We have certainly entered a highly digital, automated and quite virtual world where inhabitants increasingly interact with each other without really knowing each other in the physical sense. In fact, transparency, the stated goal of digitization, will be achieved in many interactions through the electronic receipts generated by them. However, the desired transparency in matters of human relations is increasingly wrapped in ambiguity, suspicion and flagrant paranoia.

Basic definitions of a ‘friend’ are available in various online dictionaries. It is said, ‘a friend is a person with whom you have a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relationships’. Another says: ‘a friend is a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal consideration’. Common factors among various definitions are ‘affection’, ‘attachment’, ‘lack of hostility’, ‘esteem or respect’, ‘patron or promoter’ and ‘membership of a group or nation’. Even virtual friends are also referred to as “a person associated with another as a contact on social media or website.”

In addition, the basic definitions of an ‘enemy’ are also available. ‘A person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something’; ‘one who is antagonistic to another, especially one who seeks to insult, bring down, or confuse an opponent’; ‘something harmful or deadly’ or ‘a military adversary’ or ‘a hostile unit or force’. So basically, friend implies a lack of hostility, while enemy implies the overwhelming presence of it.

The apparent clarity in the definitions is just an illusion in the modern world we live in where relationships are no longer unconditional or without ulterior motives. ‘Mutual affection, respect or esteem’ could now mean ‘mutual interest, business or greed’. With invisible or virtual friends, you only know the ‘interest’ to evolve from a friendship. However, even with visible or physical friends, you only know what they revealed to you, hidden or latent feelings or emotions or feelings are completely lost on you. You are no longer sure if friendship really implies a lack of hostility.

Enemies aren’t that hard to determine based on the visible actions, reactions, rants, invective, and even fisticuffs on both sides. However, the problem becomes really tricky when it comes to telling friend from foe. The ‘interest’ syndrome here too becomes indecipherable thanks to the various ‘conflicts’ involved in various ‘interests’. Mutual interest could soon degenerate into mutual mistrust as the apparent interest of one is manipulated to result in a drastic loss for the other. Hidden agenda, lobbying, selfish motives, manipulations, simple corruption, etc., are factors now common to both friendship and enmity, making your task even more difficult to adhere to or not adhere to. ‘friend’.

Let’s take a few examples to explore the dilemma a little further.

• You start an affair with someone you consider your best friend. Once the company is successful and pays dividends, his ‘friend’ is caught trying to kick him out.

• The craze to get credit for a completed task often turns friends into enemies, whether at home or in the office.

• You are in a serious personal crisis. Around you there are plenty of friends who give you advice 24 hours a day. And only later do you understand that one or more of them wanted your crisis to continue or conspired against you to solve the problem.

• Your boss seems to be nice to you by all indicators, however, by the time you leave your room, something is written to your file and you find out when it’s too late.

• A friend of yours remains your ‘friend’ as long as he continues his rants against your designated ‘enemy’; the moment rants turn to praise, your friend suddenly becomes your enemy.

• Sometimes you don’t get the expected answers from your friends for a good job and you get frustrated. Be it the virtual or the real world, here you can never be sure of anything. Perhaps your friends are acting out of simple envy and trying not to give you adequate publicity, or perhaps their apathy stems from other conflicting interests.

• Although blood or family relations are excluded from the list of ‘friends’ by some definitions, the ambiguity of ‘friend or foe’ applies equally powerfully within modern families as well.

As a way out of this dilemma, you should always trust your instincts and always analyze actions, reactions, comments or the lack thereof or any other indicator related to your friends and enemies together. Sometimes a true enemy can become your greatest benefactor. All is well as long as you are positive and hopeful. As the experts advise, always give it a second chance, friend of foe.

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