You arrive home from a dinner with friends. The dinner was great, there was food, booze, laughter and the restaurant was great, it was a great night.
At least it was supposed to be.
You come home feeling empty, with a heavy heart. The laughter felt more like an epidural than medicine for the soul. You’re still left feeling like you’re all alone, that you don’t have any real friends, only friends that call you if they want to have fun. These friends seem so superficial, and you don’t seem to feel any real connection with them. You’re left wondering if you will find any real friends in your lifetime.
The truth is, real friends don’t just appear. They are made.
Real friends, just like relationships, take time and effort to manage, and much of the friendship starts from within. But first, we have to tackle some fundamental problems we possess ourselves.
1. Expectations set by TV shows
We are constantly bombarded with claims that we have unrealistic expectations of relationships, but unbeknownst to many, we subconsciously have unrealistic expectations of how close friendships should be like. TV shows like Friends, The Big Bang Theory and HIMYM constantly show a cliched scene of friends seated together, having witty conversations and enjoying each others’ company. The fact that they seem to be having a lot of fun(drama) doesn’t help with our subconscious image of how a perfect friendship should be. Spending time with friends can come in many forms. You could play video games together, get out together to workout, or go for occasional road trips. You don’t have to meet the same friends everyday at the same place and time to call it a great friendship.
2. We spend too much time being connected, rather than connecting.
Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. There are so many ways which we are able to connect with our friends, and we want to stay connected with our friends. This connection however, is extremely superficial. There are so many more senses engaged in genuine human connection, but many times we miss that out.
When we’re out for a meal with our friends, we get too preoccupied with sharing with other people about our lives through social media. Once you enter the restaurant, snap. Once your food comes, snap. Bad customer service, snap. Cute girl across the restaurant? Tweet. Once the conversation between you and your friends start to die down or get boring? Open these apps again. Rinse and repeat and you get the typical dinners of the new millenium.
Put down your phones for once, and commit to the conversation and commit to connecting. Debate whether a tomato is a vegetable or a fruit, or discuss what happens when Trump becomes president. Simple conversation fodder is perfect fertiliser for healthy friendships.
3. The idea that more is better
We look at the celebrities of the new millenium, and we see them constantly appearing at parties, chilling with high profile names, and basically hanging out with many different people each day, and we begin to assume that this is the norm. Add social media into the equation, where more followers, comments and likes work as fuel for your self esteem. Definitely having more ‘friends’ seems to be better.
Just take a step back and ponder, when was the last time you had a proper conversation with most of these followers, and how many of them actually know your life behind the filtered photos?
Now, it isn’t that it is impossible to have a large number of close friends, but the truth is that numbers don’t matter in friendship. We need to stop looking to make more friends, but grow to learn more about, and share more with the friends that you have now.
4. Open Up
Judgement. This isn’t a new concept for the new millenium, but this is a problem that even our parents’ generation seemed to have faced. The widespread use of social media just seemed to have aided in its proliferation. In everything that we say or do, we are constantly afraid of being judged. We are afraid to hear negative opinions about ourselves that crush our self-esteem. The many avenues in which people can and will judge you, only results in us looking for a nice comfortable shell to hide our insecurities in.
Friends don’t do that. Get comfortable with your friends, and start to ask dumb questions, and act like yourself, even if it might damage whatever ‘reputation’ you might have. Your friends will start to see that, and they will begin to open up as well. What you get in the end is deeper connection and understanding between you and your friends.
At the end of the day, the unhappiness from your friendships come from within, and the way to making it all better, starts from within as well. Go out and start to get to know your friends better than you ever have, beyond all the filtered photos and 4 second snaps.