Many of us spent the early part of our childhoods making friendship bracelets for playground buddies, only to watch those friendships fizzle within months of the symbolic union. Whether it was because of distance, different social circles or being seated apart in homeroom for too many years in a row, few of us still wear those bracelets today. College is supposed to be different — we’re wiser, older and our parents don’t have to arrange our play dates anymore. As seniors head into their final year at Brown, many are optimistic that college friendships truly do last forever. In spite of pessimistic research that suggests maintaining relationships becomes more challenging with age, college friendships continue to endure the test of time.
College friendships are a wonderful petri dish. Unlike family, we choose them. Unlike romantic relationships, they are unencumbered by structure. Unlike professional relationships, they lack formality and allow us to show our true selves. At the end of the day, they enhance our college experiences. It would be a pity to give up on them so easily come graduation. In fact, we have reason to fight for our collegiate relationships and hope they survive, for our health, if not for the camaraderie.
Distance is perhaps the biggest obstacle for aspiring BFFs. Even with the boom of social media and video conferencing, nothing quite replaces face-to-face conversation. Research shows that, on average, Americans move every five years, which is terrible news if you believe in the saying “out of sight, out of mind.” And while distance does make adult friendships considerably more challenging, it is by no means a death sentence. If you continue to share mutual interests and be present in each other’s lives, distance becomes a mere inconvenience So, as you begin your job search, you can rest easy in knowing that the city you choose doesn’t have to dictate the friendships you maintain.
Unsurprisingly, the long-term success of relationships depends heavily on how close your relationship was in the first place. A study of friendships from 1983 to 2002 found that lifelong friends had solidified their bond early on. It turns out, those inside jokes and spring break memories are more than just anecdotes — a shared past is key in building a strong foundation for your friendship. So, the next time you feel guilty for procrastinating on a midterm paper to spend some quality time with your buddies, know that you are investing the time necessary to cement your relationships when it matters most.
As if it weren’t already self-evident, countless surveys demonstrate the importance of friendships to our overall happiness. The cliche “money can’t buy happiness” continues to ring true, with respondents citing relationships as the most important factor in their lives, without even mentioning their finances. As seniors, many of us are actively job hunting and focusing on our financial futures more than ever. Don’t let the hunt keep you from nurturing and building on your relationships. In a materialistic and often tragic world, we can count on our friends to stand by our sides. If we lose sight of what is truly important, we risk leading a lonely and unfulfilled life, regardless of what can be found in our bank accounts.
Strong friendships are similarly essential to a healthy lifestyle. According to the Mayo Clinic, research shows that friendships surpass familial relationships in predicting health as people age. A strong support group can help you recover from trauma, encourage you to abandon unhealthy behavior and reduce your stress. Though family is undoubtedly instrumental in guiding you through difficult times, adults with a strong social network tend to have reduced risks of significant health problems.
As college students, sometimes it seems as though our friends come and go in cycles — our elementary friends are buried somewhere deep in our memories and our high school friends haunt our yearbooks, so it only makes sense that our college friends will be the next victims in a long parade of exes. But there is reason be optimistic about collegiate relationships. Not only are these friendships the most likely to last, but they are instrumental to your health and happiness. Forget the days when your group of friends was harshly dismissed as a social distraction when you brought back a disappointing grade. As your life becomes crowded with other worries and responsibilities, be it family or work, it is important to continue letting your friends distract you in the best possible ways.
Fabiana Vilsan ’19 can be reached at email@example.com. Please send responses to this opinion to firstname.lastname@example.org and other op-eds to email@example.com.