In Defense of Medium Friends

445 Words • Friendship • 05/17/2024

There are a lot of relationships that we have that don’t really have a good name for. In particular I am trying to describe the kind of person where you are beyond acquaintances but not yet close friends. Perhaps you’ll never be close friends, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t enjoy the other person’s company.

I think a good demonstration of this phenomenon is the “school friend”. It is someone that you had in your class and via proximity were able to have pleasant conversation with but that you never hung out with or tried to outside of class. There is nothing wrong with this relationship and I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this isn’t real friendship.

I think that the best term I have found for this kind of relationship is “medium friends”.

There’s a sort of a spectrum, we decided. There are close friends, who you can go to for support and who you can talk about more serious stuff with, and there are acquaintances, who are people you’re friendly with but don’t know very well. Somewhere in between are medium friends. You might play a board game together, but you probably won’t confide in them about your mental health.

I like this term because it is more abstract than “school friend” or “work friend” because those terms can also just denote how you know the person without relaying any information about the depth of the relationship. Another term I found during my research was “low-stakes friendship” as described by this Refinery29 article. I think that the label is well-meaning but I think that it just doesn’t feel super apt to me.

I think that it is important to note that medium friend is not a value judgement, but a neutral descriptor. I think that any discomfort associated with using the term is most likely some kind of internalized guilt because of the taboo of talking about relationship quality with someone. I personally don’t think that it makes sense to go around calling people medium friends to their face because of two reasons. For one, I think that this term is more about internal taxonomy so that you can name and understand the phenomenon without feeling like you’re the only person experiencing this or feeling bad for it. My second reason is simply that it doesn’t matter if a friend is shallow, medium, or deep, I think that all friendships improve your life. I don’t think that it makes sense to compare friends like that, as I argue here.

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