Yesterday at yoga class the teacher played a soundtrack full of songs I didn’t know. But my friend, who has much more sophisticated music tastes than I, told me afterwards that it was a fabulous playlist. Apparently our teacher had us downward dogging to a hidden track on an indie album that, again, I’d never heard of.
“I love that song! She’s my best friend and she doesn’t even know it,” my friend said.
When someone shares my favorite book (The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien) I think it means we are friendship soul mates. By this logic my two closest pals should be Amanda Peet and Matt’s ex-girlfriend.
Back in the early days of this blog’s life, a reader commented about her “major BFF chemistry” with her new hairstylist. The clincher? The same cult film changed both of their lives. Reader wrote, “I have yet to find another female—or person, really—whose approach to life was transformed by Hedwig and the Angry Inch, a punk-rock musical about a cheeky transsexual German immigrant.” That certainly does sound like a special bond.
It’s fascinating how we put such weight into arbitrary similarities. Although, really, they aren’t entirely arbitrary. If I met someone who loves Glee, I wouldn’t think it meant we were destined for BFFness. Everyone loves Glee. But of all the books in the world, for someone else to choose The Things They Carried as their single most favorite? The only reasonable explanation is that we must think alike, share values and thus, of course, be best friends.
Authors Ori and Rom Brafman write about “the seductive power of similarity” in their book Click. “When we discover a shared similarity with someone we’ve just met—and…it doesn’t matter in which areas the similarity occurs—we’re more likely to perceive the person as part of what psychologists call an in-group.” They go on to explain that we think of in-group members as more attractive and better people.
The authors say that it doesn’t matter what people have in common. “Sharing a strong dislike of fast food, for example, was just as powerful a predictor of attraction as favoring the same political party.”
Is that really surprising? Sure, aversion to McDonalds tells you less about a person’s character than political affiliation does, but the chances of someone sharing your political party are pretty high. If I met someone who shared my political views (and almost everyone I meet in Chicago does) I wouldn’t assume we could be friends based on that alone. But if I met someone who hated mint and strawberries? That’d be too unusual. I’d have to befriend her.
I’m guessing my friend was right. I bet she and the yoga teacher—with their way-too-cool-for-me indie music tastes—would hit it off.
Do you think you can pinpoint a potential friend based on random shared tastes? Have you ever had that “we’re meant to be” moment, in which someone is as passionate about an obscure obsession as you are? Or is this an entirely silly notion perpetuated by romantic comedies and the like?