Many people are able to make and maintain social connections easily, and are instantly friends with anyone they meet. I have never been able to count myself among their numbers, unfortunately. I am introverted by nature and draw my energy from being alone; too much time around too many people and I’m drained. While I certainly enjoy the time I spend alone, I also don’t fancy being alone all of the time; this is where my friends come in. There are many different kinds of friends and many different ways to express friendship, and all of them are important. Even for introverts like me, there’s lots of positive energy to be found in even the smallest social connection.
Perhaps rather obviously, one of the first things I look for in a friend is commonality. A large factor in many friendships is the sharing of interests; I enjoy sci-fi and fantasy, so I have many friends who also enjoy sci-fi and fantasy, and so on. However, interests aren’t the only things friends can have in common that affect their relationship. Many people are drawn to others with similar personalities as themselves, since they feel they can understand each other with more ease (as is the case with my three closest friends at LMU). Being in a pre-existing group together can also help facilitate friendships; merely being in the Honors’ Program made me more comfortable making connections with the other students there, since I knew I had something in common with everyone there from the very beginning. In short, one thing seems to reoccur in all of these scenarios: I chose my friends based on what was safe. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that; however, I’ve seen many exciting friendships unfold between people who seem to be completely different. To use a literary example (my specialty), a “safe” friendship would be like Sam Gamgee and Frodo Baggins from The Lord of the Rings – the two are from the same community, have much in common, and are united by a common goal in their story in addition to this. This is in stark contrast to Gimli and Legolas, a dwarf and an elf who at first understand each other very little; by the end of the story, however, they are the best of friends, willing to fight and die for each other. Looking outside of one’s usual circle for connections can be very rewarding, and can certainly lead to interesting adventures.
Relating back to the concept of all types of friendships being important, a topic of controversy for many is the very recent concept of “internet friends” or “online friends.” Technology has allowed us to connect to people in entirely new ways; social networking and other forms of online activities allow people who may have never met in real life to interact with each other, share ideas, and form friendships. Naysayers may insist that “Online friends aren’t real friends!” or “If you’ve never met face-to-face, you’re not really friends!” I find this point of view to be limiting in the extreme. A good many of my social connections are sustained through the online community: online role-playing game partners, members of the forum of a fan club I’m a part of, friends I’ve met in person perhaps once at anime conventions and then only kept up with through the internet afterward. For a while a few years ago, online friends were some of the only friends I interacted with regularly, and I considered them to be very real. If one’s idea of a night out with friends is a series of raids with their World of Warcraft guild, then more power to them. In fact, it sounds like a ton of fun – sign me up!
Not only are friendships obviously rewarding and fun in their own right, social connections between friends are also incredibly valuable resources, such as for academic or emotional support. I met one of my newest friends through my Math class this past semester; it turned out that we were both huge J.R.R. Tolkien nerds, and the common interest got us talking right away. Later on, if it weren’t for us teaming up near the end of the semester for an intense period of studying, my Math final most likely would’ve turned out a bit worse than it ended up being! With that trial over, we’re tackling more creative endeavors using our newly discovered teamwork; both being writers, we’re working together on a story inspired by the Harry Potter book series.
In the end, the real point of friendship is a simple one: to make our lives and the lives of our friends more awesome than they were before. Not only do they make the passage through school much more enjoyable, but they enhance the passage through life as well!
Are you introverted or extroverted? What kinds of friends do all of you have? Any interesting stories about your exploits that you’d like to share? Feel free to leave a comment below; I can’t wait to hear about your adventures! If you’d like to hear more about my own adventures, consider following my blog for even more of my stories and thoughts.