by Lia Weinseiss
In the current times, it can be difficult to uphold friendships in ways that we have become accustomed to. We can’t share a dinner, go for drinks, and/or hang out at each other’s houses. It seems cruel that in these times when our mental health seems to be at its most fragile, we cannot even see a portion of our support system.
So what can you do? You can text, arrange Zoom calls, send letters, and send gifts. You can show your love and support by checking in every once in a while. While it is certainly a different, modernized form of friendship, it is possible. We do, after all, stay in contact with our home friends when we are at school and with our school friends when we are at home.
However, in these times when our mental health is so fragile and we are doing our best to keep our own heads above water, how much do we find ourselves with an obligation to ensure our friends are doing well? Is a weekly text enough or should it be daily? Are we bad friends if we can’t bring ourselves to do those Zoom calls?
(Zoom is a popular method of calling, and people use it when they are distanced)
We are all going through different struggles, some of us more than others. “Family therapist Catherine Lewis says communication can be fraught when friends are experiencing the pandemic differently.” (Noveck, Jocelyn) If some of us are struggling more than others, it can often be difficult to have the will to reach out or even incite feelings of jealousy if some are dealing with isolation better than others. This can make it even more difficult to keep up friendships, especially if you are in the position of the one expected to keep up contact.
Being alienated from friendships that used to be a part of daily life can create unexpected rifts because “people are now having to pick and choose what works in a friendship, and what’s maybe no longer a good fit.” (Noveck, Jocelyn) Without seeing people in person, we can easily read texts in a negative way or think that a lack of Snapchats means that a friendship is now lackluster or unimportant. A simple lack of communication can lead to rifts and the eventual fading away of a friendship. With extra time, self-reflection can help us realize that people who used to be in our lives may not have a place there anymore.
To put it bluntly, this time can make or break a friendship; so, what are some tips you can use to stay close with your friends even if you can’t communicate with them?
- If you have a problem, address it.
In a time where verbal communication is one of the only tools we have, letting issues brew because it feels like there is more time to solve them is not the answer. Ignoring your friends or pretending things are normal will only amplify the issues – quarantine or not.
2. If you can check in, do it every now and then. If you can’t, let your friends know why.
Communication is key, though you are under no obligation to text your friends every day. That being said, in times when people are often struggling, texting a friend when you can will have an impact on their day. If you are unable to communicate daily, texting your friends and being honest can often avoid issues that are likely to arise by complete silence.
3. Set up Zoom events.
Though setting up Zoom meetings can sometimes feel like a burden, they can also be a beneficial way of bonding. A simple quiz as a reminder of enjoyable past moments can help bring back to life a friendship that feels largely online.
4. Set up a book trading system.
(sharing books is a great way to stay connected)
Being able to send books to one another not only lets you and your friends know what each other are thinking, but it also gives you more things to read and do. I’m not going to list out all of the benefits of reading, but it can definitely help.
5. Listen to your friends if you can.
If they are having issues, and you can take on the mental capacity to listen, do so. Talking out situations with your friends can often help strengthen a bond that might be fading because you cannot see one another face-to-face.
6. When asking friends if they have an ear to listen, ask if they are able.
Dumping issues on your friends when they are struggling themselves can create an unintended issue in a relationship. Just checking in with them to ensure they are okay can ensure that you create healthy boundaries in your relationship.