For most of our lives, we are in constant search for companionship. Our friends often become our necessity and getting more likes on Facebook or Instagram becomes an unacknowledged goal.
With Friendship Day being right around the corner, many of us might be planning to celebrate the camaraderie that we share, but one does tend to wonder, what are the psychological implications of having or wanting friends?
A 10-year study of people over the age of 70 in Australia had suggested that friends are more important than family in conferring longevity, and that people with good friends outlive those with the fewest by 22 percent.
Psychologist Harsheen Arora is of the opinion that friendship is part of the human psyche’s innate need to be felt needed.
“Friendship makes us feel accepted. It helps improve our self-esteem, assures us that we are not alone and also functions as an emotional outlet.”
Dr. Hardeep Singh, MD Psychiatry, Consultant - Fortis Hospital, Mohali says that while within a family one tends to be very watchful about what they speak, one can afford to share all among friends and if they are sincere this can help cope with most situations.
Nayamat Bawa, Head Psychologist, IWill furthers that idea when she says that having friends is an integral part of a person’s emotional wellbeing in the modern world.
“Friendships enhances our social support system and gives us a space to share our emotional distress.”
According to the psychologist we feel much stronger emotionally when we know that we have people around us who we can trust and will always watch our back.
She further adds that research indicates people who enjoy good friendships are more resilient and also have better problem-solving capacities in life.
Mousumi Kar, a prolific traveller and psychologist from Kolkata believes that while the human behaviour refers to the full range of physical and emotional behaviours that humans engage in, friendship or friends are a cushion in life where a person can enable his or her life skills and cope with any situations.
Nayamat however adds that there are friends who are important in life and then there are those people who actually drag you down. In a way more than having friends, what kind of friends one has becomes very important.
“Friends who share constructive criticism hold you up. They tell you when you need to make amends while also giving you enough confidence in tough times. Either too sugary or too bitter friends can drag you down. Someone who only thinks you want to hear is not helping you and someone who sees everything wrong will harm your self-confidence.”
Dr Hardeep Singh adds, “A friend has to be sensitive enough, matured in thinking and stable psychologically to be able to guide us. So someone who has these characteristics will always lead us to good.”
A discernible concern raised by Mousumi is that somewhere the true essence of companionship is perhaps being lost in the digital mesh everyone is so much into.
“The youth are connected with the digital media where they can share each other's life's events. But are these friends who are on your social media real friends? Who are your real friends? When you are going through a crisis - may be emotional, social, physical, economical - how many friends are with you?”
According to Moususmi, the urban youth has seemingly a large number of friends on social media but they are unable to share their innate feelings with anyone.
“Everything is measured by number of 'likes' and 'comments' on social media. It's very superficial.”
Harsheen feels that while friendship is important, realising what kind of friend you have makes all the different.
“A true friend will accept you for who you are. The person will be someone who will understand you as a person – what you think, how you feel, things that affect you, how you would react without judging you for any of it. Any of your mistakes will not make you a smaller person for them.”
Mousumi furthers that idea, “A real friend can guide you, counsel you with unbiased feedback and give you an emotional cushion. What is important is to have a space where you can freely share your inner thoughts and feelings with your close friends. In any friendship, bonding is really necessary, which is missing.”
However, she warns that having too many friends might not be a good idea either. Having one or two close friends is what matters most.
Dr. Hardeep Singh concludes, “A man is known by the company one keeps. And good friends generally climb the ladder together.”