I’m an introvert with social anxiety. As such, I tend to only go out when necessary. However, I do still have friends (no, really you gotta believe me). I don’t have a ton of friends, but I have enough people that I know I can count on.
In the age of social media with facebook friends, instagram followers, youtube subscribers, and what-have-yous, it’s easy to feel like you don’t have enough friends. I know I’ve often felt that, especially when you have to eat alone in the college dining hall, or realize you don’t know anybody in your class. For others these situations are opportunities to meet new people, but for me and those like me, it’s an anxiety inducing nightmare. The thoughts start circling in your head:
“What do they think of me?”
“Are they staring at me?”
“Do they think I’m a loser?”
Thing is, it’s all in your head. The whole “you need a million and five friends” is just plain wrong. You do not need that many friends. And in fact, probably nobody has all that many real, close friends. In truth, “friend” is such a catch-all name for somebody you know to a certain extent. Exactly to what extent is extremely variable. Furthermore, despite the extent to which you know a person, there remains a question of whether they are a real or fake friend.
People I know better and interact with more (and see by choice, not necessity) are people I consider my closer friends, and among them are my best friends. My best friends are my three closest high school friends. They are there for me when I need them, no matter what. Honestly, I don’t know what I’d do without them. When we hang out together, I’m free to be myself and can just have fun no matter how long it’s been since I last saw them. These are people I know I can trust.
Branching out, we reach my close friends. This group include some of the friends I’ve made in college and some of the friends from high school I don’t keep in as close contact with. These are people I believe would have my back and who I can turn to if the need arises. However, these people I don’t know as well or haven’t known as long as my best friends. With that comes some more rocky terrain.
I’ve had ups and downs with these friends. Some of these people have hurt me and some of these people I’ve hurt (all unintentional, of course). The question, though, is are these people who have hurt me still my friends? They care about me, but they continue to hurt me. Am I too sensitive? Am I asking too much of them? Am I trying to change them when it’s not possible? Thing is, I don’t know if I’m the problem or if they are. I don’t want to lose friends, but I don’t want to be in a toxic relationship.
It’s hard to know who is a friend and who isn’t because of the ambiguity of the term “friend.” For what really is a friend? It’s not someone who likes your photo on facebook or instagram, or someone who retweets your tweet on twitter (I mean, maybe that person is your friend, but that action is not why they are your friend). A friend, I think, is someone you know who cares about you and wants to see you thrive. Someone who has your back and knows you. I think a lot of our so-called friends are really acquaintances, people you exchange niceties with but nothing much further. No real connection. Friends have a connection. They push each other and they look out for each other. Real friends are harder to come by, but they are the most precious of all.