Saturday 2 May 2020

Friendship dynamics under lockdown conditions

This social distancing (read: quarantine) has brought about several changes in how I see things. One of the things I have noticed is that I was suddenly becoming intolerant of some of my friends. At first I wasn’t sure why. I mean, they didn’t do anything wrong or do anything to offend me (which is difficult). As a keen observer of the human psyche I spent a couple of hours to try and make sense of this and put my thoughts and theories in some form of logical order. Here goes.

Human interaction spans a range of our emotions and senses. Under normal circumstances, meeting up with friends would involve all the senses. With this lockdown however, the dynamics involved in social interaction have been changed a bit. Communication is now primarily through technology; be it via videocall, text messaging or even the good old audio call. What I’ve experienced is that some people may not be as adept at communicating through these mediums as they would be in person. The problem could also lie with me; I may not be as good as listening or interacting with others when limited to these methods of communication.

The change in the methods of communication seem to have a knock-on effect where the people end up becoming ‘different’ to me. Think of your favourite movie and now imagine only listening to its audio instead of the complete audio visual experience. Does it hold the same interest to you? Does your attention span change now that it’s audio-only?

Perhaps another example is a relationship between a couple that is purely sexual. Take away the sex and you’re left with something that isn’t the primary reason for either of them being in that relationship in the first place. Would they be able to convert their relationship into a platonic one? I’d guess that in some cases yes and in others, no. This is the parallel I’m trying to make with the change in the friendship dynamic due to the change in form of interaction. With some friends this change has strengthened our relationship, others have stayed the same and then there’s the final group whose relationships with me have worsened and the worst part is that I don’t think they even realise.

Now I don’t know if it’s coincidence or not but the relationships that are worsening are the ones I have with my less intellectual / academic type friends. Maybe it’s their one-dimensioned form of communication which only really works in person? Maybe it’s that because when the physical presence element is taken away, their chat does not hold my interest in the same way? I found myself recently getting so annoyed with one that I started to question why I was friends with them (no spoilers here) in the first place. If it was just one person then fine, no big deal but to have this happen with several people? I ruled out temporary mood swings as these occurences happened over a relatively large period of time.

It does sound awfully snobbish and yes, I am a snob when it comes to most things but this case of snobbery is definitely not intentional. It feels more of a coincidence. Pre-lockdown, I would never only want to have to interact with these aforementioned intellectual types. It would drive me insane. I enjoy the balance and variety of the friends I have but I am a little bit concerned at how I am almost subconsciously cutting some of them out now that we’re in quarantine.

These observations are great for personal growth. I’m all about personal growth. I wonder what will happen when the restrictions are lifted and we can all get back to mingling. Would it make me a bad person if I suddenly wanted to see the ‘non-academics’ now that they didn’t bore me? Would it make me a people-user if I lessened the contact with the friends whose relationships were strengthened by the lockdown?

It’s probably a good thing only I know who these people are. I can be a terrible friend sometimes.

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