13th July, 2020

Debate of the Week

As a part of our Personal Development and Life Chances curriculum, the school is moving the debate topics which would normally presented in assemblies to a discussion group which can be used at home. Spend some time as a family debating the issue below.

Is friendship our most basic human need?

Friends have survived three long months of separation under strict lockdown rules. Now we can meet again, will we appreciate our friendships more?

All over the world, if lockdown has taught us anything, it is how much we need friendship.
Life under quarantine has been about maintaining physiological needs of food and shelter, at the expense of our social need for a close circle of friends.

Social scientists take this very seriously. “Your wellbeing, happiness, your physical and mental health, even your risk of dying are all affected by the number of close friends that you have,” says evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar.

Dunbar suggests we need between three and five close friends. But what makes the perfect friendship? A major study at Cardiff University found the most important characteristic is a good sense of humour.

Laughter has always been an essential part of social bonding, but it’s not the full story. Aristotle said the purest friend is one who values you for who you are, and not what you can do for them.

Ever since, humans have distinguished between true and fake friends. We’re suspicious of ulterior motives and feel uncomfortable that friendship may have a purpose, beyond the pleasure of each other’s company. We have developed a sophisticated and ever-changing language to describe the complexity of friendship, from bromance to frenemies and the friendzone.

But some say we should be more honest about our basic need for friendship. Western culture celebrates the individual, but we can only achieve so much on our own. Working together towards shared goals not only helps us do more, but also makes for deeper and more meaningful relationships.

Dunbar’s research into friendship reveals it is not just shared goals and values that bind us together. Touch and face-to-face contact releases pleasure hormones in a way that interactions on social media cannot replicate. And without renewing these interactions, he warns that these special bonds slowly begin to decay. Which makes it all the more important for us to enjoy our rediscovered freedom and meet up with our friends as soon as possible.

Is friendship our most basic human need?


No. Friendship is obviously not a basic human need like food and water. Throughout history, many spiritual people have actively chosen solitude and found a deeper sense of belonging away from human contact. Many others have no friends at all, and are perfectly happy with family and colleagues at work. 
Yes. Friendship is fundamental. We need friends to make us laugh when we feel low, talk through our problems when we are confused, and to give us a sense of social belonging and meaning. Without friendship, loneliness can seriously affect our health. With friends, we live longer, healthier and happier lives.