Failing economies shouldn't put pressure on friendships
One of the more ignored side effects of a recession is the toll it takes on friendships.
It seems kind of silly to worry about this when, in times of economic hardship, physical worries dramatically outweigh emotional ones. After all, itís easy and probably not wrong to take an attitude of first figuring out if you can make rent this month, then speculating if your BFF charm bracelet is shiny enough.
But itís worth noting, because, at least anecdotally, financial difficulty is one case where friendships can be more likely to accentuate how tough things really are than to provide an escape.
An underwhelming job market means people canít be picky about where they get a job. ďProximity to loved ones,Ē once a reasonable criterion when deciding where to work, is now, at best, sentimentally naÔve. At worst, itís irresponsible.
And even if youíre willing to stand boldly and declare that being close to the ones you love is important enough to stake your career on it, it can be devastating when you realize your loved ones are simply unable to make the same gesture.
Geography is a bitch, and no matter how many promises are made to keep in touch with friends back home, thereís always an expectation to start living lives away from each other. Itís draining to be someoneís perpetual lifeline, and itís unfair to place somebody in that position. The result is a game of emotional chicken that frequently boils down to, ďI need you, but not so much that I freak you out.Ē
Intuitively, this should be a boon to new friendships, but thatís not always the case. People in the market for new friends are often people who just had to face the harsh realization that not all relationships are permanent and may decide that transient relationships are more trouble than theyíre worth.
Really, thatís the most poisoning thing a recession can do to friendships ó the deprioritization of friends can all too easily lead to an attitude of indifference toward current relationships and an attitude of skepticism toward future ones.
This is all a lot direr than it really is of course. Strong relationships can survive most anything, and even if they donít, the ephemerality of a friendship shouldnít diminish its meaning. But the recession acts as a stress test for relationships and as a stark reminder that the strength of a relationship isnít measured by how well things go when times are good, but how strongly two people work to protect it when times are bad.
Last week, I visited a friend in Virginia whom I hadnít seen in years. We kept in touch in the interim ó phone calls, letters, Christmas gifts, Facebook ó but it wasnít until I saw her again did it fully sink in how different we had become.
She drove me back to the airport on my last day in Virginia. We did the goodbye stuff outside the terminal ó hugs, I love youís and a kiss ó and I told her that itís clear weíve become different people, but if sheís in, I want to protect our friendship because sheís still important to me.
She grinned in a warm, you-totally-rehearsed-that-in-your-head sort of way and said with a smile, ďIím in.Ē
With a major particularly sensitive to economic downturns, Iím faced with a gloomy job outlook ó an internship is no guarantee of a job, and a job is no guarantee of a career. Thus, any talk of wisdom gleaned from the recession is usually met with cynicism from me.
I do feel, though, Iíve learned one thing from the recession: There are so many reasons why friendships fail, and itís our responsibility not to let the stupid shit be among them.
Joe Dellosa is president of UFís Human Decency Now and an advertising senior.
Copyright © 2010, Joe Dellosa.