We are currently in the second lockdown of the year. But now schools are allowed to remain open and we can see some of our friends again and chat to them (from a safe distance) during lunch breaks.
We all know that the restrictions have been very up and down, and each person is dealing with it in their own way. Some may find it really difficult and start to act distant, some used the lockdown as an opportunity to become a productive and organised person.
The majority of our socialising now is done through texts and calls since we have to social distance and follow other regulations. It could be the case that your friend has always been awful at texting, but you’re only noticing now that you don’t see each other as often.
How we coped with the pandemic can have an impact on our friendships. If your friend has been quiet and not texting as much as normal, they could be feeling low – or they could even be a bad texter. In this case, it is important we reach out to them to check in on them, rather than ignoring them or getting annoyed straight away.
First, remember it’s a difficult time for everyone:
You might feel like your friend is no longer putting in the effort but take a step back and remember that everyone is going through this difficult time in their own way. One person may shut off due to feeling low, while others might feel very unsafe meeting even in social distant circumstances. It’s important to respect and understand that everyone has different ways of coping, and not to take it personally.
If you’re worried about a friend, talk to a parent (yours or theirs) or a teacher to ensure they get the help they need.
What if it’s more than that?
With the above in mind, it is important to understand the difference between a friend feeling low and a friend being mean or hurting you.
If a friendship turns toxic, it’s okay to let it go and move on for your own wellbeing.
Here are signs that your friendship has turned toxic.
Often toxic friends or people try to damage your relationship with other people. They may get jealous that you call your friend from camogie more than you ring them and try persuading you that you shouldn’t talk to them anymore. A jealous, toxic friend will do what they can in an attempt to sabotage your other close friendships.
When you are spending time with friends, it should make you feel like you are wanted and bring a positive energy to your day. With a toxic friend, you will more than likely feel ignored. You might find that your friend takes charge of organising Zoom quizzes or other virtual nights in but just happens to forget to invite you each time.
This can lead you to feel rejected and alone, which is something you shouldn’t feel in a healthy friendship.
You feel stressed
No friendship should ever leave you worried or panicked over what you last said to your friend or if you did something to upset them. It isn’t healthy for a friend to make you doubt yourself or your behaviour, especially if this becomes a constant thing.
You don’t feel supported
As mentioned before, we’re all feeling so different about the pandemic and we’re all navigating it in different ways. This could happen when you reach out to a friend and apologise for being distant or explain to them that you are feeling low and they don’t seem to care, or they brush it off to the side. In a friendship, both people need to show compassion and support one another, especially when you need it most.
It is important you don’t jump to any conclusions and cut someone off without any thought. These are difficult times for everyone, so before deciding ‘This friendship has turned toxic, I am better off without them’ reach out to them and make sure they are okay.
If your efforts aren’t returned and the negative behaviour persists, it is best for your mental health to take a step back from the relationship and surround yourself with people who make you feel happy, loved and supported.
Words by Emily Clarke