Are there girls without friends

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More and more people are using social networks to maintain relationships. "Friends" are important for social connections and your own image. But due to a lack of time and commitment, true friendship is becoming a scarce commodity for many. Can we live without friends?

From: Martin Hardung

Status: 02.08.2019

Campus Doku asks experts about the ability and possibility of friendship in today's society and asks the question of how important the relationship constellation friendship actually is. A sociologist, a linguist and a psychoanalyst look at the phenomenon of friendship from very different perspectives, which has recently been shown to be of growing interest in science too. Harvard professor Nicholas A. Christakis, who, according to Time, is one of the 100 most influential figures in the world today, goes so far as to claim that friends are "what defines us."

If friendship is in short supply, it is where people are cut off from normal social life. Be it internally or even separated by the walls of a detention center. What happens to friendship with people whom society keeps at a distance? Rainer Kramny, a former manager, looks after people who are in custody. After 12 years of voluntary work, he knows his way around this borderline area of ​​society and has an idea of ​​what friendship needs in order to grow, but also where it reaches its limits.

But not only people in the exceptional situation of a prison have a hard time with friendship. In the practice of the university professor and psychoanalyst Prof. Dr. Andreas Hamburger, many people come who struggle with relationship problems in the middle of society. Many of his clients talk to him about problems that they cannot tell a friend because they ultimately have doubts as to whether they are true friends. Indeed, in the experience of the psychoanalyst, friendship is in short supply for a growing number of people today. Not because there is a lack of contacts, t but because there is a lack of depth that makes trust possible.

Friendship is in short supply - in the middle of society

The sociologist Dr. Ursula Nötzold, who teaches at Landshut University and has been researching the subject of friendship for decades, confirms the thesis that a possible lack of friendship today is usually not based on a lack of contacts. Rather, it is about too many contacts and the associated excessive demands of dealing with them adequately. - However, she also sees a positive trend. The idea of ​​friendship is changing, away from an inflated ideal of friendship towards friendships that are suitable for everyday life. - They can also arise from interest groups, namely where people meet in everyday life, be it in the world of work or in their free time. Alliances of convenience that can become friendships without setting the bar too high at first. - According to Ursula Nötzold, this is an option especially for people who find that friendship has become a scarce commodity in mid-life.

For example, the doctor Rene Vogelsang: Up until 15 years ago he had worked as a surgeon in a clinic near Munich. Then he made a cut, moved to the country and took over a practice in Holledau. Since then he has been his own boss, has more options in his job and can take more time for his patients. But that also had its price. Because by moving to a completely new environment, he lost sight of old friends and found it difficult to find new ones. Although the country doctor is popular and has many contacts, he has not been able to close the gap left by the loss of two deceased friends with new friendships. Practice, home visits, office work, there are often very succinct reasons that endanger friendship or prevent it from developing. Rene Vogelsang is like many in mid-life who are successful at work, but who have little time and energy for other things besides their job and family in the "rush hour of life". And friendship takes time.

Concept of friendship in transition

Since Rene Vogelsang's new start in the country, teamwork has been a top priority, first with his wife and then with the growing children. Everyone pulls the same rope to get something done together. A friendly relationship among family members, researchers have found, can be observed particularly in blended families. Because friendly relationships usually work better there than sticking to role models. This also confirms Ursula Nötzold's thesis that friendship is increasingly becoming the most appropriate form / the optimal form of relationship in individualistic society.

In the research approach of the sociologist Dr. Nötzold always stands for friendship in relation to the social background. Today's changed pragmatic understanding of friendship is compatible with changing living conditions. But the still widespread status thinking makes friendships difficult - also for Rene Vogelsang. He is highly regarded as a doctor in the country, but his professional position is more of a barrier to new friendships and makes it difficult to feel at eye level. He now meets regularly with colleagues from the district. What started out as an alliance of convenience has since grown into friendly relationships.

The sociologist Nötzold also sees friendship as the right form of relationship for today because it corresponds to the individualistic zeitgeist. Friendship is based on voluntariness. It comes about when there is enough agreement and sympathy. And at the same time, she is also exposed to a risk due to her freedom potential. Because it can be terminated at any time.

The cult of the best friend

Standing on the sidelines is a risk that scares young people in particular. It is extremely important for young people to belong. Young people today spend more and more time outside of the family, with their peers. Thus the group becomes more and more important. And a special reference person within the group, especially in the class community.

That is part of the background to a phenomenon that media scientists call the "cult around the best friend". Studies on the behavior of girls between the ages of 12 and 16 at the University of Munich show a clear trend to stage yourself and your best friend more and more through films, photos and comments on the Internet. This is how friendship is displayed and confirmed. What was common for girls between childhood and puberty, a close connection with their best friend, has developed into a real cult with the advent of photo cell phones and booming social networks. In the virtual space, friendship is now part of the public identity. The linguist Martin Voigt is researching this cult of friendship as part of his doctoral thesis. He analyzes relationship patterns of girl friendships on the basis of texts, symbols and images. He is fascinated by the question of what has happened to friendships since social networks began. Does the nature of friendship change here when it is constantly in the spotlight? Or is that more of a hype with no impact in real life that will soon pass?

Anna and Michelle are best friends. At 13, they are the age at which many participate in the cult of the best friend. But Michelle and Anna have a friendship in which the network does not play a role, because Anna is not allowed to join Facebook. When they meet, they sometimes take photos that Michelle then sends to friends. But they don't have time to keep posting what they're up to. Because they want to have time for themselves, time to do something, for example to eat ice cream. So it still exists, old-fashioned friendship. But the friendships that are staged online are also real for the girls, says Martin Voigt. For them, the virtual world of friendship is as real as going to the classroom.


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  • Karl-Hein Renner, Astrid Schütz and others (eds.): Internet and personality. Differential psychological and diagnostic aspects of Internet use. Hofgrefe Verlag, Göttingen 2005
  • Eberhard, Hans Joachim & Krosta, Arnold (2004): Friendships in Social Change. A qualitative psychoanalytic investigation through group discussions. Wiesbade: German university publishing house
  • Jo Bausch: Prison. Ullstein publishing house. Berlin 2012