In my opinion, it's asked too lightly and too often. It loses most of it's meaning, and we are expected to respond pleasantly so that the asker can feel like they bonded with you in a positive way.

"Hey Sam! Whats up? How was your break?"

Well, my dad's company is going bankrupt which means that our move across the country to Utah might be moot point. He has to fight everyday to keep him and his coworkers employed. My mom hates her new boss, who doesn't know how to do things. She has to fight everyday to get the things done that she knows need to be done. My grandma died to days ago and I have to miss hard classes to go to a funeral. Emotionally it hit me harder than I thought, not of sadness, but of a bout of uncontrolled anger towards myself for being selfish by thinking of the money we would inherit. The University Program Board wants me to miss most of a week of classes to go to a useless convention in Middle of Nowhere, USA. People are leaving all around me, and I have no idea what to do. I'm lonely, I'm tired, and I'm looking for something I can't find.

"Nothing much Ann, I got some good skiing done. There are some great ski areas in Utah."

Anita wasn't expecting it, but when she asked me, I gave up. I talked to her for over an hour, staring into her caring eyes . . . a good friend is someone who is willing to listen to your woes, and asks because they care, not because they want to feel connected.