What’s the Difference between Friends and Acquaintances?

9 Dec

I have been having this debate in my head for quite some years now. And as I entered the middle age (of uncertainty and crisis they say) these thoughts actually started bothering me much more than it did in my younger or teen age. The question is:

Do I have a real friend?

I am sure that many of you in my age group and otherwise will have the same question despite living in the modern era of high connectivity and unlimited accessibility channels.

Has the numerous ways meeting people online and offline really resulted in making more friends or just acquaintances? To answer that question, I guess we need to go back to the definition of the term ‘friend’.

Friends vs Acquaintances vs Contacts

Going by the dictionary, a friend (/frend/) is a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations. The definition already preempts your spouse, siblings, off springs and relatives. So who is a friend then?


In my opinion a friend is someone with whom you have a relationship called friendship that is based on values such as trust, honesty, mutual respect and genuine concern for each others’ life.

Friendship is not based on how often you are in touch with each other or the frequency of your face to face meetings but how deeply you know about each other. Your true friend is probably far away but he or she has a genuine concern about your life and where and how it is heading. Friends don’t poke their noses into your day to day things but they would still understand your situation – at a broad level – without ever tracking you. Also, friends are not really concerned about what you do in your life (competition and comparison) but they would track how you do certain things (genuine concern) and how can it affect you.


Probably 99% of the people whom you and I call ‘friends’, in reality, fall into the acquaintances category.
An acquaintance is usually a neighbor, colleague or a travel mate of yours. A person becomes your acquaintance based on mutual interests, hobbies or common believes. In other words, most of the acquaintance comes to your life based on certain vested personal or business interest – that is the fact. These interests could be frequent get-togethers, dining or drinking, playing a game of mutual interest, jogging what have you. Acquaintances in other words are ‘friends of good times’ or need based friends.

Friends (and acquaintances) are categorized as contacts in your mobile phone address book. On the other hand the social networks recognize every acquaintance that you know (or even their friends – or second level friends) as a friend. I think, the technology has mismanaged the situation as they might have derived a lot of terminologies from the CRM (customer relationship management) where everybody that you know is a customer, contact, business partner or prospect.

A friend in need is a friend?

Well, it depends on what is the need. If you are talking about an emergency situation where physical help is needed, probably it’s your good acquaintances and neighbors who will be there for you. But if you are talking about support in a major decision making, tackling a dilemma or valuable guidance in life – that’s when a good friend’s value comes into play.

In short, you need a lot of acquaintances and a couple good friends in life. And they cannot always replace each other.

How do you know that you have a friend or acquaintance?

I think, you can easily determine by their behavior. Friends tend to think alike – same wavelength or frequency or whatever they call it and it’s all based on the values that we talked about earlier. Acquaintances on the other hand seek favors from you all the time – sometimes even monetary favors. They are happy with you as long as they have your support. They are definitely good people to hang out with on dates. You may note that these people are not exactly selfish people but they expect in return all that they give you.

Other difference is that a friendship usually evolves over a period of time where as acquaintances are made pretty easily based on where you are.

Over to you…

Are you with on my definition on friends and acquaintances? Do you think you have a great friend in someone? And do you believe in those additional qualifiers like ‘good friend’, ‘best friend’ etc? Let me know via your comments.

4 Responses to “What’s the Difference between Friends and Acquaintances?”

  1. Arun Basil Lal 10. Dec, 2012 at 8:27 pm #

    Hmm interesting, I don’t think this is just the case with people in your age group, I felt this right after college. There are always so called friend around me all the time, people whom I would be friend with of Facebook.

    But you never want to go to them when you feel down. Ideally I wouldn’t want any of those people to see me down and those are the times when I miss my real friends.

    I think the biggest differentiator is just what you said, those “friends of good times” and those whom you wish to be there (and often are there) during the bad times.

    And what caused this post now? Missing some real friends?

    • Ajith Prasad Edassery 13. Dec, 2012 at 3:29 pm #

      Well, I guess I am not finding people’s attitude interesting (which in turn might mean that there’s something wrong with me too lol). Somehow, I feel that there’s nothing called ‘friendship’ any more. Everyone is in his/her own selfish world.

      • Arun Basil Lal 14. Dec, 2012 at 12:16 pm #

        I did better not believe you, I would like to think of as we being born in the best of times, but hey! that might be just me not willing to accept the reality. lol

  2. Bhim 17. Mar, 2015 at 4:32 pm #

    You pretty well summed up – friends vs acquaintances. My true friends are my childhood buddys. People, I met in Bangalore while work or socially – will fall under acquaintances category since people here meet superficially:)

    To me a true definition of a friend is with whom you are emotionally connected and with whom you can share everything in this world, including your wealth – if you are wealthy:)


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