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# What did Bill and Melinda Gates tell a room full of teenagers from around the world?

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Gates Foundation

## If you had 75 minutes to talk to a room full of super smart teenagers, what would you say?

The next generation is inheriting quite a few problems on ol' planet Earth. What advice do you have for them as they grow up and lead our future?

Would you try to inspire them? Encourage them? Lecture them?

## This year's "annual letter" from Bill and Melinda Gates was written specifically for the next generation.

After releasing their highly anticipated annual letter, Bill and Melinda Gates decided to throw an event for the people they wrote it for: teenagers.

Moderated by author and awesome Internet person John Green in YouTube's New York City studios, Bill and Melinda fielded real questions submitted by a group of about 50 teens from all over the world.

As the 75-minute conversation continued, the powerful couple also used the time to go beyond the main themes of time and energy (please be sure to read about them!) to drop some really important life lessons and big ideas to consider.

Here are four of 'em.

## 1. When you're solving a big problem, it might be helpful to turn it into an actual problem — a math problem!

In their annual letter, Bill honed in on energy supply being one of the most imperative problems to solve for our future.

But figuring out a true solution is super hard and super scary. So Bill broke down how we can work toward a solution with a straightforward math equation.

Image via Bill and Melinda Gates' 2016 annual letter, used with permission.

Let's work backward. What's causing all the CO2, which is represented as the result of this math problem? It's a combination of people (P), services they use (S), the energy those services need (E), and the carbon dioxide produced by that energy (C).

When it's broken down like this, the priorities not only become clear but sort of comforting in their simplicity. Bill goes into more of the nuances in both the letter and a video explainer, but this kind of problem solving exercise can be applied to many problems.

This solid formula serves as a blueprint to follow and provides some solid guidance on how to achieve a solution, while leaving the bulk of the creative journey to those taking on the challenge.

"Don't forget to be awesome." — John Green

## 2. The world is not always what it appears to be.

Melinda shared a personal story of seeing pictures of Africa as a child that portrayed the whole place as just one giant dustbowl.

"It's anything but," she said. "It's this thriving economy."

In Ethiopia, which is Africa's second largest country, they talked about getting to know a "health army of women" who are actively creating better access to health care by setting up small-yet-mighty clinics that especially cater to maternal health.

It's a portrait of an African country that you don't see often in the media — empowered, successful, thriving. We must continue to challenge the stereotypes of developing countries to lift each other up and truly collaborate the world over. Solutions are happening everywhere.

"When we share our story, we share our humanity. And when we share our humanity, that's when we connect." — Melinda Gates.

## 3. Diversity in our leadership matters.

At one point during the conversation, Melinda put a quote from the annual letter up on the screen: “Most girls don’t think they’ll be stuck with the same rules that kept their grandmothers in the home … if you think that, you’re wrong.”

What does this mean? She explained that a lot of girls grow up only to repeat what they tried to fight against in their youth simply because they don't know what a different future looks like. The more women — and diverse women across cultures — achieve leadership roles, the more girls can see and choose a future they feel empowered to pursue.

That is the reason we need more diversity overall in our leadership. It's so people can see what real success looks like — and then make their own paths.

"This is a great time to be alive and we ought to be hopeful." — Bill Gates

## 4. “We need you, and we are counting on you.”

When one student in the audience asked about what message they'd like to give to the world, it followed suit: hope.

"The world is improving, not for everyone at the same rate, but it is improving," said Melinda. "We need to focus on the fact that the world is getting better. The amazing science that we’re talking about is a part of that."

"This is a great time to be alive and we ought to be hopeful," added Bill.

And why do they feel this way? Because of the teens.

At the end of the event, John Green talked about a very common opinion among adults that see young people as overly self-centered and selfish. But he said that couldn't be further from the truth that he sees. Bill and Melinda agreed.

"I see young people using social media in unique and clever ways," says Melinda. "And they're using it to connect. I see a generation that is saying to us, 'I want to give back' and they value doing something for this world."

"We're turning to you for the solutions to the big problems — for big solutions," says Bill. "We're not just here to encourage you, but because we need you and are counting on you."

## So, who were these teens in the audience that they're counting on?

The teens in the room were selected from the Global STEM Alliance of the New York Academy of Sciences. It's a program that pairs youths from all over the world with mentors in their desired fields to not only help them learn skills but also apply their creative thinking to big problems.

But as the letter said, this is a message we need to instill in all of our children — as well as all of us.

## The overall message is this: We have to work together to create change. And ain't that the truth.

Working together can bring about real change — and teens are on the front line. Now is the time to remember to work together and, as John Green says, "Don't forget to be awesome."

To see a full replay of this live event, check out this recording of the YouTube live stream. And just for kicks, why not watch John Green break down some of the biggest themes of Bill and Melinda's annual letter in this super fun video:

Science

## 14 of the funniest photos from the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards

### Funny kangaroos, monkeys and more!

© Jason Moore/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2023 and © Tzahi Finkelstein /Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2023

The 2023 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards.

The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards, known for being one of the most entertaining photography contests, has just wrapped up, and this year’s top prize goes to Jason Moore for his hilarious and brilliantly captured photo of a kangaroo, cheekily named “Air Guitar Roo.” Not only did this fantastic shot win the overall competition, but it also rocked the Creatures of the Land category, too.

Jason's photo stood out among a whopping 5,300 entries submitted by 1,842 photographers from 85 countries. Moore’s photo of the female western grey kangaroo was taken in the outer suburbs of Perth, Australia when Jason visited a field of wildflowers to snap some pics of the many adult kangaroos and joeys playing there.

“The shoot turned out to be a great session, and I am quite fond of several images that I captured,” Moore said in a statement. “Not many people know that kangaroos are normally fairly docile and even a bit boring most of the time if I’m honest. However, when I saw this roo striking the air guitar pose, it immediately brought a smile to my face, and I knew that I had captured something really special."

The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards was started in 2015 by Paul Joynson-Hicks MBE and Tom Sullam to create a competition focused on the lighter, humorous side of wildlife photography while assuming an essential role in promoting wildlife conservation.

Here are 14 of the big winners.

### 1. Overall Winner: "Air-Guitar Roo" (grey kangaroo) by Jason Moore, Australia

A kangaroo rocking out.

© Jason Moore/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2023

"On this day, I had been out with my camera photographing some waterfowl at a nearby lake. I had been up at sunrise to take advantage of the 'golden hour' light, but it turned out to be a disappointing morning on the water. After leaving the lake, somewhat dejected, I decided to swing past an area of open bushland, because there are often a 'mob' of Kangaroos feeding and sunning themselves in a field close to the road. ... The morning light was still favorable so I grabbed my camera and headed off to a spot where I could get down to eye level with my subjects. I ended up shooting about 40 or 50 frames of the kangaroos with various content including mum’s, joeys and also some action shots of them bouncing along through the yellow field. The shoot turned out to be a great session, and I am quite fond of several images that I captured. However, when I saw this animal strike this pose it immediately brought a smile to my face and I knew that I had captured something special." — Jason Moore

### 2. Creatures of the Air Award: "Unexpected Plunge" (heron) Vittorio Ricci, South Africa

A heron takes a dive.

© Vittorio Ricci/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2023

"An unusual end of a perfect moment." — Vittorio Ricci

### 3. Creatures Under the Water Award: "Otter Ballerina" (smooth-coated otter), Otter Kwek, Singapore

An otter with perfect form.

© Otter Kwek/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2023

"The otter was leaping while attempting to grasp the overhanging leaves, and during an unusual landing, it ended up in the Arabesque pose. I showed this photo to a ballet teacher, and she commented that the otter is a natural but just needs to tuck in its tummy a bit — precisely what a ballet teacher would advise." — Otter Kwek

### 4. People's Choice Award: "Dispute" (greenfinch), Jacek Stankiewicz, Poland

© Jacek Stankiewicz/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2023

"I caught this scene while watching birds in the Bialowieza Forest. My friends interpret this scene in two ways. One, a young naughty kid is arguing with a parent. Two, a kid is reporting to the parent that their brother did something wrong: 'Look he broke a window!'" — Jacek Stankiewicz

### 5. "The Happy Turtle" (swamp turtle), Tzahi Finkelstein, Antarctica

A turtle is about to have a meal.

© Tzahi Finkelstein /Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2023

"The swamp turtle is surprised and smiles at the dragonfly resting on its nose." — Tzahi Finkelstein

### 6. "The Monday Blahs" (great grey owl) John Blumenkamp, USA

This owl is so over it.

© John Blumenkamp /Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2023

"While photographing the great gray owl shown in my image, I had been busy working to capture that majestic-looking pose. As the owl preened and then sat still for a short while, it stretched once more and for a quick moment gave the pose shown. As it did, I grinned and thought… now that’s funny!" — John Blumenkamp

### 7. "One for the Family Album" (gannets) Zoe Ashdown, UK

A proud family of gannets.

© Zoe Ashdown /Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2023

"At RSPB Bempton Cliffs, each year between March and October, around half a million seabirds use the chalk cliffs towering above the North Sea to nest and raise a family. Gannets mate for life and they return to the same nest year after year to raise their young. Lying safely at the top of the cliff face, I was able to observe the affection shown between the gannets each time one returned to the nest. They have a greeting ritual, they rub beaks and entwine their necks; it’s how they strengthen their bond. But it’s also a brilliant opportunity to catch them in various poses. I didn’t realize I’d taken this image until I got home, but as soon as I saw it I laughed out loud! They look like proud parents, posing with their baby." — Zoe Ashdown

### 8. "Don't Look Down" (Atlantic puffin), Brian Matthews, UK

A puffin doing the upside-down Snoopy routine.

© Brain Mattews /Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2023

"A puffin does an inverted snoopy impression while watching jelly fish." — Brian Matthews.

### 9. "Boing" (grey kangaroo) Lara Mathews, Australia

Silly little joey!

© Lara Matews/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2023

"Taken at Westerfolds Park, a beautiful and surprisingly wild pocket of land in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, famous for its kangaroo population. The mob was enjoying some morning sunshine when this joey decided to get silly and try his hand at boxing." — Lara Mathews

### 10. "The Rainforest Dandy" (monkey) Delphine Casimir, Bali

A sophisticated monkey.

© Delphine Casimir/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2023

"This picture was taken in the monkey forest in Ubud, Bali, a crazy place where monkeys are king! This forest is special even magical and sacred to the Balinese people. Maybe our dandy is the reincarnation of a divinity?" — Delphine Casimir

### 11. "Look Right, Bro" (macaque, deer) Pratick Mondal, India

"And on my right, is a deer."

© Pratik Mondal/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2023

### 12. "That Wasn't Here Yesterday" (white-winged dove) Wendy Kaveney, USA

A white-winged dove disrupted mid-flight.

© Wendy Kaveney/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2023

"A white-winged dove appearing to fly head-on into a cholla cactus skeleton." — Whitney Kaveney

### 13. "Snowball" (white grouse) Jaques Poulard, Norway

Why is that snowball alive?

© Jaques Poulard/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2023

"The white grouse is coming towards me and looks like a snowball with eyes." — Jaques Poulard

### 14. "Excuse Me Sir But I Think You're a Bit Too Young to Be Smoking" (grey fox) Dakota Vaccaro, USA

A grey fox that looks like it's enjoying a fine cigar.

© Dakota Vaccaro/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2023

"While I was working deep in the Virginian woods, a family of grey foxes took up residence under the deck of the abandoned cottage next to my work housing. One day, while practicing their hunting skills on bits of moss and branches, one of the kits lunged at a small chunk of wood and started rolling around with his prize. Tired after his hunt, the kit lounged on his belly still holding the wood in his mouth which gave the strong resemblance of a cigar." — Dakota Vaccaro

Health

## These two tricks will clear your stuffy nose instantly

### Both tricks take less than two minutes

How to clear a stuffy nose instantly.

With cold season upon us, there's no better time to learn a couple of awesome and easy tricks that will clear up the dreaded and annoying stuffy nose.

Prevention magazine created a short video showing two easy ways to get you breathing free again no matter how stuffed up you might be.

Both tricks take less than two minutes and are certainly worth trying out when it feels like that runny nose might never go away.

Pop Culture

## Watch Lucille Ball repeatedly tell a host to take his hands off female audience members

### People laughed every time she told him 'hands off,' but she was stone cold serious.

Lucille Ball was a powerhouse both on screen and off.

According to her daughter, Lucille Ball never considered herself a feminist, but there's no question she blazed many a trail for women. A working mother in real life, she depicted issues facing housewives with her brilliant television comedy and became the first female studio head in Hollywood. She broke glass ceilings but wasn't particularly outspoken about women's rights. In fact, in a 1980 interview with "People," she said, “They can use my name for equal rights, but I don’t get out there and raise hell because I’ve been so liberated, I have nothing to squawk about.”

Ball empowered women by example—and by speaking her mind. Carol Burnett shared a story on PBS about how Ball was unhappy with a script for her new show, but women at that time didn't raise concerns about such things. Men could express criticism and demand changes, but women simply didn't. Ball did—and firmly—despite being non-confrontational by nature. Later she told Burnett, "Kid, that's when they put the 's' at the end of my name."

A video has been circulating on social media showing Ball's no-nonsense way of speaking up when she felt the need to, and people are gushing over it.

In 1978, Ball participated in a Q & A session with UCLA theater arts students on the television program "America Alive!" The viral clip shows Ball repeatedly telling one of the hosts, David Sheehan, to take his hands off of female audience members when they were asking a question.

Watch:

@femalequotient

We love Lucy ❤️

People laughed every time, but Ball didn't so much as crack a smile during her clear, simple, repeated "hands off" admonitions. For 1978 especially, her advocacy for the women in the audience was extraordinary. Sheehan wasn't touching these women in a lewd or sexual manner, but he was touching them in a way that he wouldn't have touched a man who was asking a question. Most people wouldn't have thought much of it at the time, but Lucille Ball immediately noted it and didn't let it stand.

"I love that she didn't even laugh when the room was," shared one commenter. "She was not joking."

"'Take your hands off her, David,' should be a sound AND a t-shirt," wrote another.

"He kept trying. She kept telling him. Love her," shared another.

"Lucille Ball always reminds me of my grandma," offered another. "She hated to be seen as delicate, and she hated men that would touch her even more. She would say, stone-faced, 'Get your paws off.'"

Even if Sheehan was casually touching those women out of habit and not ill intent, it's laudable that Ball made a point of making him aware of it. Unfortunately, women are still having to deal with men touching them without being invited to, but seeing Lucille Ball's serious face while calling it out is a good reminder that women have been fighting this battle for a long time. Good for her for using her microphone and the respect afforded her to speak up for the young women in her audience.

Science

## See what researchers found when they tested a bottle of Fiji Water against a glass of tap water.

### Is bottled water REALLY all that bad?

A young woman drinking bottled water outdoors before exercising.

Here are six facts from the video above by The Story of Stuff Project that I'll definitely remember next time I'm tempted to buy bottled water.

## 1. Bottled water is more expensive than tap water (and not just a little).

A Business Insider column noted that two-thirds of the bottled water sold in the United States is in individual 16.9-ounce bottles, which comes out to roughly \$7.50 per gallon. That's about 2,000 times higher than the cost of a gallon of tap water.

And in an article in 20 Something Finance, G.E. Miller investigated the cost of bottled versus tap water for himself. He found that he could fill 4,787 20-ounce bottles with tap water for only \$2.10! So if he paid \$1 for a bottled water, he'd be paying 2,279 times the cost of tap.

## 2. Bottled water could potentially be of lower quality than tap water.

Fiji Water ran an ad campaign that was pretty disparaging about the city of Cleveland. Not a wise move. The city ordered a test of the snooty brand's water and found that Fiji Water contained levels of arsenic that weren't seen in the city's water supply.

How was that possible? Sarah Goodman of the New York Times explains:

" Bottled water manufacturers are not required to disclose as much information as municipal water utilities because of gaps in federal oversight authority. Bottom line: The Food and Drug Administration oversees bottled water, and U.S. EPA is in charge of tap water. FDA lacks the regulatory authority of EPA."

## 3. The amount of bottled water we buy every week in the U.S. alone could circle the globe five times!

That sounded like it just had to be impossible, so we looked into it. Here's what our fact-checkers found:

"According to the video, ' People in the U.S. buy more than half a billion bottles of water every week.' National Geographic says for 2011, bottled water sales hit 9.1 billion gallons (roughly 34 billion liters).

A 'typical' water bottle is a half-liter, so that's about 68 billion bottles per year. Divided by 52 weeks would be a little over 1 billion bottles of water sold per week in the U.S. Because that's based on a smaller 'typical' bottle size, it seems reasonable that a half billion bottles a week could be accurate.

The Earth is about 131.5 million feet around, so yep, half a billion bottles of varying sizes strung end-to-end could circle the Earth five times."

## 4. Paying for bottled water makes us chumps.

Beverage companies have turned bottled water into a multibillion-dollar industry through a concept known as manufactured demand. Bottled water advertisements used a combination of scare tactics (Tap water bad!) and seduction (From the purest mountain streams EVER!) to reel us in.

Well, we now know their claims about the superior quality of bottled water are mostly bogus. And research shows that anywhere from a quarter to 45% of all bottled water comes from the exact same place as your tap water (which, to reiterate, is so cheap it's almost free).

## 5. Bottled water is FILTHY.

It takes oil — lots of it — to make plastic bottles. According to the video, the energy in the amount of oil it takes to make the plastic water bottles sold in the U.S. in one year could fuel a million cars. That's not even counting the oil it takes to ship bottled water around the world.

And once we've guzzled our bottled water, up to 80% of the empty bottles end up in landfills or noxious-gas-producing incinerators. The rest is either recycled or shipped to countries like India where poor people without environmental and labor protections have to deal with it.

On top of all that, the process of manufacturing plastic bottles is polluting public water supplies, which makes it easier for bottled water companies to sell us their expensive product.

## 6. There are 750 million people around the world who don't have access to clean water.

Photo by H2O for Life.

A child dies every minute from a waterborne disease. And for me, that's the core of what makes bottled water so evil.

The video wraps by comparing buying bottled water to smoking while pregnant. That may sound extreme, but after learning everything I just did about the bottled water industry, I can't disagree.

## If you're properly disgusted, here are a few ways you can help destroy the bottled water industry:

1. Don't buy bottled water. Get a reusable water bottle. The savings will add up.
2. Rally your schools, workplaces, and communities to ban bottled water.
3. Demand that your city, state, and federal governments invest in better water infrastructure.

Joy

## 10 awkward friendships you probably have — we all have a #9.

### Not all friendships are meant to last forever.

via Wait But Why and used with permission

The ten types of friends

When you're a kid, or in high school or college, you usually don't work too hard on your friend situations. Friends just kind of happen.

For a bunch of years, you're in a certain life your parents chose for you, and so are other people, and none of you have that much on your plates, so friendships inevitably form. Then in college, you're in the perfect friend-making environment, one that hits all three ingredients sociologists consider necessary for close friendships to develop: “proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other." More friendships happen.

Maybe they're the right friends, maybe they're not really. But you don't put that much thought into any of it — you're still more of a passive observer.

But once student life ends, the people in your life start to shake themselves into more distinct tiers.

## It looks something like this mountain:

Visual interpretation of where friends fall on the mountain of “You."

via Wait But Why post and used with permission.

At the top of your life mountain, in the green zone, you have your Tier 1 friends — the people who feel like brothers and sisters.

These are the people closest to you, the ones you call first when something important happens, the ones you love even when they suck, who make speeches at your wedding, whose best and worst sides you know through and through, and whose relationship with you is eternal; even if you go months or years without hanging out, nothing has changed when you find yourself together again.

Unfortunately, depending on how things went down in your youth, Tier 1 can also contain your worst enemies, the people who can ruin your day with one subtle jab that only they could word so brilliantly hurtfully, the people you feel a burning resentment for, or jealousy of, or competition with. Tier 1 is high stakes.

Below, in the yellow zone, are your Tier 2 friends: your Pretty Good friends.

Pretty Good friends are a much calmer situation than your brothers and sisters on Tier 1. You might be invited to their wedding, but you won't have any responsibilities once you're there. If you live in the same city, you might see them every month or two for dinner and have a great time when you do, but if one of you moves, you might not speak for the next year or two. And if something huge happens in their life, there's a good chance you'll hear it first from someone else.

Toward the bottom of the mountain in the orange zone, you have your Tier 3 friends: your Not Really friends.

You might grab a one-on-one drink with one of them when you move to their city, but then it surprises neither of you when five years pass and drink #2 is still yet to happen. Your relationship tends to exist mostly as part of a bigger group or through the occasional Facebook Like, and it doesn't even really stress you out when you hear that one of them made \$5 million last year. You may also try to sleep with one of these people at any given time.

The lowest part of Tier 3 begins to blend indistinguishably into your large group of acquaintances (the pink zone): those people you'd stop and talk to if you saw them on the street or would maybe email for professional purposes but whom you'd never hang out with one-on-one. When you hear that something bad happens to one of these people, you pretend to be sad but you don't actually care.

Finally, acquaintances gradually blend into the endless world of strangers.

And depending on who you are and how things shook out in those first 25 years, the way your particular mountain looks will vary.

For example, there's Walled-Off Wally:

Some people keep a barrier up between acquaintances.

via Wait But Why post and used with permission.

And Phony Phoebe, who tries to be everyone's best friend and ends up with a lot of people mad at her:

The life of the party.

via Wait But Why post and used with permission.

Even Unabomber Ulysses has a mountain:

Hermits exist.

via Wait But Why post and used with permission.

Whatever your particular mountain looks like, eventually the blur of your youth is behind you, the dust has settled, and there you are living your life.

## Then one day, usually around your mid- or late 20s, it hits you: It's not that easy to make friends anymore.

Sure, you'll make new friends in the future — at work, through your spouse, through your kids — but you won't get to that Tier 1 brothers level, or even to Tier 2, with very many of them because people who meet as adults don't tend to get through the 100+ long, lazy hangouts needed to reach a bond of that strength. As time goes on, you start to realize that the 20-year frenzy of not-especially-thought-through haphazard friend-making you just did was the critical process of you making most of your lifelong friends.

And since you matched up with most of them A) by circumstance, and B) before you really knew yourself yet, the result is that your Tier 1 and Tier 2 friends — those closest to you — fall in a very scattered way on what I'll call the Does This Friendship Make Sense graph:

The friendship graph.

via Wait But Why post and used with permission.

So, who are all those close friends in the three non-ideal quadrants?

As time goes on, most of us tend to have fewer friends in Quadrants 2 through 4 because A) people mature, and B) people have more self-respect and higher standards for what they'll deal with as they get older. But the fact is, friendships made in the formative years often stick, whether they're ideal or not, leaving most of us with a portion of our Tier 1 and Tier 2 friendships that just don't make that much sense. We'll get to the great, Quadrant 1 friendships later in the post, but in order to treat those relationships properly, we need to take a thorough look at the odd ones first.

Here are 10 common ones:

Odd moments that happen between friends.

via Wait But Why post and used with permission.

You'll be having a good day. You'll be having a bad day. You'll be happy at work. You'll quit your job. You'll fall in love. You'll catch your new love cheating on you and murder them both in an act of incredible passion. And it doesn't matter, because none of it will be discussed with The Non-Question-Asking Friend, who never, ever, ever asks you anything about your life. This friend can be explained in one of three ways:

1. He's extremely self-absorbed and only wants to talk about himself.
2. He avoids getting close to people and doesn't want to talk about either you or himself or anything personal, just third-party topics.

Giving you the benefit of the doubt here, we're left with two possibilities. Possibility #1 isn't fun at all and this person should not be allowed space on Tier 1. The green part of the mountain is sacred territory, and super self-absorbed people shouldn't be permitted to set foot up there. Put him on Tier 2 and just be happy you're not dating him.

Possibility #2 is a pretty dark situation for your friend, but it can actually be fun for you. I have a friend who I've hung out with one-on-one about four times in the last year, and he has no idea Wait But Why exists. I've known him for 14 years and I'm not sure he knows if I have siblings or not. But I actually enjoy the shit out of this friend — sure, there's a limit on how close we'll ever be, but without ever spending time talking about our lives, we actually end up in a lot of fun, interesting conversations.

## 2. The friend in the group you can't be alone with under any circumstances

Why have relationships when there is a phone around?

via Wait But Why post and used with permission.

In almost every group of friends, there's one pair who can't ever be alone together. It's not that they dislike each other — they might get along great — it's just that they have no individual friendship with each other whatsoever. This leaves both of them petrified of the lumbering elephant that appears in the room anytime they're alone together. They're way too on top of shit to ever end up in the car alone together if a group is going somewhere in multiple cars, but there are smaller dangers afoot — like being the first two to arrive at a restaurant or being in a group of three when the third member goes to the bathroom.

The thing is, sometimes it's not even that these people couldn't have an individual friendship — it's just that they don't, and neither one has the guts to try to make that leap when things have gone on for so long as is.

## 3. The non-character-breaking friend you have to be “on" with

Controlled intimacy and distancing through language.

via Wait But Why post and used with permission.

This is a friend who's terrified of having an earnest interaction, and as such, your friendship with him is always in some kind of skit you always have to be on when you're interacting.

Sometimes the skit is that you both burst out laughing at everything constantly. He can only exist with you in “This is so fucking hilarious, it's too much!" mode, so you have to be in some kind of joke-telling or sarcastic mode yourself at all times or he'll become socially horrified.

Another version of this is the “always and only ironic" friend, who you really bum out if you ever break that social shell and say something earnest. This type of person hates earnest people because someone being earnest dares him to come out from under his ironic safety blanket and let the sun touch his face, and no fucking thanks.

A third example is the “You're great, I'm great, ugh why is everyone else so terrible and not great like us" friend. Of course, she doesn't really think you're perfectly great at all — if she were with someone else, you'd be one of the voodoo dolls on the table to be dissected and scoffed at. The key here is that the two of you must be on a team at all times while interacting. The only comfortable mode for this person is bonding with you by building a little pedestal for you both to stand on while you criticize everyone else. You can either play along and everything will go smoothly, even though you'll both despise yourselves and each other the whole time, or you can commit the ultimate sin and have the integrity to disagree with the friend or defend a non-present party the friend criticizes. Doing this will shatter the fragile team vibe and make the friend recoil and say something quietly like, “Hm ... yeah ... I guess." The friend now respects you for the first time and will also criticize you extra hard next time she's playing her pedestal game with a different friend.

What these all have in common is the friend has tall walls up, at least toward you, and so she builds a little skit for you two to hang out in to make sure any authentic connection can be avoided. Sometimes that person only does this out of her own social anxiety and can become a great, authentic friend if you can just stomp through the ice. Other times, the person is just hopelessly scared and closed off and there's no hope and you have to get out.

In any case, I can't stand these interactions and am in a full panic the entire time they're happening.

## 4. The double-obligated friendship

I think we need a bigger table.

via Wait But Why post and used with permission.

Think of a friend you get together with from time to time, which usually happens after a long and lackluster email or text exchange during which you just can't find a time that works for both of you — and you're never really happy when these plans are being made and not really psyched when you wake up and it's finally on your schedule for that day.

Maybe you're aware that you don't want to be friends with that person, or maybe you're delusional about it — but what you're most likely not aware of is that they probably don't want to see you either.

There are lopsided situations where one person is far more interested in hanging out than the other (we'll get to those later), but in the case we're talking about here, both parties often think it's a lopsided situation without realizing that the other person actually feels the same way — that's why it takes so long to schedule a time. When someone's excited about something, they figure out how to get it into their schedule; when they're not, they figure out ways to push it farther into the future.

Sometimes you don't think hard enough about it to even realize you don't like being friends with the person, and other times you really like the idea or the aesthetic of being friends with that particular person — being friends with them is part of your Story. But even in cases where you're perfectly lucid about your feelings, since neither of you knows the other feels the same way and neither has the guts to just cut things off or move it down a tier, this friendship usually just continues along for eternity.

## 5. The half-marriage

An ego boost through controlling the relationship.

via Wait But Why post and used with permission.

Somewhere in your life, you're probably part of a friendship that would be a marriage if only the other person weren't very, very, extremely not interested in that happening. 1 for 2 on yes votes — just one vote away — so close.

You might be on either side of this — and either way, it's one of the least healthy parts of your life. Fun!

If you're on the if only side of things, probably the right move is to get your fucking shit together? Ya know? This friendship is one long, continuous rejection of you as a human being, and you're just wallowing there in your yearning like a sobbing little seal. Plus, duh, if you gather your self-respect and move on with your life, it'll raise their perception of your value and they might actually become interested in you.

If you're on the Oh yeah,definitely not side of the situation, here's what's happening: There's this suffering human in the world, and you know they're suffering, and you fucking love it, because it gives your little ego a succulent sponge bath every time you hang out with them. You enjoy it so much you probably even lead them on intentionally, don't you — you make sure to keep just enough ambiguity in the situation that their bleeding heart continues to lather your ego from head to toe at your whim.

Both of you — go do something else.

## 6. The historical friend

We met in kindergarten.

via Wait But Why post and used with permission.

A Historical Friend is someone you became friends with in the first place because you met when you were little and stayed friends through the years, even though you're a very weird match. Most old friends fall somewhat into this category, but a true Historical Friend is someone you absolutely would not be friends with if you met them today.

You're not especially pleased with who they are, and they feel the same way about you. You're not each other's type one bit. Unfortunately, you're also extremely close friends from when you were four, and you're both just a part of each other's situation forever, sorry.

## 7. The non-parallel life paths friendship

Looking for love in all the wrong places.

via Wait But Why post and used with permission.

Throughout childhood and much of young adulthood, most people your age are in the same life stage as you are. But when it comes to advancing into full adulthood, people do so at widely varying paces, which leads to certain friends suddenly having totally different existences from one another.

Anyone within three years of 30 has a bunch of these going on. It's just a weird time for everyone. Some people have become Future 52-year-olds, while others are super into being Previous 21-year-olds. At some point, things will start to meld together again, but being 30-ish is the friendship equivalent of a kid going through an awkward pubescent stage.

There are darker, more permanent Non-Parallel Life Path situations. Like when Person A starts to become a person who rejects material wealth, partially because she genuinely feels that pursuing an artistic path matters more and partially because she needs a defense mechanism against feeling envious of richer people, and Person B's path makes her scoff at people who pursue creative paths, partially because she genuinely thinks expressing yourself is an inherently narcissistic venture and partially because she needs a defense mechanism against feeling regretful that she never pursued her creative dreams — these two will have problems.

They may still like each other, but they can't be as close as they used to be — each of their lives is a bit of a middle finger at the other's choices, and that's jst awkward for everyone. It's not always that bad — but to survive an Off-Line Life Situation, friends need to be really different people who don't at all want the same things out of life.

## 8. The frenemy

This is awful. Taste it.

via Wait But Why post and used with permission.

The Frenemy roots very hard against you. And I'm not talking about the friends that will feel a little twinge of pleasure when they hear your big break didn't pan out after all or that your relationship is in bad shape. I'm not even talking about someone who secretly roots against you when they're not doing so well at some area of life and it hurts them to see you do better. Those are bad emotions, but they can exist in people who are still good friends.

I'm talking about a real Frenemy — someone who really wants bad things for you. Because you're you.

You and the Frenemy usually go way back, have a very deep friendship, and the trouble probably started a long time ago. There's a lot of complex psychology going on in these situations that I don't fully understand, but my hunch is that a Frenemy's resentment is rooted in his own pain, or his own shortcomings, or his own regret — and for some reason, your existence stings them in these places hard.

A little less dark but no less harmful is a bully situation where a friend sees some weakness or vulnerability in you and she enjoys prodding you there either for sadistic reasons or to prop herself up.

A Frenemy knows how to hurt you better than anyone because you're deeply similar in some way and she knows how you're wired. She'll do whatever she can to bring you down any chance she gets, often in such a subtle way it's hard to see that it's happening.

Whatever the reason, if you have a Frenemy in your life, kick her toxic ass off your mountain, or at leastkick her down the mountain — just get her off of Tier 1. A Frenemy has about a 10th of the power to hurt you from Tier 2 as she does from Tier 1.

## 9. The Facebook celebrity friend

What’s happening on social media?

via Wait But Why post and used with permission.

This person isn't a celebrity to anyone other than you, you creep. You know exactly who I'm talking about — there are a small handful of people whose Facebook page you're uncomfortably well-acquainted with, and those people have no idea that this is happening. On the plus side, there are people out there you haven't spoken to in seven years who know all about the new thing you're trying with your hair, since it goes both ways.

This is a rare Tier 3 friend, or even an acquaintance, who qualifies as an odd friendship because you found a way to make it unhealthy even though you're not actually friends. Well done.

## 10. The lopsided friendship

Can I make all the decisions... that was rhetorical.

via Wait But Why post and used with permission.

There are a lot of ways a friendship can be lopsided: Someone can be higher on their friend's mountain than vice versa. Someone can want to spend more time with a friend than vice versa. One member can consistently do 90% of the listening and only 10% of the talking, and in situations where most of the talking is about life problems, what's happening is a one-sided therapy situation, with a badly off-balance give-and-take ratio, and that's not much of a friendship — it's someone using someone else.

And then there's the lopsided power friendship. Of course, this is a hideous quality in many not-great couples, but it's also a prominent feature of plenty of friendships.

A near 50/50 friendship is ideal, but anything out to 65/35 is fine and can often be attributed to two different styles of personality. It's when the number gap gets even wider that something less healthy is going on — something that doesn't reflect very well on either party.

There are some obvious ways to assess the nature of a friendship's power dynamic: Does one person cut in and interrupt the other person while they're talking far more than the other way around? Is one person's opinion or preference just kind of understood to carry more weight than the other's? Is one person allowed to be more of a dick to the other than vice versa?

Another interesting litmus test is what I call the “mood determiner test." This comes into play when two friends get together but they're in very different moods — the idea is, whose mood “wins" and determines the mood of the hangout. If Person A is in a bad mood, Person B is in a good mood, and Person B reacts by being timid and respectful of Person A's mood, leaving the vibe down there until Person A snaps out of it on her own — but when the moods are reversed, Person B quickly disregards her own bad mood and acts more cheerful to match Person A's happy mood — and this is how it always goes — then Person A is in a serious power position.

## But hey, not all friendships are grim.

In the Does This Friendship Make Sense graph above, the friendships we just discussed are all in Quandrants 2, 3, or 4 — i.e., they're all a bit unenjoyable, unhealthy, or both. That's why this has been depressing. On the bright side, there's also Quadrant 1 — all the friendships that do make sense.

No friendship is perfect, but those in Quadrant 1 are doing what friendships are supposed to do: They're making the lives of both parties better. And when a friendship is both in Quadrant 1 of the graph and on Tier 1 of your mountain, that friendship is a rock in your life.

## Rock friendships don't just make us happy — they're the thing (along with rock family and romantic relationships) that makes us happy.

Investing serious time and energy into those is a no-brainer long-term life strategy. But in the case of most people over 25 — at least in New York — I think A) not enough time is carved out as dedicated friend time, and B) the time that is carved out is spread too thin, and too evenly, among the Tier 1 and Tier 2 friendships in all four quadrants. I'm definitely guilty of this myself.

There's something I call the Perpetual Catch-Up Trap. When you haven't seen a good friend in a long time, the first order of business is a big catch-up — you want to know what's going on in their career, with their girlfriend, with their family, etc., and they want to catch up on your life. In theory, once this happens, you can go back to just hanging out, shooting the shit, and actually being in the friendship. The problem is, when you don't make enough time for good friends, seeing them only for a meal and not that often — you end up spending each get-together catching up, and you never actually get to just enjoy the friendship or get far past the surface. That's the Perpetual Catch-Up Trap, and I find myself falling into it with way too many of the rocks in my life.

## There are two orders of business right now:

First, think about your friendships, figure out which ones aren't in Quadrant 1, and demote them down the mountain. I'm not suggesting you stop being friends with those people — you still love them and feel loyal to them, and old friends are critical to hold onto — but if the friendships aren't that healthy or enjoyable, they don't really deserve to be in your Tier 1, and you probably shouldn't be in theirs. Most importantly, doing this clears up time to...

Second, dedicate even more time to the Quadrant 1, Tier 1 rocks in your life. If you're in your mid-20s or older, your current rocks are probably the only ones you'll ever have. Your rock friendships don't warrant two times the time you give to your other friends — they warrant five or 10 times!

Your rocks deserve serious, dedicated time so you can stay close. So go make plans with them.

This article was written by Tim Urban and originally published on Wait But Why. It originally appeared here on 03.11.16