Have you felt your friendships shifting at a rapid rate during this pandemic? Maybe a friend you used to see several times a week, you haven’t seen at all during the past six months. Or perhaps you’ve started making more time for a friend that was pushed to the furthest corners of your life before.
Some say that this pandemic has accelerated trends that were already happening. It’s made industries that were bound to blow up boom just a bit faster, and those that were on the downslope deteriorate almost instantly. It’s been doing that for human relationships, too. In some cases, maybe it hasn’t accelerated trends in your friendships, so much as illuminated ones you didn’t know were there.
When we don’t have social engagements to go to and the only way to carry out friendships is through video chats and simple outdoor park hangs, we see friendships for what they really are. Sometimes we see things we don’t like so much; other times we see deeper things we have in common. Here are ways this pandemic may change your friendships forever.
One more political divide
As if the world didn’t feel divided enough before the pandemic – with rivaling political parties villainizing each other every chance they got – this pandemic has given us one more thing to disagree on. Friends you once felt shared the same values as you aren’t treating this pandemic wisely. You may decide that you don’t have the same beliefs as one friend, because of the lack of responsibility you see them taking during this time. It may be difficult to forget that this or that friend hosted a 100-person party during a pandemic, disregarding the wellbeing of others. It can be hard to forget that one friend was an anti-masker. Of course, there’s more to it than that. Each party has different feelings surrounding stimulus packages, reopening of businesses, and other economical factors. The divide between parties has perhaps never been greater.
Contact tracing paranoia
Having a friend give you COVID-19 may be a transgression you never forgive. For some, the transgression goes beyond just causing a short-term illness. What if someone becomes hospitalized due to the virus? Or dies. Within their social circle, there can be extreme anger towards the person whom they believe passed on the virus. Everyone can gather together to find who is at fault, ready to take them down. Even when the pandemic is over, the consequences of it may be permanent. And the anger that goes with that.
People are moving away
One practical matter that’s changing friendships is this: people are moving. People are leaving the cities at a rapid rate, to be in smaller towns, away from crowds. Many people are moving back home, with their parents. They’re doing this for financial reasons, and because they simply want to be near loved ones right now. These geographical changes make maintaining friendships rather difficult. Our country hasn’t seen young adults moving in with their parents at this rate since the Great Depression.
New financial discrepancies
Having friends with vastly different financial circumstances than your own can always be difficult. Now, that financial divide may be growing. Or, there could be a divide where there wasn’t one before. If you’ve lost your job, you can feel that you don’t relate to your friends who are just complaining of having to work from home. Or if you’ve kept your job, you can feel guilt and distance between you and your friends who kept theirs. Some people are taking this time to go on vacations (though they probably shouldn’t), and their unemployed friends see the Instagram posts. Resentment can grow there, as unemployed individuals feel their employed friends are handling money carelessly during this time.
Work-related friendships scatter
If you relied on your physical work location for a social life, that might be entirely gone. Those with busy schedules can fall into a pattern of just having work friends. It’s easier to get drinks or go to the gym after work with the person at the desk next to you, even if that isn’t your favorite friend, than to try to meet up with someone across the town. If you fell into that pattern, you can find yourself rather lonely when the physical workspace dissolves. This remote-working reality may be here to stay, too. Even as some employees are invited back into offices, many refuse to return.
Party friends are over
You may realize now that you had some friends who were just your party friends. Your relationship relied on some element of alcohol (or other substances) and being in a crowd. You didn’t have deep conversations. You couldn’t rely on each other for the boring/tough things like moving day or consoling one another after a breakup. These friends were only around for a party, and now there are no parties.
Social climbers are MIA
If you’ve noticed some friends who constantly called you have gone missing, they may be social climbers. They may have felt that your status in the pre-pandemic world was going to help them in some way. Perhaps there were friends you suspected were using you to social climb. Now that they’ve gone missing, that suspicion has been confirmed. What social climbing is there even to be done when being social is literally banned?
Depression and self-isolation
Depression can have an aggressive cycle. Many are struggling with it right now. Those who only dealt with occasional and circumstantial depression before the pandemic are dealing with it more regularly now. And when a person is depressed, they don’t feel like talking to people or seeing people. Even though those activities can help them, they might withdraw. To their friends, that can look like them being a bad friend.
You learn who you can really talk to
All there is to do right now is talk. That’s the only activity for friends. Do it on FaceTime, Zoom, Google Duo, Skype, Facebook Messenger – wherever you want – but you’re just talking. Even if you’re cooking together or doing some hobby on video chat, you’re essentially still just talking. If you meet outdoors for socially-distanced hangs, there’s not much to do but talk. So what we’re learning is which friends we really can have a great conversation with.
The divide between parents and non-parents
The divide between friends with kids and those without kids is growing wider. These two groups can be friends, but there were always ways in which each side felt the other didn’t understand them. Now the pressures of parenthood have intensified. People are homeschooling. They have their kids with them all of the time. There is no breakaway from parenthood, the way there used to be, to make time for friends who don’t have kids.