Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - Brunch
Friendship served cold
Are our friends ghosting us? Or are we imagining it? Why friendships have been feeling ‘off’ in the pandemic
You just know your bestie has seen the messages but not replied and you have the double ticks to prove it. You’re probably right to fume. The pandemic has changed the way we communicate with each other and if you’re feeling that friends are ghosting you, you’re probably not imagining it.
For one, we are all over-communicating. Instead of meeting in person, we are all texting, Dming or emailing each other. The amount of text traffic we’re accessing has gone up exponentially. Many people have begun to restrict the number of times they access their messages, else they’d be on it all day. So, maybe they just need a break from the pings of their day?
We expect instant responses now. You are used to cracking a joke and receiving a smile or chuckle. On tech, they now have to convey that laugh to you. Sure, that’s what emojis are for, but it is an extra layer of communication that adds up in effort. Then, I send a smile, you send a hug, so I send a heart, you send a flower and I’m like, oh come on, stop already. Well, you used to otherwise. Yes, but now it’s (x 100/day).
We’ve moved from non verbals to relying entirely on verbal communications. The nod, the hmm, the raised eyebrow, but also micro expressions that we’re not conscious of: the smile that doesn’t reach the eyes, the saying ‘yes’ but shaking the head ‘no’ or the doubtful smile. We’re left hanging so on both sides of the conversation, we’re assuming a lot about each other. Maybe we’re going on about a thrilling show or date and they’re just not up to listening to it.
The pandemic, isolation, lockdown has also played havoc with moods. Hey, but everyone’s out and about, you may think. Well, everyone’s posting photos that claim they are, but remember many are still grieving the sudden and senseless loss of friends and family, have lost jobs, entire businesses, taken pay cuts, lost out on their college or work or relocation plans, and have been unable to take the fancy vacations they’re seeing others take. Small things can trigger memory and trauma. You might be talking about baking and it reminds them of a grandma they can’t visit.
Well, why don’t they just talk to me about it then? We’re friends aren’t we? When someone taps you on the arm casually, it doesn’t hurt. When you have a burn on the arm and someone taps you there as casually, it stings. Your question may be casual, but the person is already in pain and probably expects you to understand, or they can’t communicate it. Or their priorities have just changed.
Our friendships are changing because the world we live in is changing so drastically, and the harsh lessons we have been learning have changed us. The friendships that will last are the ones that don’t keep expecting a prepandemic sense of ‘normal’; the ones that have the compassion to allow each other space and evolution. Other friendships won’t, and those friends will need to be released with love.
THE FRIENDSHIPS THAT WILL LAST ARE THE ONES THAT DON’T KEEP EXPECTING A PRE-PANDEMIC SENSE OF ‘NORMAL’
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Gayatri Jamaraman is a mind body spirit therapist and author of Anitya: How to Make the Most of Change and Transform Your Life
I Say Chaps is an occasional guest column that allows passionate, creative people a platform to have their say.