For many, COVID has impacted both the quantity and quality of friendships. Many of us have discovered we have lost contact and need to re-establish connections with friends. As the social distancing COVID era wains, we have an opportunity to re-establish and develop new friendships. It also provides a chance to consider friendship’s role in our overall mental and physical well-being. During COVID, many weddings, funerals, and other social events have been shared by social media with those unable or unwilling to attend. Social media has been useful since it allowed many to participate in these significant life milestones, even vicariously. For some, our circle of friendship actually expanded as we connected and remained with friends at great distances, but a computer or other electronic devices can never replace the power of their physical presence, which is a significant drawback.
If we are honest, though, COVID has also exposed our friendships that were not in our best interest. That is not a new concept since the Bible warned long ago, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’“(I Corinthians 15:33 NIV). Now would be a good time to ask yourself if you still want some individuals to influence your life. Are there a few who have been a source of discouragement by their negative attitude or behaviors you have not missed? Here are a few other thoughts to consider as you rekindle particular friendships.
How satisfied are you with the size of your friendship network? When you consider the quantity of your friendships, you need to consider two things. First, obviously, is the number of friends in your circle. Our number of friends is often influenced by the season of life we are in. Work, school, and family can impact the number of friends we actually have time for, but there are no seasons of life we do not need the support friendships can provide. Beyond the number of friends is the number of times you can connect with them. Zoom and similar tools have made it possible to communicate with friends and family worldwide to remain close and support each other, but the power of physical presence cannot be discounted. Connecting, even electronically, as little as once a month can contribute to a higher level of life satisfaction. For example, some studies show that women are most satisfied with their lives and friendships when three or more connect regularly. On the other hand, studies show men have a more complicated relationship when making and maintaining friendships. As a result, men often begin building friendships around a common task or interest. Time and trust are needed to allow most men to create a friendship in which they are willing to risk vulnerability and publicly express emotions and feelings.
What is the quality of your friendship? Besides the number of friends, it is important to consider the quality of those friendships. I ask people who claim to have many friends how many of them would you feel comfortable calling to help you at 2AM when your car breaks down in the middle of a storm over an hour away from home? So, you can see not all friendships are of the same quality. Even the campfire song points out that some friends are at different values, and social media has cheapened the value of the title “friend.” “We are Facebook friends; I really do not know them” is not an uncommon statement today. In counseling, I describe four levels of friendship. The first is the person you know from work on sight but know little more. The next level is the person you are willing to share facts with. The third is the one you are ready to risk sharing your opinion. Finally, the deep level is the friend you are willing to share your feelings, fears, dreams, and hopes with. Reversing the question asked earlier, how many people would you get out of bed for at 2AM? The old adage still rings true “if you want friends, you must be one” So take stock of the friendships you have and remember the Girl Scout camp song and “Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.”
Reference This article is based on Jorgensen, M. f, & Wester, K. l. (2022, February). Friendship Matter. Counseling Today, 64(08), 22–24. Nardi, P. (n.d.). “Seamless souls”: An introduction to men’s friendships. Men’s Friendships, 1–14. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781483325736.n1