Support comes in many forms. When a friend grieves, we display compassion. When someone we love faces a financial crisis, we offer aid. When someone is at the crossroads of a difficult life decision, we give them advice.
Even seemingly inconsequential things like inviting our introvert friends out for drinks (even though we know they’ll decline) let them know we’re thinking about them and can go a long way towards establishing healthy relationships.
UPenn Medical School’s website defines the four types of social support as follows:
When it comes to those of our friends who take entrepreneurial risks, this is often where our support ends. I am guilty of this. For example, a friend of mine has been a struggling musician for years and yet I never bought his album or shared his content. Instead I downloaded songs by Radiohead, The Black Keys, or The Weeknd and shared Beyoncé memes—people whom I have never met, never spoken to, and have no emotional investment in.
It makes perfectly logical sense why we do this. If I’m listening to music, I want to be listening to the best music. If I’m going to an art expo, I want to see the best art. Fame, celebrity, and widespread critical acclaim are rare. So naturally if we have friends who are putting their talent out there, it is highly likely that they will not be Beyoncé or Van Gogh. However, the support of friends and family in their endeavors can mean the world to people.
In a utilitarian sense, the support we give to our friends will have a far larger impact than support we give to recognizable celebrities.
Now I’m not saying that celebrities are automatons devoid of emotion, but at the end of the day, that 2,500,001st album sale probably isn’t putting an ear-to-ear smile on their face. That 1st, 10th, or 100th that your friend gets...is.
Lately, I’ve been trying to improve on this in my own life. I have another friend who recently became a YouTube gamer. I did not write this person off due to their lack of fame, or procrastinate my support until they achieved celebrity status—which I likely would have done several years ago. Instead, I watch their videos, like and share their content, and when ads appear prior to their videos I watch them, because I know this generates increased advertising revenue for her.
It is not headline news to state that priorities are a work in progress and that we develop and hone them over time. I have decided to make the entrepreneurial endeavors of those closest to me a higher priority than the celebrities I follow. This is what UPenn describes as instrumental support, and I’ve added it to my friendship arsenal.
Justin Barnard is a graduate student at the State University of New York at Fredonia. He is studying for a Master of Arts in English as well as a Certificate of Advanced Study in Professional Writing. Justin has been published in The Times Union, The Daily Gazette, The Journal of Critical Thinking, and recently presented research at the What is Life? Conference held at the University of Oregon at Portland. Find him on Twitter @JustinBWrites.