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Personal writings of Arjun Rao

Knowing who your bail friends are and why it is important

Category: Relationships

A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out. — Walter Winchell

Ever since humans became aware of using each other to build communities, we have relied on social cues to drive aspects of our behavior. In the times past, this meant getting such feedback from your immediate neighbors and members of your community. Today, with the proliferation of social media, that translates into getting social validation from your followers.

Back in the day, making and maintaining friends took effort and care and it was in your best interests for that effort to pay off. You would not want to meet someone in person, on a regular basis, if you did not like them very much. However, today the currency of online followership, whether it is actual friends or followers unknown to you until the point of online contact, has diluted the meaning of ‘true’ friendship.

Harkening back to an article which I had written a short while ago, if a prime motivator of content publishing is the number of likes received, that diminishes the value of the individual like. It is the same thing as losing sight of the individual when you inspect statistics of the aggregate. The same is true from the other side too. The person liking your content in the online world, does not have any deep incentive to do so but might just do it as a force of habit — I have certainly been a perpetrator of such actions. I am not saying every single person is guilty of this, I am merely highlighting the chances of such occurrences are higher than you would expect ( I have zero scientific data to back this claim )

Given that the quality of friendships online is not a gauge of true friendship, I have coined the phrase — “Bail friends”. I will get into the details of this in just a second, but these friends are not just any friends. A lot of people have several thousand friends and followers on the likes of Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook, but how many of them are “bail friends”?

Bail friends are what I consider to be the truest of friends. They will ride into hell and back with you.

These are friends whom you can leave and not talk with for a long time, perhaps even years. However, when you do meet and talk, it is like you never left .They are friends who you don’t have to speak with to make conversation and you can tolerate each other, even in silence. They are truly the gold standard of friends. The reason they are called “Bail friends”, as it should be obvious, is because they will bail you out of jail. Not just bail you out of any situation, but literally bail you out of jail. When I think of bail friends, I have never considered me being the perpetrator of a tragic crime but something more innocuous yet deserving being imprisoned for. Hopefully this never happens but indulge me in this thought experiment and think which of your friends would be your bail friends.

Before you say something like “I have the best of friends, most of them if not each and every one of them, will be my bail friends”, think about what it entails being a bail friend-

  • The most basic requirement is for this friend to be your “One phone call”. If you had just one shot at calling someone in the outside world, would you call upon this person to come and help you? This is a loaded question, because at the time you are in jail, your thoughts are pretty bleak and your only salvation is this person who you are hoping will be your colloquial knight in shining armor. Do you have the right person on the list for all the right reasons?

  • Making the phone call is one part of the puzzle. The bigger question is will your friend at the other end receive your call? To get into the nitty gritty, if you are calling from a police station and its an unknown number, will this person even take this call. Let’s say your friend entertains unknown number calls — will he/she then hear you out and come to help you or will he/she panic at the thought of having to care about helping you and hang up on you?

  • Assume for a moment your friend has decided to help you out and come to the police station to come bail you out. Is this friend willing to get the money ready to bail you out? Maybe the friend is using their own money or needs to go around collecting money for your bail. In either case, it is tremendous pressure for them to do so and is a pretty strong test of friendship as well as character. Many relationships are a smooth sail until money enters the picture. Will your bail friend pass this acid test?

  • Last but not the least, is this friend willing to stand up to the social stigma of helping someone out who needs to be bailed? Humans have a tendency of jumping to conclusions without having all the facts. As a result many people form opionions without a strong grasp of the situation. If these people reside in your community or social circles, this can be some oppresive pressure to stand up to. Is your friend willing to put their reputation on the line for your freedom?

If the answer to all these questions is a resounding yes, then congratulations! You have found yourself your bail friend. Cherish these relationships because you have deemed them to have passed the highest standards of friendship. Some might say, it is easy to hypothesize how these bail friends react but without the event actually happening it is close to impossible to predict the actual behavior of this a-list of friends. 100% accurate. However, if you know these bail friends really well and have answered the above questions without lying to yourself, then there is a high probability that they will come through for you. Atleast you can hope they do :)

Personally, I can count my bail friends on one hand and I wouldn’t even need all my fingers. However, these are the friends who I hold in extremely high regard, not for just being great friends with me but also being really good human beings. They are the first among equals. At the risk of an aphorism — “Keep your friends close, your enemies closer and your bail friends closest.”

Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness. — Euripides