Do we need friends?

Do we need friends?

The Importance of Being Social

We all know the importance of having friends. Or do we? It’s an easy trap to fall into, especially if you have a disability that makes getting out and about difficult. It’s quicker, easier, safer, less hassle and stress to just stay home and watch Netflix. Or play computer games. Or whatever floats your boat.

In times of Lockdown, we may have no choice, but we can already see, in a Covid world, and especially going forward, that people are choosing to stay at home. They/We are getting used to it. Many people now are asking their companies to let them stay at home to work. Some are refusing to go back to the office altogether. It’s not all about the virus. People are getting accustomed to living in their cocoons.

For able bodied people, it’s a new phenomenon. This concept of staying at home in the nest, as it were. For many people with a disability, it is the norm.

So how then, in this sphere, does one go about being social? We may not always prefer it, but being socially engaged is vital to our mental and physical wellbeing. (Our mental states can have a flow on effect to our bodies. A topic for another day).

It’s easy to chat with others on social media, and even to have private conversations. In fact, you could say that it’s far too easy. And for a lot of the time, it’s enough. It’s certainly better than being completely alone. But is it enough?

The short answer is no. Typing is not talking. We need to physically be with another person. As human beings, we take cues from another person’s body language. The way they move their face. Often what they say is not what they mean. What can be intended as joking, can be misunderstood or lost online, often leading to feelings of rejection, anxiety, anger. Whereas in real life, we can see through a person’s smile. (Even their eyes can tell you a lot). They may be merely having fun and not in a demeaning way.

A person’s laugh can make us laugh. Even when there is nothing to laugh at. How often have you been caught up in the moment because someone else was having a laughing fit? Not often at all but you know what it’s like. Isn’t that a wonderful feeling? Or smiled because someone else did. A smile can make us feel good. Get the endorphins flowing. Make us feel that the world is okay. That doesn’t happen online. Sure, there is a video chat, but still, there is a distance there that removes something personal from the experience. It’s just not the same. There are millions of years of evolution behind us. We are meant to communicate close together. A screen isn’t enough.

Girl with Down Syndrome laughing surrounded by friends

People need people. It’s as necessary as food, water and sleep. It’s up to all of us to make the effort to try and meet up with people. Make a coffee date with that person. Meet in the park. In the shopping centre. Invite them over to your house. Perhaps you’ve been online friends for a long time but have never met. We all have those friends. Maybe it’s time we did meet them. Obviously, we need to play it safe with strangers. If you can, especially if you have a carer, then make that trip to meet them somewhere public.

Want to find new friends? Have you tried Meetup? There are literally thousands of groups there with all sorts of interests. You will be able to find something that suits you. Even if you don’t, try going along anyway. It may be awkward or nerve wracking but that’s completely normal. And you will get past it. You may just meet a friend who can change your life.

A new friend could be waiting for you. Or even to brush up on an old acquaintance. There’s someone you already know that you haven’t spoken with for a long time. Instead of waiting for them to make the first move, why don’t you? Don’t you deserve it? Of course, you do. So, give it the attention that it deserves. There’s little else of real meaning in life than that of friendship.


Anthony J. Langford for PHM Health

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