The desire for companionship is central to the human condition. Indeed it is friendship that we as humans intrinsically desire. It’s the need to be heard, understood and to feel like you belong.
Sherry Turkle is the speaker of a TED talk entitled “Connected, but alone?” She discusses forming friendships and connections in the age of technology and how basic human interactions are becoming things that we must re-teach ourselves. This is something important to grasp and understand now that we are in university — the adult’s playground, so to speak. University is where we are supposed to be making lifelong friends, but what if we don’t know how to make those connections anymore?
I think most of us need not despair. The wonderful thing about university is that it does a lot of the beginning work of making a friend for us as it organizes us as students into groups with common interests.
Not only are we coralled as relatively like-minded people, but being in the university setting also allows for three of the most important ingredients of friendship to occur on a daily basis: recurring spontaneous interaction, close proximity to one another and an open environment where people feel at ease to confide in one another.
But knowing that you are in the prime location to make a BFF doesn’t make it certain that you will soon be a part of the “sisterhood or brotherhood of the traveling bunnyhug.” First you have to put in some real effort.
Effort starts with you clearing out that lump in your throat and saying something. Talk to the person you sit beside in class; chat with the guy ahead of you in line at Starbucks or the gal with a locker next to you at the gym. Ask a question, complain about an assignment you’re both doing or compliment them on their colourful toe socks.
Next you have to listen. Turkle makes the point that the reason we are so enamored with social media is because it makes us feel heard. Well, to make and more importantly keep friends, ensure that after you speak you also listen, as Turkle says, “even to the boring bits.”
Now that you’re going out, making real conversation and meeting all kinds of people, it’s time to discern which friends are for keeps. Your momma was right when she said not to judge a book by its cover, so don’t limit yourself to only talking to certain types of people.
After getting to know new people a bit, it’s healthy to categorize your friends. Know which ones are nice to talk to in class, which you would have fun going out with on a Saturday night, and which ones you would save from a burning building. It’s good to know what you can expect from people, but also allow room for these people to exceed or disappoint your expectations.
The friends you make will be wonderful and imperfect, just like you. Turkle notes that we are drawn to social media and communication forms such as texting because they allow us to control the chaos of relationships so that we can keep our distance and only deal with the parts of friendship that are manageable.
But the best kinds of relationships are those with all the ups and downs of life. These kinds of relationships and friendships are filled with fear, love, anger and joy. But they are more complicated than a profile page on a social media site and your conversations are more expansive than a 140 character limit — this is a good thing.
If you want to make a friend on campus today, be confident that there are others just like you who are also looking for a chum. While 550 friends on Facebook is good for our egos, these numbers don’t make us feel as if we are part of a strong, vibrant and growing social community.
The only thing that can truly make us feel as if we belong, are heard and are understood is to take the opportunities given to us and make real life connections with great people.
Graphic: Cody Schumacher