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Post No.: 1000friends


Furrywisepuppy says:


Whether it’s at university, a new workplace, being stuck on a desert island or wherever – more than anything else that makes or breaks one’s time there will be the compatibility with the people we’re with, or how we get along with those we’re stuck with. When we’re with the right bunch, it makes for the best times of our lives, and when we’re with the wrong bunch, it makes for the worst – to the point that being alone is more preferable.


As a social species, people make or break everything. Good relationships are the number one key for a happy life. They’re more crucial than one’s career achievements or leisure time. Different people find meaning in different things but most people around the globe rank family, friends, pets and other social relationships highly for a meaningful life. Other things that rank highly include what people do in their daily life like their work, exercising, learning and volunteering. When hard times hit, it helps to look for sources of inspiration that are bigger than oneself – like community, nature and spirituality.


Like all relationships, we need to work on and continually nurture our friendships to keep them active and strong – but this shouldn’t be difficult because hanging around friends is usually fun! However, when life gets busy, such as in our 30s and 40s, it tends to be our friendships that are the relationships that start to get neglected. Friends usually take a backseat to work, children and other activities, including, ironically, checking out social media obsessively!


It’s thus vital to pay attention to and prioritise some regular quality time with our friends for the mutual benefits they bring. Think about what you’ve been and are contributing to a particular friendship? Have you checked in with that friend lately? Have you been helpful towards them recently? Have you said and done something nice or told them why you appreciate them of late? Are you a dependable presence in their life?


Friendships require time and attention to build. They take less time to maintain but we still need to check in with our friends periodically. Well even if you haven’t kept in touch with someone for a while, you can quickly revive a friendship with a message, even after many years have passed. Most people will appreciate it. Woof!


The school years are as much about making friends as making grades – so ensure your children are socially, not just academically, intelligent, and allow them to socialise after school. The warmth of the relationships during one’s childhood predicts many future outcomes like career success and healthy adult relationships. Parents need to not only advocate achievement but also instil messages about what it means to be a good friend. This involves flipping it from ‘what can I do for myself?’ to ‘what can I do for others/the world beyond me?’


Social connections are essential for the elderly too, along with maintaining physical exercise and purpose, like looking after grandchildren. Various studies have shown that happiness typically declines as we reach middle age but picks up again as we approach retirement. But this is hardly universal because age-related health difficulties, the rising incidence of losing family members and long-known friends through bereavement, and maybe dwindling finances (especially if the welfare system is inadequate), can put a dent in this trend for us personally.


The vast majority of our social networks ultimately form from the institutions we participate in (e.g. school, work, childcare, club, church) so join a few organisations. Join diverse communities, both offline and online – these can help you meet people from different walks of life. Join a volunteer group – the type of people there are generally welcoming and kind. Volunteering or otherwise helping a charity that supports those in real need, like the homeless, is also a great way to decrease the perception of your own strife, and increase your sympathy for others.


A decent network of close friends and loose acquaintances (especially those you know but least know) can help you find suitable dates or career opportunities. Some casual acquaintances might one day turn into real friends (see Post No.: 0979)? So work on your friendships and deepen your network of friends and contacts to boost your chances of finding potentially positive, life-changing opportunities!


However, with regards to everyday health and happiness, as opposed to just improving one’s career prospects – it’s less about how many social network ‘friends’ one has but about the quality of those friendships. It’s far better to have a few close true friends one sees regularly than a million social network ‘friends’. Dunbar’s number of 150 is regarded as a very ruff guide to the maximum number of people one can maintain meaningful relationships with.


So social media technologies may have allowed us to keep more friends or ‘friends’ than ever before but quantity isn’t the same as quality. And for many teenagers in particular, they’re platforms used for making social comparisons, which generally makes us unhappy, than for making deep and meaningful connections.


Do also be careful if divulging intimate information in public settings like online social media platforms, especially if you’re feeling low in self-esteem – keep your updates and posts reasonably positive. Some people are compassionate but others prefer to avoid those who seem to constantly tell everybody how down they feel; either because they feel empathy but don’t know what to sensitively say or do, or because they don’t want to hang around those who ‘spoil the vibes’ for them.


Non-face-to-face communities can increase the risk of dehumanisation – we can sometimes somewhat forget that there are real human beings with real feelings behind the avatars and posts, and so we can find it easier to neglect them; or at its extreme this can facilitate abuse, trolling or death threats that wouldn’t arise if the members were interacting face-to-face.


Technology should extend, not replace, the way we socially connect with others i.e. we should still meet people face-to-face or at least communicate in real-time with them.


Now it’s normal for our friends to change over our lifetimes hence it’s not the case that we can only stay friends with those we knew when young. A quality relationship can be said to be positive, cooperative and reciprocal, and stable and long-term. It’s knowing and showing that ‘I’m here for you and you’re there for me’, both physically and virtually. If a particular relationship is toxic, too one-sided, too draining, and you’ve tried your best to turn things around, then it’s okay to gently walk away.


It’s okay to walk away from friendships that have ceased to be quality bonds. But the most troubling kinds of relationships are those that are ambivalent, like our ‘frenemies’ or those we’re unsure of where we stand with them – these are those where we experience both positive and negative, elevating and exasperating, feelings about someone and our interactions with them. We can either work on them to try to make things better, leave them, or gradually shift them to the outer circles of our social life.


Like with romantic relationships – if a friendship turns fractious, and after forgiving someone numerous times and they still don’t wish to behave more thoughtfully towards you, then it may be time to accept that you both aren’t compatible with each other and say farewell. Like in negotiations, the option to be the one to decide to walk away is a powerful one. Those with greater self-respect and self-esteem will find it easier to ditch the deadweight because they’re less desperate and/or simply have other friends to be with instead. Forgive them one last time then move on from them. Forgive yourself too. Forget also those who myopically don’t even wish to be your friend in the first place after trying to befriend them. Concentrate on those who do make you happy.


Friendships may turn negative because the other person cares far less about you than you about them (neglect), you discover that they have an ulterior agenda (e.g. all they really wanted was to try to convert you to their religion), they treat you with market norms too much (e.g. they keep asking you to buy stuff from their side business and heaping guilt on you if you don’t), or they want a romantic relationship when you’re only interested in a platonic friendship at most and they won’t accept the message, for instance.


Perhaps it’s not right to judge someone so negatively when you’ve only just met them and haven’t given them a decent chance yet, but in life you’re going to encounter people you dislike once you do get to know them – even people you once liked, trusted or loved.


Being alone (voluntary) isn’t the same as being lonely (involuntary). And during the times when we really want to be alone, social company can even stress us out and make us feel worse.


‘Ghosting’ or cutting off communications with someone without explanation, even though it’s fairly common within certain age groups and contexts, is quite rude and inconsiderate however. Ignoring friendly messages is downright impolite at any rate. So it’s kinder to give an explanation for why things aren’t working out and say a civil and cordial farewell unless it’s unsafe to (e.g. if it’s an abusive relationship with someone quite possessive of you).


From the other side, we may feel like we’re being ghosted when the other person is just too busy and overwhelmed by too many social messages that they lose track, and it’s not exclusively anything personal against you. Or they just don’t know how to deal with a particular message or are trying to avoid forming a closer tie with you for one reason or another (e.g. they might consider you a relative outsider and to hang around you more might be seen as being disloyal towards their usual wolf pack, or even though you’re not looking for an intimate relationship with them, they might not risk getting closer to you because they’re already in an intimate relationship with someone else) and so they just ignore the conversation entirely. And sometimes the longer we’ve not contacted somebody, the harder we’ll find it to get back in touch with them.


Regarding such possibilities, it might be worth checking in to see if the ghosting is deliberate or not, particularly if you value the friendship with them. Even if it is deliberate, it might provide some closure for you.


The ghoster should certainly be more thoughtful though if they don’t mean to disrespect or hurt the ghostee – if they’re busy then they should send a quick reply to say they’re busy right now but will get back to them when they can. And they should recognise that it’s worth preserving fluffy friendships by admitting to feeling overwhelmed or anxious of closeness instead of just cutting someone completely off.


If a friendship cannot be saved or won’t blossom then understand that we all change over time. So just make new friends that are more appropriate to your own current life.


In sum, relationships of all kinds need work and continual nurturing to bloom otherwise they’ll wither. So don’t be one of those people who think ‘they haven’t asked me how I’m doing so I won’t ask them’ – be the one who periodically asks them first. Don’t be one of those people who think ‘they’ve not contacted me in a while’ when you’ve not contacted them in a while – get back in touch first.


Woof! So take stock of your social life – identify those who’ve made you feel good and try to spend more time with them. Let people know how much they mean to you. Think about someone who is important to you. Remember what they’ve done for you. Where would you be without them? Now think about what you’d thank them for if you’ll never see them again. At this precise moment – contact them and tell them!


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