sometimes maintain depth without as much interaction and effort. There is no room for someone to bond with Moby and continue to be bonded if situations change but caring does not. There are people who cut off the depth of friendship, and then there are those who maintain it as best they can when situations change. Her theory is all about working up to a close friendship, but not about the struggles to maintain it over long periods. Some closeness might diminish, but there are friendships that do, sometimes, stay deep even when contact becomes fleeting or circumstances change.

I can't feel bad for people who want to be labelled Moby's friends but won't put the effort to go for a coffee, but I do feel bad for people who might bond with Moby and want to stay close, but have to balance that with the curveballs of life.

Sad

This episode made me extremely sad. Moby has obviously been hurt, badly, as we all have, and is trying to devise something to prevent ever being hurt again. Unfortunately, it can't be done. i remember in my twenties, after losing my grandfather, I tried desperately to come up with a system of "pre grief" or "pre mourning" so that i would never feel the agony and heartbreak of losing someone. Surprise surprise, it didn't work.

Moby wants to assign scientific, static numbers to something that ebbs and flows and changes over a lifetime of knowing someone and frankly, for someone who wants to avoid being hurt, has no problem at all hurting someone by telling them "you're not my friend" or "you're not able to be called a friend".

She just seemed like a sad, angry, hurt person who had very little sense of humor or willing to see the insanity in her own theories.

Types of friends

Girlfriends and boyfriends dump each other - there's usually an abrupt end. When it comes to friends though, it's up to the dumpee to realize he/she's been unfriended. It’s often more hurtful for a friend to deliberately fade away without explanation, but it seems that’s the norm.
We definitely need a new way to talk about types of friends. I don't see it as a bottom to top scale from acquaintance to friend. It's more like an overlapping mosaic of friend types: the after-work-drink buddy, the meet-for-coffee neighbor, the old high school friend, and on and on. There's this whole taxonomy of friends and acquaintances that most people understand implicitly. Things can go wrong when someone wants to change the type of friendship. For that reason I agree with Moby that we should be upfront and clear about what kind of friendship we want, even at the risk of sounding a bit odd. That way everyone knows where they stand. People generally appreciate a friend/acquaintance who is open and honest with them about their relationship.

Subjective catagorization

Listening to this episode made me think that she should befriend the guy who was in an episode years ago- I can't remember the name but he was the one who had a top 100 horror movies list that was based on subjective data.

Types of friends

Girlfriends and boyfriends dump each other - there's usually an abrupt end. When it comes to friends though, it's up to the dumpee to realize he/she's been unfriended. It’s often more hurtful for a friend to deliberately fade away without explanation, but it seems that’s the norm.
We definitely need a new way to talk about types of friends. I don't see it as a bottom to top scale from acquaintance to friend. It's more like an overlapping mosaic of friend types: the after-work-drink buddy, the meet-for-coffee neighbor, the old high school friend, and on and on. There's this whole taxonomy of friends and acquaintances that most people understand implicitly. Things can go wrong when someone wants to change the type of friendship. For that reason I agree with Moby that we should be upfront and clear about what kind of friendship we want, even at the risk of sounding a bit odd. That way everyone knows where they stand. People generally appreciate a friend/acquaintance who is open and honest with them about their relationship.

this is mental software for testing friendships

everyone runs some version of this software in their own mind. Moby has simply spent a lot of time tweaking her code and has now open sourced it for us all.having said that this is an internal process and in some social interaction should probably stay internal. Also I love it.

All Moby really did with her

All Moby really did with her theory is take what normal people call "Acquaintance" and call it "Pre-acquaintance", take what normal people call "friend" and call it "acquaintance", and take what normal people call "best friend" and call it "friend". Just accept society's names for things. Making up your own convention where everyone is a step lower than normal is just going to make people dislike you for no reason.

Mobystown

In the letter from AS3 ("Subject Y"), the designation "Mobystown in Guiana" is a reference to Jim Jones's "People's Temple" and Jonestown. It is, if anything, even more over-the-top than the invocation of zombie apocalypse that ends the deposition.

Hodgkin?

Hodgkin?

Seriously, guys?

Judge John Hodgkin?

More common than you can imagine

After three years of living in Australia, coming from South America, being part of a ethnic minority, I can tell you that this behavior is more common than rare.
Alienating and judging people ARE INDEED part of the Australian "culture".
Good luck in life Moby.

Moby is possibly a genius

I'm sure it's subjective, but I was personally affected by Moby's story and her "Theory." I have had many similar experiences to her, and I may adopt a slightly less strict version of this. I think a lot of people could identify with her, because it is merely a way to work on a friendship the same way married couples work on their relationship using books and counseling.
-DS

Moby's list makes her seem

Moby's list makes her seem like someone who loves to classify things and has trouble reading social cues.

I want to be Moby's friend

On hearing the presentation of the case, I was sure that the only response was to crush Moby. After hearing the case, I think it would be an honor to be an AL anything with Moby, and wonderful to be her FRIEND. A bit far for the weekly coffee, but think about it.

I actually felt sad for her, because she really does value friendship and has been hurt by those who don't.

Go Moby!

I thought this was a great

I thought this was a great episode, showcasing the best of Judge Hodgman. Its easy to relate to Moby, even though her methods are strange. I enjoyed the debate.

I relate to Moby

Moby put into words a lot of things I've wanted to say for a long time. I think I've been most hurt by my own incorrect perception of how close I was with some people. And hearing her rail about it so emotionally was really nice.

This was the most affecting,

This was the most affecting, intelligent episode of JJHO I've heard. Very compelling, thought-provoking and intelligent explorations of friendship.

Moby's theory is wack!

Moby's theory doesn't work when it's shared out loud. If you have advanced degrees in psychology and human behavior, you should probably be able to pick up on if someone really wants to be your friend. Of course people will say "yes" if you ask them - that's manners. Only a monster says "no". We all do have real differences between friends and acquaintances, but telling someone is just wrong! What's next? We'll tell grandma her xmas presents are stupid and that she smells bad? Tell ugly people on the street, "you're ugly!"? Sure, you have the right to do it and it may even be true, but don't be that guy. Also, Moby, don't be so scared to be hurt. It's part of life.