Who Chooses Our Friends? Genetics, Biology or our Communication Charm?

Do you ever wonder how your friend knows what you are thinking? Or maybe why they laugh at the same jokes or cry at the same movies?  And maybe why they even end up looking just like you? If you are a Communication major, the answer is simple: communication.  The more we communicate, the more similar we become and the better we can predict a friend’s response to a stupid joke or an animated movie.

Well, maybe we have had it wrong this whole time. According to this recent article, friends actually have similar genetic make ups.  That’s right, “Your friends don’t just resemble you superficially, they resemble you genetically,” said Nicholas A. Christakis, a physician and social scientist at Yale University and a co-author of the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

If this is true, then genetics becomes “a subtle breeze in the background” as we go through Welcome Week, Youth Group, and even Facebook, choosing who we will call friend and who will never be more than a pleasant acquaintance.

To make matters even more interesting, another study has found that we choose friends who have very different immune systems. Friends tend to compliment each other’s systems. What this means is that hanging out with your friend has certain immunological advantages. “If you are immune to pathogen “X,” and your friend is immune to pathogen “Y,” neither of you can catch either the “X” or “Y” disease from the other.”

While it is comforting that hanging out with friends is both safe and somewhat genetically awkward, it does beg the question–how important is communication when it comes to establishing friendships? Are friends really about sharing secrets and supporting us through thick and thin? Or are they more about keeping our genetic makeup secure as we venture out into those social unknowns? So next time you hit it off with someone who seems like he or she could be friendship material, think about the enormous genetic and biological implications that lie behind your next move.