Having friends? Amazing. I would definitely recommend. Friendship is hands down one of the most important relationships in my life and they play a big part in shaping how we interact with the world around us.
It's just that the making friends part — the ambiguous zone between meeting someone new and comfortably calling them a friend — is, lets be real, awful: the small talk, the worrying about coming off as either too needy or too disinterested, the pretending not to size each other up while really sizing each other up.
Nowadays, it is even worse. Texting a person for the first time? Not knowing what their style of texting is and thus, not understanding or even worse, misunderstanding the embedded messages they are sending is the worst. Do you use emojis, do you approve of my usage of emojis, and do you use proper punctuation or are you just disinterested in this conversation? It is very confusing to understand if this person wants to connect more in your life or not.
It is disheartening to find out that the person you were trying so hard to connect with is just being polite or didn't understand that you want to be friends with them, not just acquaintances.
My roommate told me about this phenomenon that occurs during your sophomore year: The Sophomore Slump. Whoever coined it, kudos on the alliteration, first of all. Second of all, apparently in sophomore year, we experience this rift with our current friends that we have made since freshman year. According to various peers, it is in sophomore year that you "grow out" those friends you have and find others (maybe in your classes or clubs or just walking down campus) that somehow complement your life better.
I don't know how true this is because I'm smack in the middle of my sophomore year and I haven't experienced that, yet.
I'm writing this article because I remember how it is to make new friends. And it sucks.
There's a reason everyone likes to complain about how much dating sucks, and yet we rarely talk about how forging new friendships is just another variation of the same awkward dance. It's like when people say they wish they could skip straight to the comfortable Netflix-and-sweatpants stage of a relationships; the earliest days of a new friendship would be so much nicer if you could bypass conversations about siblings and favorite colors and go right into being able to carry on a conversation that consists mostly of the word "ugh" back and forth.
Author Jeffrey Hall, a communications professor at the University of Kansas who researches interpersonal communication, calculated just how long you have to spend in the tunnel before you reach the light at the end: On average, it takes about 50 hours of time with someone before you consider them a casual friend, 90 hours before you feel comfortable upgrading them to just "friend," and around 200 hours of quality time before you'd consider the two of you to be close.
I'm looking at the results of this study and I don't think that's how I roll. I don't think that I would spend 50 hours with a person and just call them a casual friend. Like wow, 50 hours is a lot of time together. I'd at least give them the label of "friend." There may also be cases when you just click with a person and get comfortable with them in a really small period of time.
Friendships are unique relationships because unlike family relationships, we choose to enter into them but unlike other voluntary bonds, like romantic relationships, they lack a formal structure. You wouldn't go months without speaking to or seeing your significant other (if you can help it), but you might go that long without contacting a friend.
It's a weird conundrum to be friends with someone. There is no pressure to show how good the relationship is to peers which is a constant pressure that is found in romantic relationships but at the same time, this doesn't mean you want to meet your friends once every month to "catch up" and that's it.
We aren't obligated to our friends the way we are to our romantic partners, our jobs, and our families. We'll be sad to go, but go we will. This is one of the inherent tensions of friendships. Friendship is a relationship with no strings attached except the ones you choose to tie, one that's just about being there, as best as you can.
To become friends, you have to change up the relationship and spend time together outside of the function or event that brought you together, and if you both are willing to, then you are taking the next step in this awkward journey of becoming friends with a person.
That is the first step to many, many more steps that makes two people friends. If someone is interested in being a friend, however, small talk transforms quickly into "big talk," or more questions about your life and interests. If they randomly text you about their day or what they are up to, that's because they are attempting to learn more about your life when you reciprocate in kind. However, there is a difference between talking about your life in a way that invites conversation and dumping out a ton of personal information that leaves people uncomfortable. Share things in small doses, and use personal stories to help your new friend understand the circumstances about events you speak about.
There is a fine line between building a rapport with a person and making them feel like you are imposing on them but you can make it work. Each journey to get out of the awkwardness is different because different people have diverse limits on the duality of independence and involvement.