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Monday, October 18, 2021

From happy Instagrams to sad Facetimes: friendships in college

NICHOLAS YOON / AGGIE
NICHOLAS YOON / AGGIE

I’m graduating next year. I used to be terrified of the idea of leaving this amazing bubble of customizable schedules, biking to anything you want or need and Baba’s burritos for every meal. I’ve come to terms with moving on from all those perks, but there’s one element of college that I don’t think I’ll ever have an easy time leaving behind.

The people.

I wake up every day with my best friends. I see people I enjoy at the CoHo or on the Quad daily. I can go out every night of the weekend and spend time with a different circle of people. And right now, I can walk to my friends’ places, and they’re in the same boat as me. We can talk about the same people and we have similar, easy reference points in our lives. That’s so damn hard for me to let go.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the friends I’ve made, and I’m imagining now how my relationships will evolve after college. Some people I’ll probably rarely talk to ever again (and that’s okay). Some people I’ll probably see every day of my life (also okay). Some people I think I’ll keep in great touch with, but I can see our friendship sort of fading away. And others I may only sort of talk to now, but who knows? Maybe we’ll be in the same city— in the same circles again— and we’ll deepen our bond.

And that lead me to think about which elements of our friendships lead to these different outcomes. I’ve realized that I have three different kinds of friends in college — three different levels, or layers, of friendships.

 

“Mutual Give-A-****” Friends

Mutually gaf’ing (as the youths say, and as my editor won’t let me say) is that first layer, both in the sequence that friendships progress and in the level of affinity you can have for someone. This is why the most common advice for making friends in college is to join a club or a group. If I meet someone at a party, and they know every word to Famous by Kanye West, or we strike up a conversation and they have an opinion about Views, the Life of Pablo and Coloring Book, I’m instantly a fan. Because you can only care about so many things, if someone has spent as much time as I have caring about that one weird random thing I like— that’s an easy connection.

And it doesn’t have to be a hobby or interest — it could also be a shared career path or a shared religious or cultural background. We’re not that unique but we’re also not that alike. We’re tribal. So these surface-level interactions, one where both parties can gush over their favorite sets at Coachella or how much they love Young Thug, have an important place in college. These friends are important because they’ll color your day-to-day, giving you a chance to feel like a happy busy-bee when you walk to class with someone who totally gets you when it comes to the Bachelorette.

Maybe you can invite them to watch the Warriors game with you, which will show you if they’re…

 

“Back-And-Forth Vibes” Friends

If you think about this chronologically, now that y’all established the fact that you’re both from the same town and hate the same people, the next layer is chemistry. I have friends that can make me bust up laughing by just a look — no words shared — because I know exactly what inside joke they’re applying to the situation we’re in. You need some inside jokes, some rapport, some chemistry for this. It’s not just having the same interests, it’s having similar or compatible styles. If two people are sarcastic, twisted misanthropes, they’ll hit it off way better than one Dark Prince and another ray of sunshine. Or not — maybe Ms. Positivity and Mr. I Hate Everything find a weird yin-yang that makes them both laugh.

These kind of friendships are the ones that can evolve from catching up at the CoHo in the middle of the day to actually going out at night together, or taking trips on the weekends. You like them enough that you’ll set aside social time for them, not just fit them in your in-between time during the middle of the week. These friends are important because they’re fun — they’ll take your mind off what’s stressing you, they’ll make the weeks fly by, and they’ll give you the time of your life.

As you get closer and closer to graduation, you realize that some of these friends are joyful, happy, indulgent… and others are integral, a part of your life, because they’re…

 

“Take A Bullet For You” Friends

In the real world, no one cares about your feelings. No one is obligated to relate to your struggle and no one is responsible for whether you overcome your obstacles or not. You’re on your own. So when you have friends that do care about your feelings, that are invested in your happiness, that would put their own energy into seeing you succeed — you have this kind of friendship. They have no obligation to anyone else’s happiness, but here they are.

These friendships are forged through shared experiences. There’s no way to know otherwise, because you only know the depths of your friend’s loyalty through actions and real life examples. This is why fraternities have a tough pledge process, because a tough process shows the pledges that they can rely on each other. The idea behind putting a group of individuals through artificial adversity is to push them to make real connections with each other, connections that are based in, “Remember that time when I almost got kicked out for doing something stupid but you covered my ass and took the fall?” and in “Remember when I had only three hours of sleep, just broke up with my girlfriend, and had two midterms to study for so you did the pledge project for me?” and not, “Yeah, he’s chill I guess.”

In general, I think it does take some uncomfortable situations, some moments of tension and some uneasy decisions to figure out that you have this kind of friend. Life isn’t just happy Instagram posts that get 300 likes. Life is also the awful events, the nights you fall asleep just waiting to get your day over with only to wake up with the same amount of self-doubt you already had. It’s the hard phone calls and the soul-crushing rejection emails and texts. Your other friends likely won’t know about all that. These friends are part of the reason you end up figuring it out, so you can get to those happy Instagrams. And, of course, those friends will be front and center in those posts, commenting heart-face emojis while texting you that you couldn’t have picked a worse picture of them.

And not every friend you’ll meet is the third type. That’s asking too much out of too many people. And that’s totally okay. You’ll also need the first two in your life. The majority of misunderstandings that I’ve had in my social life came because one of us thought the other was at a different level of friendship. And sometimes it got ugly. Ex-best friends are a thousand times worse than ex-girlfriends or ex-boyfriends. I’ve learned to simply be conscious and aware of where I’m at with my friends, and if I notice that some of them have blossomed into the next level, I’d be elated.

It’s not that just “placing” my friends, as if I was organizing my desk, that has made me happier. What’s really made me happier has been realizing where those friends are and then expressing gratitude for what they offer to me from their level. It’s when I give back to them — whether it’s having those endless conversations about why the Warriors are the best basketball team of all time, spending hours talking about nothing and enjoying every minute of it or actually just being there for them — that makes me realize that I can’t imagine college without them.

Because a year from now, I’ll be stuck in a cubicle wistfully scrolling back on my group chats, reliving every roast I’ve had to endure. And I’ll think back to college. And to this article. And cry. Good luck to the Class of 2016!
You can reach YINON RAVIV at ravivyinon@gmail.com

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