Why We All Need Friends
Random thoughts on making and keeping friends
A trending post I saw on Twitter a few days ago simply asked one question: “secondary school friends or university friends?” It got me thinking, not just about my answer to the question but also about the concept of friendship.
A lot of the responses to the question were in favour of secondary school friendships. It appeared to me that many of these responders went to boarding school. The prevailing position was that the time spent in secondary school was significant enough for people to know each other’s true nature. This would thus aid the decision to form lifelong relationships that transcended social status and any form of pretence. Starting school as children and finishing as teenagers, the general opinion from those who supported this notion was that the relationships formed at the early stage of one’s life were the most loyal and sincere.
For some of those who favoured relationships formed in university or higher institutions, whilst they noted that they may have developed some good connections in secondary school, they were quick to point out that relationships formed in university were more deliberate. These friendships were not formed because one had shared a dormitory or class with other people.
Then there were a few people who mentioned that friendships formed after school were equally as important as those formed while schooling. Such friendships could have been formed at various places of work and worship, in residential estates, through social clubs, and in other random circumstances. These types of friendships appear to most likely be formed based on a common connection and not necessarily due to proximity.
The main thought that came to my mind as I read through the Twitter thread was “what makes a person become one’s friend?” At what point does an acquaintance transcend into friendship? When do you discover that the random person you often run into at different times and places, and happen to exchange a few words with, is now a friend? This is especially important as many people are quick to say they are friends with some other people, however, the feeling may not necessarily be mutual.
What criteria does a person need to fulfil to become a friend? I think this is something many of us do not necessarily think about. Many of us subliminally assume that frequency and recency with a person naturally support their transition to becoming our friends but if we think about it really, are some of the people we call our friends truly our friends?
And even when we are conscious of the criteria we choose to determine friendship, are we fair and reasonable in our expectations of the fulfilment of those criteria? Because we may have listed traits that we believe our friends possess but in reality, they may not possess such traits or express them in the ways that we expect them to. These traits may also not be as fully developed as we assume them to be.
This brings us to the matter of having expectations of friends. How many times has something happened to make you question a friendship? Maybe you requested a favour and your friend couldn’t help you or you expected them to do something for you and they didn’t. You have high expectations of some friends and if they don’t meet up, you begin to wonder if they are your friends. Many of us have a “ride-or-die” expectation of our friends but do we also have that same expectation of ourselves within the friendship?
If there is anything I often remind myself about, it’s that friends are useful in different ways and at different seasons. There is also knowing that friendships may just be for a period in time and not necessarily lifelong. To be honest, there have been times when I have been upset with a friend because he or she didn’t come through for me the way I expected them to only for them to come through when I least expected them to. Conversely, I could end up discovering that the person I was sure was a friend wasn’t as vested in the friendship as much as I was.
We should know which friends we can go to for what type of help or support. Some may consider this a bit mercenary but the reality is that everyone must bring something to a friendship. We need to be clear about what our expectations are and what we also bring to the friendship. Don’t ask Ade for what Boma can provide and then get upset when Ade doesn’t deliver. Ade may try as much as possible but if he is unable to meet that expectation, he will not meet it.
One person cannot serve all our friendship needs so having a small circle or a large posse depending on your temperament is often a good idea. It is never about the number of friends, rather it is about the quality of our relationships.
Making friends as children is so easy. There are rarely any inhibitions, you just find yourself in the same space, doing similar things, and next thing, you are running around the house, playing with your toys, or doing hide & seek. All of these change as we get older especially when we become fully formed adults.
Making friends in adulthood can either be tough or easy depending on your temperament or even your previous experiences making friends. One question many people have but rarely ever express is “what does this person want from me?” and there is also “what do I want from this person?”. We go from having little or no expectations as children to wondering what the stakes in forming new friendships are as adults.
I find it easier to make friends in this digital age as compared with life before social media. This is because instead of being directly situated with a potential friend, the digital divide offers a cover for which we can first access people before determining if we want to be friends. And even if we meet people physically first, we could still lean on their digital presence to form quick opinions about them. I am not saying this is a certified and reliable shortcut to knowing people, especially because many people curate their digital presence these days. Rather, social media offers us a potential glimpse into the personalities of potential friends.
Friendships involve “give and take” and as much as we expect to receive from others, we should also remember to give, otherwise, one person may begin to resent the relationship. Making and keeping friends requires deliberate action and work. Every relationship needs to be nurtured so it can grow.
We all need friends, they provide a support system we can rely on outside of family which may often be biased in our favour. Let’s all focus on being deliberate about initiating, nurturing, and even ending friendships. We should not go through life alone when we can go with others. This is the way I see things today.