By Darragh Nolan
In the midst of the latest in a never-ending line of Zoom calls, a passing comment from a friend put me in a bit of a spiral.
“It’s going to be interesting seeing how people have new friends after lockdown.”
I was at a total loss as my mind scrambled for any explanation as to how my peers were making new friends while I found myself firmly in the middle of yet another weekend of binging everything from Netflix and Disney+ to Jack Daniels and Deliveroo.
As it turns out, he was more so speculating as to how the dynamics between all of us have changed over the past year. And he’s right. The pandemic experience has shaped the course of life in the last 12 months and friendships have been right in the firing line.
How your friendships have developed during lockdown may have been affected by the type of friend you are. There’s the “never text first” friend, who even if they’ve been attached to someone at the hip since playschool, will never under any circumstances text them without receiving the first message.
Two of my “never text first” friends had two separate conversations with me, independent of one another, admitting that they regretted losing touch with one another since lockdown started. Hopefully they’ll speak again soon.
There’s the “just checking in” friend who’s been nothing but a godsend as they make sure those around them are doing alright. There’s the friend who takes the initiative and tries to corral everyone into doing something, anything, to reconnect on a Saturday evening.
Regardless of what type of friend you are or the type of friends you have, there’s just no replacing the day-to-day aspects of maintaining your circle. Nights out can be replaced by Zoom and days out traded for watch parties but the gaps where the little things fit in have been filled with isolation.
There’s no substitute for those impromptu meetings. Sliding into a booth at Smokey’s, slipping off to Sult in the middle of the day, saying hello and stopping for a chat between lectures. Spontaneity is at the heart of the relationships we forge in college and that can’t be replicated through computer screens.
College is a period in life when, even at the very best of times, finding friends can be difficult. I can’t begin to imagine what the first-year experience has been like during a pandemic. In this state of constant flux, maintaining those relationships can be just as hard.
More than ever, it’s important that we give our friendships the attention they deserve. It can be difficult when feeling down to reach out and the prospect of making contact while living an isolated day-to-day life is daunting. But we are very much in this together, perhaps more than we even realise.
Figures published by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) have shown in recent weeks that a majority of people are wrongly assuming that others have been socialising more than them. There is a growing misconception for many that they are being left out of an imagined active social life.
97% of respondents to the CSO survey believed they were more careful than the average person, despite the majority saying they hadn’t met anyone outside their own household. We are developing a fear of missing out on something that isn’t even happening.
Most are living in isolation, as we should be given circumstances. But the mental, emotional grind of lockdown appears to making many more insular than we ought to be.
No matter what type of friend you are, it might do us all a bit of good to become the one who checks in, even if it’s just for a day. Even if you’ve never been one to take the plunge and send that first message.
We all need our friends at the moment, and no matter how long it’s been, they might just need you right now.