Having great friends to share your life with is a gift like no other, after all, friends are the family you choose.
On Wednesday, March 14, 2018, my 23-year-old neighbour ‘’Vicky’’ took her own life. We were later to discover she had posted a suicide note on a well-known social networking site where she had over six thousand followers. Her message had sounded like a desperate plea for attention. Although she had all those social network “friends” online, not one came to her aid. Vicky had locked herself up in the kitchen of her apartment and taken a bottle of sniper (a poisonous insecticide) mixed with an equal dose of morning fresh (a common dishwashing liquid). A suicide note was later to be found in ‘’Vicky’s room.
She wrote ‘’If I had one true, real friend, I would be alive, and you will not be reading this note’’. I do not have details of Vicky’s journey with her friends; neither do I encourage suicide for any reason at all. However, Vicky’s note underscores a startling reality—true friendship is something that still eludes many.
Modern technology allows us to make hundreds, or more, of social network “friends” just by adding their names to our list of computer contacts. It even makes it easier to end such friendships by simply deleting that person’s name from our list.
A survey carried out by Matthew Brashears, an assistant professor of sociology at Cornell University, proved that there is indeed a shrinking in discussion partners by young people. This, he said was a cause for concern as “discussion partners provide both emotional support and ideas for how to solve problems, so a shrinking discussion network may lead to more stress and poorer outcomes.” It is important for teenagers to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance from their peers. Friendships can be a network of great support and can offer protection against negative peer relationships such as bullies.
In the course of writing this article, I went for a quick break on Facebook and came across a post with the caption-who still has a real friend they have known for over 5 years and counting? This gave me great food for thought, and I think you should ponder over this too.
Like most people, you probably agree that good friends are important. You may also recognize that there is more to being a friend than simply clicking links on a computer screen or a smartphone. What do you look for in a friend? How can you be a good friend? What does it take to forge a lasting friendship?
Here are 10 suggestions from good therapy that can help
- Some people are popular only because everyone is afraid of them. That is no way to have friends; that’s a dictatorship! Look around at the people who are friendly, but not super popular—that’s where you’re likely to find the people who stay out of the drama.
- Understand that there can be levels of friends. You can have a class friend, a tennis friend, and a best friend. They are all important to your well-being!
- You can’t always find friendship on your phone. Look up and outward. Put your phone away and connect in person. Start with a friendly smile and work up from there to a kind “hello.”
- Have an acquaintance whom you like? Take a risk and ask them to do something with you. Go to Starbucks, see a movie, do a project. Even if you are scared, ask. Taking risks and asking often deepens relationships.
- Try a new activity. If you are an artist, join Art Club! That is where your kind of people are probably hanging out.
- Don’t be so quick to assume that everyone dislikes you. What do they know about you? Do you walk through the halls with your head down and a distressed look on your face? You could be inadvertently sending an inaccurate impression visually. Maybe lighten up a bit, walk to class with a friendly face, and take a chance by smiling at someone. See what happens as an experiment.
- Look for evidence. Are you sure that person “hates” you? What are the facts? Feelings are not facts—we need to look for actual evidence to support your feelings. Maybe you’ll find you didn’t have all the facts and misread a situation.
- Learn social skills. Find safe topics that everyone likes to talk about, such as food, animals, weather, television shows, and holidays. Ask questions, don’t give one-word answers, and be polite. Learn the art of interviewing – it’s essential to get to know someone!
- Be vulnerable. Tell someone something about yourself. Start with a small detail that you don’t care if people know and grow it from there.
- Assume people are good and want to have a friend. Almost everyone wants to be connected.
Teenage years are hard enough without the extra challenge of feeling friendless. Apply these tips, and perhaps, you can gain one new, true friend in no time.