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Friends

Positive and Negative Impacts of Friendship

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Outline

Introduction

Values in Friendship

Some values for good friendship include

respect

boundaries

acceptance

openness

honesty

constructive criticism

Dunbar’s Number and Social Media

Dunbar suggests that 150 is the number of close connections the human mind can sustain, while people on social media have thousands of friends

Benefits of Friendship

Reduces loneliness and social isolation

Emotional support

Personal development

Resilience

Negative Effects of Toxic Friendships

Increases feelings of loneliness

Lower self-esteem and self-confidence

Negative effect on other relationships

Victim blames themselves

How to Deal with Toxic Friends

Talk to the toxic friend

Be direct

Set boundaries

Take time away

End the friendship

Conclusion

Friendships are an essential part of life. Our friends are the people we call when we are happy, sad, excited, or just need someone to talk to. Aside from family, friends are the people we are closest to in life. Different people maintain different types of ties with their friends. Some friends are closer than family, while others prefer to keep their friends at arm’s length. Friendship brings many benefits to our lives when handles well. Just like any other relationship, friendship requires commitment, loyalty, respect, communication and other factors. When a person maintains healthy friendships with others, these relationships bring positive changes to their lives. Friends create a sense of belonging and purpose, a support system, improves happiness and help one through hard times. Some areas to consider when exploring the topic of friendship include the advantages and disadvantages of friends, how to build strong relationships, challenges to friendships, and how to deal with toxic friendships.

For people to maintain quality friendships, there are some basic rules that they must follow. One of these is openness. Being open allows each party in the friendship to express themselves without fear of judgment or repercussions. When people know that they are free to say what they want, they feel safe and accepted for who they are, strengthening the friendship. Friends should also be honest at all times, even though the other party might not like what they are told. Honesty increases trust in the friendship as all parties know they can expect truthful feedback. However, friends must be careful to use constructive criticism when giving feedback. Feedback should not be used as an attack on the other party as it will ruin the friendship. Friends should be a mutual source of support for each other. No one should feel like they are being used because they are always there for their friend, while this is not reciprocated. Good friends also respect each other’s boundaries. Although friends know a lot about each other, they must also keep some boundaries to maintain respect. There are many other essential values required for solid friendships, with these being some of them.

Through the years, friendships have evolved as means of interaction continue to change. In this age of social media, one person could have thousands of ‘friends.’ But is such a high number of friends realistic? The values that define quality friendships are almost impossible with a very high number of people. For this reason, there is a limited number of people that one can reasonably label as their friends. A British anthropologist named Robin Dunbar came up with the theory that an individual can only maintain 150 close connections at the same time (De Ruiter et al. 561). This number came to be known as Dunbar’s number. Although many people have contested this theory, it seems realistic because a human being cannot maintain close ties with so many people. The greater the number of people, the more diluted the connection is likely to be. Dunbar’s theory suggests that people seek a close circle of good friends with whom they can build a strong relationship. When it comes to friendship, people should value quality over quantity. However, in the age of social media, people compete over the number of friends rather than concentrating on the quality of the friendship.

Friends have a lot of positive impact on a person’s life. One of the benefits of friendship is that it reduces loneliness and social isolation. Friends offer a source of comfort because the person knows their friends will always be there for them. For example, when one feels lonely, they can call their friends for a conversation over the phone or invite them to go out for meals or drinks. These interactions make a person feel less lonely. Friends are especially helpful when an individual is in a new place away from familiar people such as their family. Friends can help one settle in a new environment and introduce one to other people, reducing social isolation. Even when they are far away, friends reduce loneliness because one knows they share a strong connection with someone.

Another benefit of friendship is that they offer emotional support. Life is full of challenges, and knowing that we have a listening ear in our friends can help ease our emotional burden (Machin et al. 83). An example of emotional support is simply offering a listening ear. When one is going through a hard time, having someone to talk to can help them feel better. Friends also validate one’s feelings. For example, when a person is upset with some situations, they can talk to their friends, who can help them analyze their feelings and reactions to the situation. Another form of emotional support is offering distractions when one feels upset or sad. Because our friends know us well, they know how to cheer us up when we are unhappy. For instance, when one breaks up with their romantic partner, a friend may set up a weekend getaway full of fun activities to distract their friend from their sadness.

Friends also are quite crucial for personal development. Good friends act as each other’s accountability partners, promoting good habits and helping each other eliminate negative behaviour. If someone has a bad habit that they want to break, they can turn to their friend to help them deal with this. For example, a person who has a smoking problem could ask their friend for feedback concerning their habit. A good friend will explain all the adverse effects of smoking and help their friend get the help they need. Such a friend could also be an accountability partner, reminding their friend of their resolutions and the benefits of staying on track. Good friends also support each other by setting out on healthy paths. A perfect example of this is friends who want to stay in good physical shape and sign up for gym memberships together. Having positive friends who are also good role models can lead to significant personal development.

Friendships make a person more resilient in life, especially when they go through difficult moments. Some hard times in life include losing one’s job, getting a divorce, breaking up with a romantic partner, financial problems, family problems and the death of a loved one. Cambridge University carried out a study into how friendships predicted resilience among a group of 2000 young people between the ages of 14 and 24 (Van Harmelen et al. 19). The age group in the study represents the formative years when people developmental and psychosocial support systems in their lives. The study found that strong friendships are the strongest indicator of resilience in later life. Family support also played an important role, but only in the short term. The findings from the study proved that young people who form strong friendships earlier in life prove more resilient when they encounter challenges later in life. These findings encourage people to forge strong friendships as it promotes their abilities to deal with problems as they grow older.

Although friends can have a lot of positive impact on our lives, there are also some negatives associated with friendships. Toxic friendships can also have a significant adverse effect on individual’s lives. There are many signs that define a person as a toxic friend. One of these is that the friend always puts you down. Toxic friends try to put others down so they can feel better about themselves or appear superior. Toxic friends also engage in gossip with others about their friends. Information shared in confidence is used as fodder for gossip. Another sign of toxic friendship is a constant comparison with others. A toxic friend compares you to other friends who they see as more attractive, wealthier, and more fun to hang out with, among others. Toxic friends do not accept their friends who they are. Another characteristic of toxic friends is that they are self-centred (Dunbar 37). They expect their friends to be there for them all the time, but they do not return this sentiment even when their friends are going through a hard time. Toxic friends dismiss their friends’ feelings, or they may act outraged when called out for their toxic behaviour. They accuse their friends of exaggerating, not being able to take a joke, or they may offer a flippant and insincere apology. All these behaviour points to a toxic friendship.

Toxic friendships have adverse effects on a person. The first negative effect is that it increases one’s feelings of loneliness. Friends should reduce loneliness, but toxic friendships produce the opposite effect. A toxic friend deliberately ignores plans they did not initiate, leave their friends’ calls and texts unanswered and generally avoid spending time with their friends. Another effect of a toxic friendship is that it reduces one’s self-esteem and self-confidence (Degges-White et al. 41). Toxic friends compare their friends to other people that they consider superior, lowering their self-esteem. An example of this is a statement like, “Alice is so much fun to hang out with; I wish you were more like her.” Such a statement will leave the person it is directed to feeling less confident as they cannot measure up to Alice.

A toxic friendship negatively affects other relationships in a person’s life. A toxic friend leaves one questioning their self-worth, which can make them start avoiding others. A person feels like they are unlovable, flawed, and unsupportive due to comments from toxic friends. Once a person starts feeling like this, they might start withdrawing from other relationships due to low self-esteem. A victim of a toxic friendship may start blaming themselves for the toxic friend’s behaviour. Toxic friends are quite manipulative and always want others to take the blame for their toxic behaviour. (Degges-White et al. 49) Being friends with a toxic person could lead to self-blaming, where a person feels they are to blame for what the toxic friend does. For example, if the toxic friend ignores them at a time of need, they blame themselves for being too clingy or needy. Such manipulative behaviour negatively affects victims of toxic friendships.

Once a person realizes they are in a toxic friendship, there are several things they should do. First, they could talk to the toxic friend and see if there is a possibility of saving their friendship. However, one must be careful to avoid manipulation in this situation. If the friendship cannot be saved, it is time to end it. This has to be done directly with the affected friend expressing their feelings and why they don’t want to be friends anymore. Another strategy is to take some time apart and see if the friendship is really worth saving. Setting boundaries is a crucial part of friendship. Unfortunately, toxic friends have no boundaries and end up walking all over their friends. One must explain boundaries to put a stop to disrespect in a toxic friendship. Unfortunately, most toxic friends will not change their ways, and so individuals must prioritize their wellbeing over their friendships.

In summary, friends are a crucial part of life; good friends are there for us in good and bad times. Positive friendships positively impact us, such as personal development, reducing loneliness, emotional support, and resilience, among many others. When people take time to cultivate the correct values, they nurture strong friendships that bring satisfaction to the parties involved. However, some friendships can also be toxic, and one must be careful to identify the signs. Toxic friendships affect one’s mental wellbeing, leaving them feeling stressed out. We should seek out positive friendships that add value to our lives and work on being good friends as well while avoiding toxic relationships and the stress they bring.

Works Cited

De Ruiter, Jan, Gavin Weston, and Stephen M. Lyon. “Dunbar’s number: Group size and brain physiology in humans reexamined.” American anthropologist 113.4 (2011): 557-568.

Degges-White, Suzanne, and Judy Pochel Van Tieghem. Toxic Friendships: Knowing the Rules and Dealing with the Friends who Break Them. Rowman & Littlefield, 2015.

Dunbar, Robin IM. “The anatomy of friendship.” Trends in cognitive sciences 22.1 (2018): 32-51.

Machin, Karen, Sara Meddings, and Jacqueline Clarke-Mapp. “Peer 7 Support for Family and Friends: Carers Supporting Each Other.” Peer Support in Mental Health (2019): 83.

Van Harmelen, A-L., et al. “Adolescent friendships predict later resilient functioning across psychosocial domains in a healthy community cohort.” Psychological Medicine 47.13 (2017): 2312-2322.

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