Why is it so hard to make good friends at U of T?

For the longest time, I thought there was something wrong with me: on some days, when the sun refused to shine, I would slip into a sullen state of emotional treachery. Most times, this ended with me feeling utterly alone and friendless. It became unbearable not only in terms of loneliness, but also, to a certain extent, bitterness. The trouble always starts off with assumptions. Although I'm simply a person who has met a lot of undergraduates from U of T, people always assumed that I was this ridiculously extroverted person who had a whole ton of friends. The truth is that I'm actually as introverted as introverts can be. Add to this the fact that school makes the Gossip Girl type of glamorous social life an impossible feat, and the number of "I-will-pee-on-you-if-you-get-stung-by-a-jellyfish" friends I have here at U of T  is probably something like three. If you round it off, it's pretty much non-existent. Let's face it: even though we don't consciously project expectations of our undergrad lives in terms of building friendships, who doesn't wish for that sense of togetherness and belonging that emanates from TV shows like Friends? Fine, your GPA might be a little sucky and your career prospects might not be looking up anytime soon, but while in university, we could at least build a strong support network that would leave that part of our lives fulfilled. The key reason for the difficulty in establishing and building genuine friendships, I believe, is that most of us take friendship for granted. True, on any given day you never know whom you'll meet, and in that sense, building friendship is a rather serendipitous event. But anything beyond merely becoming acquainted involves effort, something that most of us are lacking — for school alone. Like romantic relationships, platonic love is a bit of a gamble. While you can't point to a stranger and immediately foresee whether or not you'll end up becoming great friends, you have all the chances in the world to take a risk, a leap of faith, and initiate a conversation to get to know him or her better. Good things are often unplanned. In fact, I met all of my closest friends this way: we started talking about something trivial, found out that we didn't dislike each other, and, through a series of fateful interventions and conscious efforts on both parts, brought our friendships through some major roadblocks. So why not join a club? Challenge yourself by exposing yourself to something new? Cool people exist in every corner of the world — you just got to find them. Keeping an open mind is important for accepting other people, but also for monitoring your own growth. Closely linked to the phenomenon of "no friends" is the significantly more destructive issue of "bad friends." These people drag you into toxic relationships. Below is a list of initial warning signs signalling such an unhealthy situation:
  • I feel terrible after talking to this person; OR I feel guilty for not talking to this person
  • This person is really hard on me and judges me harshly
  • I feel like I have to walk on eggshells around this person
  • I feel bad about myself around this person; all my insecurities flare up
  • This person encourages my bad habits or addictions
  • This person is very negative, depressed, and does not take care of himself or herself
  • Our relationship is all about this person; there's no room for me in it
  • I am incredibly bored, uninspired, stressed out, or unhappy when I'm with this person.
(Adapted from 20 Something Manifesto by Christine Hassler) Under these types of circumstances, you have a few options: to develop a plan to change your relationship with the person, to avoid interacting with him or her in certain situations, or by simply ending the relationship. Ultimately, your goal is to conserve mental energy, and feel happier from the inside out. A key aspect of this is the establishment of healthy relationships. Keep an eye out for future posts regarding this topic! - Lucy

3 comments on “Why is it so hard to make good friends at U of T?

  1. I personally feel that U of T has little to do with the process of making friends, but rather, only presents opportunities for you to make friends–that said, the fact that it is U of T has little significance, since we experience potential “friend-making” opportunities everyday whether we like it or not.

    Developing, then maintaining a friendship, increasingly becomes a matter of personal motivation and character as time passes. I won’t go into how I develop my friendships, but I will say I also believe most people have difficulty making/keeping friends because, as you said, “most of us take friendship for granted”. I’m not sure we’re coming from the same angle when we conclude that, though. In a nutshell, I think a lot of people do not even know how to maintain a friendship because they have misguided perceptions on genuine friendship. Of course, a “genuine” friendship is whatever one wants to make out of it, but it seems a lot of people have never experienced true friendship and are quick to label mere acquaintances as good friends. For example, students A and B who sit next to each other in class and become friends because they need to share notes. A question that doesn’t need answering: are A and B friends because they want to be friends or because they want to do well in the course? If one argues that they truly enjoy each other’s company and don’t consider the friendship merely as a means to an end, then one may further question, if it was student C sitting beside A in the first place, wouldn’t they be as likely to be “good friends” as A and B? I know this example is really superficial, but even for friends who “do everything together”, it often fundamentally comes down to an extra-personal reason for maintaining the friendship.

    Then you look at friendships made, say, during Frosh Week; it is essentially a forced mingling, but some people do find their BFF or romantic lover in their frosh group! So I don’t think it matters much HOW you first meet people, but the moments IMMEDIATELY after that are, I believe, the critical period of friendship development. We are human, and we do have a habit of judging others based on first impressions with our own biases. But it is also the only period with a true absence of biases (and this is not contradictory) BECAUSE of first impressions: we have no predisposed knowledge of this new acquaintance, and we all start on a clean slate.

    I’ve only lightly brushed the surface on this, but I’ll end by saying that being good friends happens not because you need to be friends, and not even just because you want to have a friend, but because you want to have a friendship WITH SOMEONE. Have you seen the Department of Mysteries sub forum on Biome? I think anyone who so much as posts “how to find a gf?” or “lets B friendz!! =)” is a “whatever-I-can-get” kind of person and is only lowering his/her chance of maintaining a profound, long-term friendship, although they may FIND a friend sooner.

    Which brings me to my last point, an obvious one, but is too often neglected: finding a good friend is not the same as maintaining a good friendship.

  2. im in second year and i havent been able to build up strong relationships and close friends at u of t. It sucks when i go to lecture and there is no one there saving my sit and stuff lol. The problem is that I am reaaaaaally shy so then people around me think I’m just cocky cuz i dont wanna talk to them but Im just too shy to start a conversation on my own. =(

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