The Proximity Effect

It’s funny how much of childhood is about proximity. Like who your best friend is directly correlated to how close your houses are; who you sit next to in music is all about how close your names are in the alphabet. Such a game of chance… Allie and I stayed friends until she moved last year, but there was always something just a little bit humiliating about it, like we were two leftover heels of bread and together we made a dry sandwich.

In Jenny Han’s Chapter 8 of her book “To All the Boys I’ve Love Before” the main character, Lara Jean, talks about the formation and duration of friendships. Lara Jean talks about how when one is a child the friends you make and keep are based on proximity, in other words the people that you are with often. Even though I agree that this is true I also believe that this is not exclusive to childhood. I think that proximity is directly correlated to friendship duration in adulthood as well.

Think about your friendships or even past romantic relationships, what brought you together? For most people the top answers are: school, lived near each other, or some common activity. Being in close proximity with people allows you to get to know them and find common factors that make them more appealing. Psychologists: Frank w. Schneider, Jamie A. Gruman,

Book Cover of Frank w. Schneider, Jamie A. Gruman, and Larry M. Coults book “Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems”.

and Larry M. Coults call this the proximity effect in their book “Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems“. They describe the proximity effect as the idea that psychological and physical nearness increases interpersonal liking between individuals. The book later discusses the applications of the proximity effect, the psychologists write that by incorporating spaces into ones routine that bring us in contact with a lot of people the frequency of your interactions increases and so does the probability of friendship formation. They then define this as using the power of situation because by manipulating the locations one frequents you can enjoy the benefits of situational influence.

Example of how proximity causes people to get to know each other and find mutual likings that brings them closer together.

This makes one think about the nature of your own relationships and how proximity has affected them. For example, in Han’s book Lara Jean talks about how proximity formed her friendship and the lack of it caused it to dissolve. Another relevant example is me, during my freshman year at college I have lost and made friendships. I have lost friendships from back home that I attribute to the lack of proximity. People I used to see everyday I don’t anymore. Even people that I took classes with and was friends with first semester, when second semester came and we no longer shared classes our contact slowly decreased. However, I believe that these friendships are salvageable as long as the individuals regain proximity. For example, when I went back home during Winter Break I rekindled a lot of the friendships I thought I had lost because we were able to physically come in contact with each other. For these reasons, I am excited and nervous to go back home. I fear that the relationships I have built this year will not hold over the summer; but I also look forward to seeing all my friends and reconnecting. In conclusion, I believe that the increase of contact is what increases the likeliness of communication and therefore a relationship.