By Klaus Döring
Among the several waves of change we surfed through the last two years, the one that wiped out many sandcastles was a tidal wave that impacted friendships. Many, of course, survived and built endurance. But whether dissolved with distance or evolved and redefined, the impact of COVID on friendships has been undeniable.
While some people may have always found it challenging to make friends, many found the task even more daunting during the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to limited social interaction. Even as the world continues to reopen very slowly, increases in remote work mean that people’s social lives look considerably different.
During times of stress and change, however, it’s still possible to engage with others and build friendships—it just may look a bit different than you’re used to. More importantly, should be to keep friendships within these times. But this seems for many of us to be very difficult even online and especially by social networking.
When making the effort to create new or rebuild older friendships, it’s worth taking the time to think about what you need out of a friendship. For instance, if you believe that you need shared equity values with others to develop a bond of friendship, then that may be easier to find in an activist space.
If you find that you like to have shared interests and hobbies it might be helpful to meet others who are already involved in the things you enjoy. It is important to note that friendships require consent from all parties and it often takes time to develop trust with new people.
We need the support of our friends, but it can be tough to stay close when you can’t meet up in person. There are always some ways to nourish your friendships during the era of safer-at-home. Sue Scheff is the author of Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate. She recently penned a story on Psychology Today on the unraveling of friendships during this time. “We have seen the unraveling of friendships during Covid-19 when people don’t agree on masks or whether they should be getting a haircut or going to restaurants,” she says. “The truth is, everyone has their own comfort level, we need to respect it, and if we don’t agree with it, we are witnessing (what was once close relationships) now crumble.” Sad to say but very true!
There’s also the additional layer of trust (or mistrust) that gets heaped on top of the current situation. According to a study published in the Journal of Health Psychology in August 2021, it turns out more people are lying in the current era. For their own reasons, some friends might conceal that they have been feeling ill or that they have widened their “pandemic pod” to others who are not practicing safe social distancing. While it may seem like it’s not a big deal, the truth is, lying about your behavior or how you feel can endanger the lives of the friends you care the most about.
I never ever talked about myself on social networks if I really felt bad or sick. But one thing I found out during the last year: more and more “friends” left or remain mute on social networks. Maybe, because I didn’t join the open circle of bad and negative daily posts. Or these friends are like me: I am still trying to look on the bright side of the street – even times like now.