I’ve always struggled with creating and maintaining friendships. You can only get pushed around, used and tossed aside for so long before the walls eventually come up and you get rather picky about it. This is even moreso when walls were already there, due to social anxieties.
Being the way that I am, this has led to a rather quiet and independent life for the most part, choosing only to trust myself and be in my own company. Whilst this is the case, I do have people in my life that I care about, people who I deem worthy to be a part of my life and who (depending on the person), I can let those walls down around and showcase some vulnerability.
These friendships for me can easily be defined and categorised, something that may not come as a surprise if you know me. These are as follows;
- Close Friends
- Internet Friends
- The Walk & Talker Friends
- Childhood Friends
- Workplace Friends
- Distant But Always There Friends
- Dissertation Length Message Friends
- Those Friends From That One Thing You Did One Time
- And of course, my Best Friend.
Of course I could probably refine this more, but we’ll be here all day. There are also some who may personally feel like they fall into the category of friend, but they’re not. This includes some from the workplace, blog followers, people who say hello on the street once a year but nothing more and people who I happen to know, but have no bond nor connection with.
See for me, friendship is sacred. A true bond between 2 humans who have an unspoken kinship, a platonic love for one another. Friendship is family.
Friendship Throughout The Early Years
As stated at the start, I’ve always found it difficult to make and maintain friends. This was especially the case as a kid and a teenager. Everyone is friends with everyone at first, because you’re all so young and see each other every day. This was no different for me either to begin with. Things began to change when I got older however. My fellow classmates quickly found their place within certain social groups.
You had the kids that lived near each other, the kids who’s parents were childhood best friends, the kids who liked the same football team or played football together, the kids who played with Tamagotchi’s or Yu-Gi-Oh Cards and the ones who would gather and talk gossip about the opposite sex.
As someone who lived near no other kids, who’s parents friends kids weren’t easy to get along with, who liked football and played football, but supported a team nobody else did and was weird so didn’t get invited to play, who’s parents couldn’t afford digital games or collectors cards, and who had no gossip to tell… I didn’t exactly have a place to fit in.
Friendship Throughout The Teen Years
Truth be told I would’ve struggled anyway, engaging with anyone at all was a challenge as I just had zero people skills, but it’s even harder when you have nothing in common with anyone, thus no reason to even bother trying. This continued through my junior years, to my teens, and even early adulthood.
Teens was a difficult one to be honest. I was becoming more self-aware. I knew I didn’t fit in, I knew something about me was different, and I was well aware that’s why people bullied me. I tried friend groups, but they didn’t work. Apart from 1 or 2 friends, I chose to keep to myself.
It is a little disheartening to watch everyone around you growing and forming lifelong bonds, whilst you and your only other friends (of whom struggled with other people as well) would just sit and watch those people, wishing you could be like them. Even now on reflecting, I find myself wishing I could’ve experienced that, felt that love at a time when the world was confusing enough. The positive at least, is having bonds like that, as an adult.
Adult Friendships & The Internet
Personally making conversation and starting friendships as an adult is an even more daunting task, as what you say suddenly carries weight. If you crumble under the social pressure and can’t get your words out, chances are you’ve opened yourself up to ridicule.
As such, I’ve taken to, for the most part, just waiting for others to talk. This is why having categorised friendships works out though. By putting people in particular groups, I know the sort of conversations I’m probably going to have and when, thus allowing for some preparation ahead of time.
Through pure luck and following other people, I seem to have amassed quite the Rogues Gallery of friends over the last few years. From New Englanders, to Canadians, to Scottish, Dutch and more, I now find myself at a time where I have friends across the world. The internet works wonderfully like that.
Using the internet to form friendships has been a true godsend. No longer do I have to worry about social cues, tone of voice, saying too much, saying too little, the pressures of responding on the spot and more. I can take my time, say what I want, when I want and everything is easier. Through making various internet friends into my late teens, through to my early twenties, many of whom I still keep in touch with (how could I not after our many Facebook page escapades), I was able to adapt and learn how to form bonds with people.
Where I’m At Now
From there I felt more comfortable going out, I started doing volunteer work, made some friends there, and that spiralled into meeting even more people. At one point, probably for the first time ever in my life, I started being able to socialise with new friends I’d made, without the people who had introduced me to them being with me!
There’s been ups and downs, fall-outs and make-ups, but I’m pretty content with the friends I’ve got now. There’s an angry bald man, a drunk bald man, an emo carer and a maths wiz mother. There’s shop owners and influencers, computer scientists and artists. Colleagues and former ones, musicians, models and more. Who can forget most important of all, my best friend. With the smartest brain and the nicest face, we can talk all day and never run out of things to say. I almost turned into Dr. Seuss this paragraph, please don’t cancel me.
It’s amazing when I reflect on my life and how much I struggled, to see just how many people I have around me who care, who truly want me in their lives too. Even a few years after knowing some, it’s still a crazy concept to fathom. The best part, is that I don’t have to hide much of who I am from these people. I’m more open with particular people, but I don’t have to worry about the awkwardness and occasional social skill screw-up, because they love and appreciate all my quirks. Well maybe not all, but most!
If you’re out there in internet land, finding it difficult to make friends, I offer you this advice. Always be the best version of you that you can be. Don’t worry about impressing other people or being awkward, embrace yourself. Sooner or later people will come to you, and (hopefully) they’ll be people worth keeping around.
Post by Michael Sallabank