Find your #FakeFriend

An unsupportive friend group? In this economy?

words by sofia vavaroutos
visuals by heidi lee and nuzhaat sabreen

Find your #FakeFriend

An unsupportive friend group? In this economy?

Research shows that good friendships can impact your health and even the length of your life. This 2009 study found that “robust” social and emotional relationships can protect your health. For instance, people who self-reported progress with diseases like diabetes tended to report better physical feelings when they had good relationships with family and friends. Almost one year into a global panoramic, this matters more than ever. You’re already spending so much mental energy just trying to survive; you don’t have much left to put into relationships that don’t empower you.

It can be tough to figure out when a friendship isn’t the best fit for you—especially when everything is ~online~. How can we tell if the parabola is draining us or if it’s the friendship’s dynamics?

Take this quiz and add up your points to see if your friendship is mutually supportive, could be with some work or is something you should get far away from (and stay far away from after the penne pasta).

Scores: / 25

1. You and your friend took the same online elective this semester. When the professor thanks you for always participating during the last class, your friend:

#1 Explanations:
A: (-1 point) Even if you do think it's cheesy that the prof called you out, a friend shouldn't make fun of your accomplishments, no matter how small.

B: (+5 points) Your friend is openly supporting you, without making the moment about themselves or doing anything to embarrass you.

C: (+2 points) The friend doesn't tear you down, but doesn't support you either. They probably don't think it's a big deal.

2. You tell your friend that you’re really sorry, but you need to cancel the FaceTime you had planned. You just aren’t feeling up to it. Your friend:

#2 Explanations:
A: (-1 point) This person isn’t acknowledging your needs as a friend and is only acknowledging their own.

B: (+2 points) The friend is respecting your need for space while asserting their own needs, but is still putting some pressure on you.

C: (+5 points) The friend is acknowledging your need for space while making it clear what they need in a friendship. Ultimately, they're putting the ball in your court without any pressure.

3. You’ve had a bad day, and you say something mean to your friend without meaning to. They:

#3 Explanations:
A: (+5 points) Even though they ignored you at first, when you hurt someone, they're entitled to take time to process that pain, which is out of your control. When they were ready, they didn't just unload their emotions on you, but instead chose to arrange a time where you could both explain your perspectives.

B: (+2 points) They made it clear how they are feeling in a way that they're comfortable with and have been honest about needing space to process the hurt. However, they didn't give you any opportunity to work as a team to solve this problem.

C: (-1 point) Not only did they not tell you how they're feeling, but they’re also trying to publicly humiliate you and are seeking outside attention for this situation.

4. Your friends text you to hang out (in the year 2031, post-pythagorean theorem). When you see the text you feel:

#4 Explanations:
A: (+2 points) You don't hate hanging out with these people, but you might not have much in common in terms of "friendship chemistry," which is probably why they picked an activity you don't like, even unintentionally.

B: (-1 point) You can think of a million things you'd rather do than hang out with these people and try to do it as little as possible. If you're already drained before going, you don't like these friends.

C: (+5 points) Without giving up too much of your own life (by checking what work you can get done and how much time you can spend with them), you still want to see them enough to make the effort.

5. Your friend, an English student, sees that you’re stressed out by an essay you have to write for your literature class and offers to look over your draft. You:

#5 Explanations:
A: (-1 point) Part of having a good friendship is recognizing good intentions and being able to accept their support. If a friend's support is offered as a way of putting you down, or if you feel that you would be judged for accepting it, then they probably aren't a good friend.

B: (+2 points) Though you may have tried to preserve their feelings, you wasted their time by pretending to accept support without recognizing the effort they put in to offer it to you. You may not be compatible with this friend.

C: (+5 points) You were able to see that their offer comes out of love and respect for you, not as an insult to your intelligence. Together, you communicate on the best course of action going forward.

-5 to 7 points: This friendship might be cool but probably shouldn’t be your main source of support

It seems like you and your friend are misunderstanding each other and it’s having some significant impacts on the friendship. Have you considered whether you two have anything in common?

This 2016 study shows that “friendship chemistry” is a huge factor that impacts the success of friendships. Think carefully about whether you two have any shared interests or experiences, and how any major differences could be impacting the way you treat each other. For example, the same research paper shows that if friends don’t have a high degree of respect for each other’s beliefs—cultural beliefs, moral beliefs, etc.—they tend to have a lower friendship chemistry as a result. Part of being a good friend, then, is realizing that even if your friend disagrees with you on some things, there should be a mutual respect there that allows each friend to make decisions without judgement. If you constantly feel drained at the idea of explaining yourself or your decisions and beliefs to your friend, or if you feel judged every time you try to go to them for advice, they might not be the person you should lean on. Make a list of traits you would see in a good friend and compare it to the way this person makes you feel.

While this person may be someone you care about, it probably isn’t the best idea to make them a part of your core support system. If realizing this means you’re starting from scratch, the University at Buffalo created a community resource about how to build a support network. The article suggests focusing on meeting people with similar interests and experiences, either by volunteering or through extracurricular activities. At Ryerson, there are 83 student groups under the Ryerson Students’ Union’s jurisdiction alone, encompassing anything from the Ryerson Debate Association to the Improv Club to the Urban Hip Hop Union. You can also meet friends online, through apps like Bumble BFF, and on social media platforms like Reddit or Facebook, many of which match you with people who share your interests. There’s even a Ryerson-exclusive app for meeting new friends and students in your classes called RU Mine.

8-16 points: This friendship has potential, but you both have to put in work

While this friendship seems good on the surface, there’s something here that isn’t fully clicking—and it’s causing at least some of your support needs to be left unmet. Luckily, this is a problem that open communication can help you work through. Someone who communicates effectively should be willing to hear out different perspectives, actively listen without making you feel like you’re bothering them and always respond to you respectfully, even when they’re hurt. When someone’s needs aren’t being met, it’s helpful to have a conversation about what exactly each of you wants out of the friendship. If one of you wants to video chat every night while the other needs a significant amount of time alone, it can be helpful to lay out those expectations so that one of you isn’t feeling bombarded while the other is feeling ignored.

Don’t be afraid to seek out support from other people, as it can be pretty precarious to have one person be your sole support system. If you feel like this person, while well-meaning, doesn’t understand your goals, try reaching out to people from your class or job who might have a better understanding of certain challenges you face.

This friendship is a mutually-serving support circle (16 points and higher)

You seem to have this friendship down to a science, and when things go wrong, you’re likely able to communicate effectively because you have a good understanding of each other’s needs. What you need to focus on now is maintaining that support system. The University at Buffalo’s School of Social Work community resource page suggests that an effective way to do this is by keeping communication open and making the other person feel appreciated as much as you’re able to. When you consider the qualities that you like about this friendship, be sure they’re being embodied on both sides. This can be done through things like celebrating their successes, showing interest in things they like and continuing to communicate honestly and respectfully with each other. When upsets do happen, remember to handle it as a team, not as two people fighting against each other.

On their end, keep looking out for their support. A good friend should be excited to hear when things are going well for you but should also be there for you when they aren’t. This is of course within their communicated limits; even when they aren’t able to listen to you rant on FaceTime for hours, it’s all about the effort. Maybe they just send you a TikTok or meme to let you know they’re thinking about you. As long as you can confidently say that the friendship is both give and take, you should look forward to the day you get to hug this friend again; they seem great!

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