We humans are very complex! We’re all very diverse with different needs, personalities, and behaviours. We don’t always behave in a sensible and positive way; we say and do the wrong things and don’t always understand each other. Throughout your life, you’ll meet lots of different people and make lots of different kinds of friends. Some friends you’ll only know for a short time, but others, you will know for your whole life.
Friendships can have a major impact on your health and wellbeing and whether they’re friends you’ve had since you were young or people you only know online, it’s important that your friends have a positive effect on your life. Friends can come in all shapes and sizes; from different backgrounds, with different experiences, they may have different interests to you, but what is important is how they make you feel. Friends come and go in our life, and it doesn’t matter how long a friendship lasts, the most important thing is that your friends accept you for you. Friendships are an essential ingredient in a happy life, so it’s important to give them the care and attention they deserve.
Friendship is not a ‘one size fits all’. It’s different for everyone. But the one thing that will be the same is the definition of a friend. For most of us, this will be someone we feel connected to, someone who is there for us, someone we trust, someone we enjoy spending time with. A friend is someone who understands you and if they don’t, they try to. They want to know what you’re about and what you need. Genuine friends are ones who want to know ‘what you’re up to these days’. Not to judge you or compare their life to yours or to compete against you, but simply due to an authentic interest in your life. They are there for you when they can be, but will also set boundaries when they need to. Many things make someone a good friend, and the definition of what makes a true friendship differs from person to person.
We’ve compiled a big list of qualities that make for a good friend, and help remind us of how we also can be a great friend to those special people in our lives:
Friendships are a crucial part of living a happy life. It’s so important that we surround ourselves with people who we have fun with, who support us, and people who make us feel good. Positive friendships help prevent isolation and loneliness. Being with people who share your interests and values can increase your happiness, reduce stress, and improve your self-confidence.
Our friendships can help our mental health and overall happiness.
In today’s world, young people spend a lot of time socialising online. This can be with people they know in the offline world as well as those they have never met face-to-face. The online world can be a wonderful way to connect with those who have similar interests and beliefs, and is a whole new way of navigating new friendships, sharing and connecting in a public space. It’s hard to imagine a world without social media. So many people have an account on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter – or all three! You can connect with your friends even when you can’t see them in person.
This in itself can present a whole new way of navigating relationships, personal interactions and the nuances of sharing and connecting in a public space. So before you connect with others online and share part of your lives with them, it’s important that you have certain boundaries in place and that you ask yourself, ‘Do I know the difference between a friend and follower’?
‘Friends’ tend to be those with whom users will share their own personal profile. It’s usually a mutual relationship with both parties able to engage and interact with everything their friends post online.
‘Followers’ on the other hand, can typically be just one-way relationships, and, dependent on the platform, only provide access to certain aspects of an individual’s profile, such as a person’s content feed.
A common trait that often exists between the two however, is the desire to gather as many friends or followers as possible.*
It is very easy on social media to accept a ‘friend request’ from everyone who sends you one, even if you don’t know them well in the offline world, however, this is not always a good thing to do. Social media makes it easy to distort what true friendships should actually be like. It is important you understand the value of ‘true friendships’ and although online friendships can be developed, not everyone can be trusted online and it is difficult to check if someone is who they say they are. In the digital world you can feel under pressure to have a lot of friends and followers, but remember you only need a small circle of good friends to be happy, and when online, keep your most private thoughts, memories, and experiences for those who really care about you.
Frenemy (or frenemies) is a blend of words of Friend and Enemy and refers to someone, or a group of people who pretend to be your friend, but are actually a rival or someone who is displaying toxic or bullying behaviour towards you. Friendships can sometimes turn ‘toxic’, or sometimes toxic friendships can develop if you hang around with ‘frenemies’ – friends who are mean to you.
Instead of making you feel happy and included, toxic friendships can lead to you feeling hurt, sad and worthless. This is because frenemies often put people down, manipulate them, leave them out or behave in other mean ways, both face to face and on social media. Most friendships will experience ups and downs, but how do we spot when a friend is actually a frenemy?
A frenemy will reflect some or all of the below behaviours:
If any of the above is happening to you, it might be time to let the unhealthy friendship go and move on to meet new people who treat you with more respect. But, if you really want to keep the friendship, you will need to find ways to change it. Try and speak with someone about it and and work out what is causing the problem.
Acknowledging you’re in a toxic friendship can be harder than it sounds, but it’s important that once you recognise it, you make plans to walk away. Walking away isn’t easy but will probably be one of the best things you’ll do – especially for your mental health.
Friendship can be amazing, but it can also be a bit complicated. Like all things that matter most, it’s a deeply rooted part of who we are. It can sometime take a bit of time and thinking to figure it out and isn’t always straightforward. Friendships take time and effort from both sides and can have a positive impact on a person’s wellbeing. There is no magic formula to make sure they work well – that is down to each individual, but good friendships can help in many ways, from improving your mood to supporting you through difficult times and everything in between. Some friendships will last longer than others, but all friendships play an important part in your life.
Download our Friendships Brochure for young people
*Information from nationalonlinesafety.com