Echo Buzz: Defining Friendships at this Day and AgeEcho Buzz:

How do you define friendship?

At the age of 3, it was the bond between children close to your age during a family gathering or an event. Children are naturally left to their own devices and naturally a mutual bond is found over crayons and Legos. At the age of 6, it is the friend who shares their favourite snack with you at the kindergarten—something that is simply inconceivable as those of that age do not casually share their food, especially a piece of Kit-Kat. 

At the age of 9, you find classmates of your age, bonding over the strict classroom teacher and recess time. At the age 12, you meet someone at tuition and although you see them once or twice a week, you never seem to run out of things to talk about. At the age of 13, you’re no longer close to your primary school friends—not as though you don’t talk to them, but both of you have found new people to grumble over your homework and talk about the recent movie that came out with.

At the age of 15, you have a falling out with the person who you thought understood you. Either you patch things up with them or things never really return to the same as they were. At the age of 17, you say goodbye and promise to keep in touch, to meet whenever, or it could be that you decide to never see them again. Now in your 20s, there are new people in your life and while there are still those older friendships that you treasure, some have drifted apart and it gets difficult to hold conversations compared to 3 years ago while you were at school. 

Friendship, as it goes, is the foundation for any relationship. A mutual understanding between two parties filled with respect and trust; a solid base for any relationship, and that is how friendships are defined. That does not mean it is altogether a smooth-sailing journey — it can fluctuate, it can break off, it can piece itself back, or just never return. In truth, it rests in how the two parties value and regard it — how much the friendship means to them.

The digital age of friendship

Needless to say, friendships have also evolved over time – while it’s more common to develop friendships with those who live near you or those that you might bump into regularly, it is also not unusual to develop friendships with those far and wide. It first came about by corresponding via letters, best known as ‘pen-pal’. Today, it has taken shape in the form of the social media apps that we all have become used to.

Finding people with a common interest or a mutual hobby has definitely become easier with apps such as Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, or even Facebook. Those with a common ground are generally drawn to each other and it is also far more convenient to keep in touch with acquaintances. As a matter of fact, it has brought together those who have lost touch or haven’t communicated in ages. It rebuilds lost connections and past relatives or friends have found it easier to reach out to one another. 

At times, we may even feel more comfortable talking with strangers compared with those around us. It could be due to the fact that we might feel strangers wouldn’t be judging us outright and to avoid being misjudged by those we are surrounded with. It is sort of consulting with a therapist and starting with a clean slate — it’s easier to vent your feelings or to ramble when they don’t already know you.

As we all are aware, what we see or perceive on social media is not entirely true. There are times that we might be led to believe that whatever the person shares about their lives, such as interests, hobbies, or even age and gender to be true but in reality, they couldn’t be further from that. If you do strike up a friendship with someone over online, it is highly advisable to be cautious rather than divulging all your deepest and darkest secrets to them.

It has become the norm to bond with people online, but there are also concerns that due to the rapidly increasing interactions online, some may lack the social skills to interact with people physically, in turn losing human touch. As such, there should be a semblance of equal interactions, both physically and online. Being an introvert and being reclusive from those around you hold different meanings. 

There is also the question of whether friendships relying on social media, regardless whether they’re formed face-to-face or online, are truly substantial and not merely on the surface level. People tend to judge that those with more followers or more views are people they have to connect themselves with; mainly to lift their social standing and feel belonged. This can be related to FOMO (fear of missing out), where if one is not keeping up with trends and not updating or posting according to what’s trending — they’ll be left out. 

Social Cliques

Let’s admit it; social cliques have always been there, just evolving and adapting over time. Nonetheless, it has to be noted that social media has irrefutably heightened the need to belong and to be seen. Today, social media acts as a means of determining whether you are qualified enough to ‘sit at the popular kids’ table’, so to speak. This can be related back to FOMO, where people feel the need to share or post according to a certain manner, to be considered ‘in’. 

Naturally, forming bonds with those are ‘in’ is also a way of making sure you belong. Befriending people solely based on how they appear on social media, would lead to questioning the depth of the friendship. Whether they truly know one another, befriending them for the right reason or even truly like them. Friendships can be lighthearted — that is true. However, some do misinterpret it as only hanging out with their friends when everything is sunshine and roses. Many fail to understand that behaving as such, could simply mean ‘using and taking advantage of their kindness’.

While whatever they share online may seem as though they’re ‘living their life’, behind the screen it may not be what it seems. In a way, befriending someone due to how ‘aesthetic’ or ‘cool’ they are perceived as, could be implied as shallow thinking; picking and choosing friends just because they don’t seem to be in the ‘in clique’. 

Has the fear of missing out influenced the way we decide our friends and the depth of our friendships? Well, yes – friendships being no longer built from mutual trust and understanding but merely shared similar posts on social media defeats the purpose of having true friends. Granted, you do bond easily with those who have shared interests and passion. Be that as it may, as stated earlier not everything seen on social media is true. There is a higher likelihood that only fifty percent or even less of what is shared is true.

Relationships built on a surface level have a higher chance of being broken off earlier too. Just as how easy they find it to strike up friendships, it is as easy for them to simply move on once they feel a person is not fit for them — especially with those unable to keep up with trending issues. Social cliques, specifically those that are slightly toxic and popular, have always been like that; regardless of whether it’s based online or physically. It’s just that these days, social media plays a part in setting up these so-called standards and trends.

Naturally, there are some people who choose to change their entire personality and interests to be part of a social clique, to feel accepted. This especially applies when they are teenagers, and the fear of missing out is most heightened then. Fellow peers don’t make it easier for them as well. As such, they mould themselves into these perfect personas to appear on social media as how they wish to be seen compared to what they truly are. As they do so, they lose their identity and often drift apart from childhood friends; people who truly did know them. 

True Friendships

Frankly, you cannot comprehend what true friendship is until you experience the highs and lows of having friends. It can get messy; you may drift apart and pick up things from where you left off, or you may have a mutual understanding where you meet each other occasionally but still maintain that sense of closeness no matter how far you are.

However, what needs to be understood is, the essentiality of trust and respect. If any relationship is not formed out of trust; it is doomed to crumble. Learn how to treasure those friendships and to not take them for granted. It’s a give-and-take scenario — not just expecting the other party to listen to your troubles and rant while you choose not to pay attention to their own worries. It is not about celebrating only the fun times but also being a shoulder to lean on during trying times. After all, no matter how close one is, not everything is easy to share with family.

Sure, you can have casual friends that you simply hang out with and don’t share your life story with, but regardless it’s crucial to take everyone’s emotions into account and not take advantage of them. It is better to care rather than be ignorant and feel sorry later. 

What many fail to realise today is the sincerity and transparency of a friendship. That it’s not all about the pretty pictures, trendy places, or chic outfits but laughing till you cry, ranting sessions, comfortable silence, and late night calls while crying. That it’s being next to them when they cry until snort is coming out of their nose or when you embarrass each other in public while gawking at a good-looking guy. Inside jokes that baffle other people. Failed hangout sessions, but then calling up each other later to catch up. Having overdue assignments but still giggling over that one scene in ‘Friends’.

Moments like these are plentiful and beautiful as they come. And even if things don’t work with your friend in the future, remember to treasure these while in the present. At the very least, you would know that you were loyal and sincere about your friendship. People come and go throughout your life. It’s how you choose to be genuine to them while they are there that matters.

Some friendships last a lifetime, some last for a short while, and some meetup disjointedly; that is how life is.

Appreciate those around you — true, we do get caught up with how fast life is moving on now, but one day you’ll look back and yearn for those moments with your loved ones. Moreover, look and perceive things with more depth; it’s not all about the things you see on screen. At the end of the day, it’s the people—your people who stick with you through thick or thin are true friends. In today’s ever-evolving generation, friendship has become underrated and overlooked when it truly is the gold mine of all relationships.

Written by: Poorani

Edited by: Ruby

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