OPINION: COVID redefined the way we maintain friendships


Maleigh Crespo

Photo Illustration

Lizzy Hadley

The COVID-19 pandemic affected my social skills in maintaining friendships. I came to college fresh out of friends and full of hope to find more. The pandemic hit my junior year of high school. This left me graduating feeling dreadful about my college years. I was desperate for any connection and wanted to find that in college. The friend group I joined freshman year was built on the hope of never leaving each other alone. The catch was we all forgot what can be considered a toxic friendship.

We became attached, frightened that anything could take one of us from the other. We would stay up till dawn because we craved the attention. This attention was left unattended for months during the pandemic. We were latching onto this fairytale of friendship. We hoped we would never be left alone again.

Most people would argue this isn’t toxic. They might say that we are living freely and without much thought. But, it is toxic. We were depending on each other on an emotional level, so much so that if we didn’t hang out we’d be infuriated with each other and feeling betrayed that we are, yet again, left alone. The pandemic shot down our notion of space because we were terrified we were always going to be alone. Now, we need to relearn how to socialize without the fear of losing connections.

We don’t have these barriers that prevent us from interacting. We can live our lives. This redirection that some of my friends and I have taken has been a step toward making healthy relationships.

Dependency is not a reasonable foundation for friendships. Friendships should be built on similar values and interests to share quality time with each other. We’ve grown to learn that. But, we are still learning how to function as adults. It’s not realistic to constantly hang out. This dependency becomes toxic because we require it. You can’t expect to give up all your time for a few individuals. I realized that we need to separate to create spaces for quality time with others and ourselves.

Friendship has been redefined in my life after self-reflection on this friend group. Friendship was lost during the pandemic and gained after some normalcy. This ‘normalcy’ was defined as our desperate need for attention, which now needs to be redefined to our current situation since we can live as we did before the pandemic. It’s what we look for in someone to have this meaningful bond that can fill gaps you can be missing or you admire. This isn’t meant to be lasting in an all-day sense. This is for spending some of your time with your friends, different acquaintances, and yourself.

I forgot there is a needed space for myself. Without self-focus, you cannot grow or have the time to be at peace with yourself. Learning to accept yourself is important, and you’d think the pandemic would’ve taught me that. Except it left me fantasizing about what life could be. The good parts are documented with friends and family. Forgetting that having these good parts lives simultaneously with alone time. We cannot be full of life all the time and constantly socializing. We need breaks to breathe, and do that alone.

Being left alone with my thoughts used to leave me shaking in my boots. Alone time left me questioning myself. Who am I? I’m still finding that out, and I can’t rely on others to answer my questions. If I did, I wouldn’t be myself. I would be some version of myself that is made by others. This time apart brought focus to what is important. We learn who we want to be around. We learn who we are. We learn how to be okay with being alone and how it increases the value of quality time with others.

COVID created too much space for us which reverted to this grasping of our friends. We need to relearn the idea that absence does make the heart grow fonder.