Some friendships are disposable—and that’s okay.


Photo by Margarita Ivanova

Photo by Margarita Ivanova

By Margarita Ivanova, Beacon Correspondent

Do you ever pass by the people you once laughed through packs of Pale Ales with, and now approach them with casual gestures and seemingly meaningless small talk? What changed? you may think to yourself. It can be bittersweet — seeing the living remnants of your memories and dwelling on the lost time that led to drifting.

In most circumstances, it’s something as simple as a change in your environment that causes a fall out. As college students, these changes are inevitable. Whether you switch dorms, decide to live off campus, study abroad, switch majors, or stop going to parties, the people you surround yourself with are constantly changing, and it can be easy to label these simple changes as losses.

Sophia Kriegal, a senior writing, literature, and publishing major, studied abroad in the Netherlands during the Spring 2022 semester, and experienced several, sudden social changes in addition to the nine-hour time difference. 

“It’s interesting because I went to the castle literally knowing nobody, and now I’m dating someone from there, but in terms of the other friendships I formed there, it’s really strange because I don’t really talk to them,” she said. “There’s not enough time to hang out with everyone, so it’s just a matter of really picking your players.”

Kriegal, who came back to best friends in Boston she hadn’t seen in months, had to prioritize restoring those relationships over maintaining the new ones formed in Kasteel Well.

“You expect to come back to Boston where everything is the same, but it turned out that so much actually happened while we were gone,” she said. “So much happens when you’re away and it feels like you’re here for the aftermath.”

Kriegal talked about how some of her more casual friendships in Boston, and the Netherlands especially, wilted away during these shifts in setting. 

“There were so many outer friendships who I don’t really text and just see them on social media,” she said. “I give them hugs and say ‘hi’ at parties but when you put a pause on reality and show up six months later, it’s kind of easier to just breeze by and not really interact.” 

Kriegal said social exhaustion is a leading factor for the quick waves, short head nods, and an excuse to run off. 

“I am also very different from the last time I saw these people [acquaintances in Boston] so it’s weird finding a place for them to fit,” she said.

Studies show that building friendships really does take time. It is estimated that it takes between 40 to 60 hours to form a casual friendship, 80 to 100 hours to transition to being a friend, and more than 200 hours together to become good friends. Returning to newer friendships that you’ve invested less energy in after significant time apart isn’t always realistic.

Sometimes, a setting can really be the only factor that knits a connection. Your setting, and the consistency of it, both play a crucial role in forming relationships. In a series of studies done in the 1990s, researchers found the major factors outside of human behavior that affected friendships were living arrangements, opportunities to spend time together, proximity types of educational setting, emotional climate, and family setting.

“As much as I wish I had more in common with some people, the only thing I really had in common with a lot of them was being in a completely foreign place with a small group, and one pub,” Kriegal said. “Coming back now, it’s interesting seeing everyone in their normal settings and seeing if they’re similar or different, or if you are even compatible in ways. Sometimes I do feel sad that once summer happened, a lot of those friendships kind of just dissolved.”

Kriegal compared the drift with the students she met abroad to the transition out of dorms — where a majority of us don’t really see the people we lived on the same floor with after our first year. She used another example about the initial enthusiastic obsessions of first year party culture,  saying that when the sports houses stopped having parties, there were many of those individuals who she completely stopped interacting with.

So, why do we cling onto these friendships even though they have shifted into mere acquaintances? Why do we make empty promises in passing, and offer statements molded into hangouts that feel more like a task? We lie to ourselves because we’re afraid of the realization that a bond can be severed, or that we might be the reason it doesn’t last.

“When you get back to your normal settings, you check in every once in a while, and I even find myself texting people, ‘Oh my god I miss you so much, I hope everything is good,’ and it feels fake to me,” Kriegal said. “I often feel guilty for saying ‘wow we have to do something soon,’ even though, yes, I want to see those people, but I know that there’s just not gonna be enough time in the day to see everyone.”

Kriegal said that moving past the aggressive need to constantly surround herself with people and social experiences is a part of the last couple years of shifting into adulthood. 

“I’ve honestly reached a point where I’m pretty content with the people I’ve got,” she said.

Although a majority of people do hesitate with leaving relationships behind, it can be easier for others like Sharon Boateng, a senior journalism student, who grew up constantly moving around between Ghana, Nigeria, and the United States.

“Friendships for me personally are very temporary, and it’s something I’m used to,” Boateng said. “The same way I move around from place to place is the same way I move on from person to person; and it has its advantages and disadvantages for sure.”

This mindset translated into her college years as well, where many friendships were built solely based on conditional proximity.

“I knew people that revolved around the activities we would do, but a majority of those friends I couldn’t actually relate to outside of that,” she said. “I realized that once I stopped attending those organizations, and once the group projects were over, there was no consistency in the friendship — there was nothing to talk about when we saw each other. There was nothing to look forward to because again we had different sides of our lives and we had different interests.”

People fear letting go of friendships, and especially letting go of things that bring them a sense of comfort. It’s in our nature to hold onto those we associate with good experiences.

After seeing the people you once belly-laughed with, you think about how you really should reach out for that cup of Tatte coffee and spew out the same nonsense every week saying you miss them with each awkward moment in passing — but what happens if you simply stop?

You realize, maybe we really aren’t the same, but it was good while it lasted, and you soon lose sight of the empty promises. Your memories are nothing but treasures locked inside a box of nostalgia, waiting to be opened by the empty reassurance that you give yourself, or by a healthier set of reflections.

In reality, we don’t have to pile layers of glitter onto the boxes of memories. Sometimes it can just feel good to leave the memories locked inside, and open them every once in a while to reminisce. 

Why force a relationship to continue when you can think back on the magic? Good things aren’t always made to last, and sometimes we need to let go.

To a population that dwells on greed and accumulating elements for success in the future, it is often difficult to understand that less of something can make us happier. Why push something until it falls apart, rather than simply reflecting on the bliss? 

Pass by those people that made you feel like you were young forever, and cherish what you had, rather than dwelling on the stability of these relationships in the future and what you could be missing out on.