The Difference Between ‘Friend-Sharing’ And ‘Friend-Poaching’


I thought the concept of friend poaching was completely childish and petty until it happened to me. The idea that a friend could be “stolen” from you was laughable. Honestly, I thought, no one can steal a friend away from you. A friend is not personal property, they are free to make their own choices and if their decision is to hang out with your friends who you may or may not have introduced them to, then they have every right.

But then it happened.

In high school, my best friend Robin and I were inseparable. We did everything together, so close we were almost the same person. And it was that way for a long time. One day she introduced me to Candace, who had just transferred to the school.

The three of us instantly became friends. Everything was great until later that year when Robin and Candace got into an argument and stopped talking. I found out later that Robin felt that Candace had been manipulative and trying to “poach” me away from her.

Naturally, I did everything I could to get them to reconcile, but my efforts fell flat. Robin felt wronged and had no desire to make up with Candace. Candace, seemed entirely confused about the situation.

In the midst of my efforts to get them to work it out, Robin accused me of betraying her because as far she was concerned, I was her best friend, and I should drop anyone that she’s no longer cool with.

I told her how insane that was. Why should I drop a friend just because she did? Maybe if Candace had been an acquaintance, or had done something really terrible, it would be different, but at that point we had all grown to be close friends. Dropping Candace seemed wrong. And what would that say about me not just as a friend, but as a person?

To Robin, sure that would make me a loyal friend in her eyes. But in mine, it would make me a terrible one. Sacrificing one friendship for another over an issue that I wasn’t involved in to begin with.

And I didn’t appreciate Robin threatening our friendship if I didn’t act the way she wanted me to. She didn’t own me. So I chose to do what was right, not for Robin or for Candace, but for me, and stay friends with both of them.

But obviously, my friendship with Robin fell apart after that.

In her eyes, I’d chosen Candace over her. In mine, I chose me.

We’d been attached at the hip for so long, always on the same page about everything, it really did feel like we were one in the same. But I had to remind myself that we were our own person too, and fully capable of making our own choices.

It hurt like hell to lose her, and I second guessed frequently whether or not I had made the right choice. But I decided that I didn’t want to be coerced into doing something out of fear. I didn’t want to lose my best friend, but I didn’t want to lose myself either.

Cut to many years later, Candace and I were still close friends and Robin and I managed to start picking up the broken pieces and make a mutual effort to repair our friendship. Growth, time and space had given us enough time to move on.

Just as things with Robin were being pieced together, my relationship with Candace hit a wall. Distance proved to be a test on all my relationships with close friends from high school, including Candace. While I was away at college, I moved in with three lovely girls into our first apartment. Two of them actually attended my high school, but we had never interacted until college.

Naturally, I wanted my old friends to meet my new friends and so I invited Candace and my group of friends over to the apartment frequently. My roommates did the same with their friends as well.

But then something unnerving started to happen, and I couldn’t wrap my head around it.

One of my friendly roommates, Zoe, started taking the initiative in inviting my friends over to the apartment. And I’m thinking, it’s great that she wants to hang out with them.

But then she started inviting them over when I wasn’t home.

One weekend, I went home to visit my parents. I called Candace and the group to hang out only to discover that they’re all at my apartment hanging with my roommates. No one called me or even had the intention of calling. Even worse, they saw nothing wrong with hanging with my roommates without me there.

It was all happening so fast. But I let it go. I chalked it up to Zoe just being a super friendly person. And maybe she just felt more comfortable reaching out that way because we all attended the same high school.

But then another time I was away, my other roommate Samantha invited my best guy friend over and slept with him.

She didn’t ask what my history with him was, didn’t ask if I liked him more than a friend (I didn’t). Didn’t know very much about him besides the fact he was my best friend. But it bothered me to no end that she didn’t care enough to ask me these things before she decided to go for it.

Despite all of this, by the time we left the apartment, I felt considerably close to my roommates. But for various reasons and separate issues, my friendships with my high school friends, including Candace, had taken a huge hit. I felt closer to my roommates than any of my old friends, and that bothered me a great deal. I was seriously questioning whether or not my old friendships would survive. But I was hoping, since I was moving back in my parents after graduation and closer to the vicinity where they lived that we could patch things up.

But that didn’t happen.

Instead, I hardly heard from any of my ex-roommates and old friends, except for the one guy best friend who informed me that they all hung out regularly without me.

To say I was hurt would be a huge understatement. I was confused, angry and plain jealous.

How could they not consider how I would feel about that? Candace and I were not in a good place at the time, but how she could ever think it was okay to invite out all the people I’d introduced her to and probably would have never befriended if not for me, is beyond me.

The whole point of introducing people is for them to become friends, but not for them to exclude you in the process.

I don’t think Zoe was intentionally malicious when seeking out my friends, but I do think she was inconsiderate.

My relationships with my old friends was a result of a decade’s worth of history, bonding, growing and building together. And then all a sudden she comes along, without any effort, riding my coat tail and becomes ‘instant besties’ with them. It’s the equivalent of writing a thirty page research paper, and then someone else putting their name on it and turning it in. She didn’t do all the work, yet she was reaping all the benefits.

Zoe grew considerably close to Candace in such a short window of time. Pretty soon, they were taking trips out of town together. Zoe helped Candace go house-hunting, and decorated with her, they were planning parties together etc. She was playing a role in her life she had not earned. Big life events that I should’ve been there for.

It felt downright wrong. But it wasn’t Zoe I was angry at, it was Candace and all my other friends, for allowing it to happen. It was a two-way street, and I expected them to know better.

It crushed me to find out that they didn’t have my back, and even after communicating with them my feelings, they disregarded them as juvenile, caring more about having fun, than what I thought.

Needless to say, I distanced myself from all of them.

Funny thing is, Robin was the only one there to confide in when all this happened. I’m sure it took everything in her not to say ‘I told you that Candace girl couldn’t be trusted.’

While I still don’t agree with the ultimatum she had given me in high school, I suddenly understood her strong sense of betrayal.

We both have very strong ideas about friendship, loyalty and respect. When someone can so easily intrude on a so-called friendship, what does that say about them? More importantly, what does that say about the strength of your friendship with that person in the first place?

There is a natural progression to building a real genuine friendship, no shortcuts. Social poaching is like a slap in the face to all that. Instant gratification.

The difference between friend poaching and friend networking is whether or not respect is present. The violation is not in that friends befriend one another or introduce one to the other. It’s always been the obvious way to meet new friends. Some will click more than others, the people you introduce might become closer to each other than they are to you. And that’s okay. It’s not that it happens, but HOW it happens that matters.

I felt like Zoe bulldozed her way into my friends’ lives at a time when she shouldn’t have. She was well aware that Candace and I were not in a good place at the time. I would’ve appreciated if, Zoe, knowing we were having issues, held back until we could figure it out. Or at least ask how I felt about them hanging out, showed the slightest consideration. But that didn’t happen.

It happened so quickly and easily. It had me second guessing whether or not we were ever really friends to begin with.

Many people may find it petty and childish, but it really is hurtful. The sudden realization that people you’ve invested so much time in, can so easily drop you or replace you, sucks. But I guess it’s a blessing in disguise.

Who wants to be friends with people who would do that to you anyway?