While some of us have reconnected with old friends over Zoom during the past year, or grown even more appreciative of our best pals, many friendships haven’t fared so well.
The pandemic has impacted nearly every aspect of our lives, from our careers, to our romantic relationships, to our friendships. But while some of us have reconnected with old friends over Zoom during the past year or grown even more appreciative of our best pals, many of us have gone the other way.
Disagreements over Covid restrictions; burning out and withdrawing from socialising (be it in real life or over Zoom); or simply having an abundance of time to reassess the quality of our relationships have resulted in many once-solid friendships crumbling over the past year. While some of these fractured relationships are now on the mend, it now seems as though many friendships didn’t survive lockdown.
Sophie, 22, Nottingham
“I used to speak to one of my friends pretty much every day – we always had so much to talk about on text. Then, as we went into lockdown, we spoke less and less as, of course, there wasn’t much going on in our lives to discuss. I felt like as time went on and Covid was having a negative impact on our mood and mental health, we would get aggy over little things each other said and tension started to build up. We pretty much just slowly spoke less and less and the last time we spoke was months ago. Although I am sad we do not speak anymore, I think it is for the best as I’ve learnt that we clash quite a lot as people.”
Polly*, 23, London
“It was with a friend of mine that I met at uni. She struggles quite a lot with her mental health. I think her health anxiety over coronavirus and lockdown became quite crippling for her and I sort of became a bit of a sounding board. It got to a point where it was almost like I didn’t even have time for my own thoughts because she was taking up so much of my time. I’ve really tried to help her get help as well, but I’m not a professional; I don’t have a psychology degree. It just got to the point where we had to have a conversation. I just basically said that something needs to change in terms of boundaries or we need to maybe take a step back from our friendship for a while, and she reacted quite badly. I tried to keep it as supportive as possible and obviously said just ask if you need me, but I haven’t heard from her since. I learned that I need to set better boundaries with my friends prior to difficult situations happening.”
Sonya, 28, London
“So, unfortunately, as the pandemic went on, I lost a number of friends and that was largely because I was focused on hustling. I’m very career-driven and ambitious. I actually had a friend from around my university years who said I was too ambitious, that she no longer felt like our paths aligned, and she didn’t quite understand why I was so determined to be a businesswoman, which, on reflection, is a really weird thing to say. I was a little taken aback as there’s a lack of women of colour in business; I really wanted to be that role model. So, when I had this feedback I thought, why would you not want that also? It makes you sad, especially when you’ve been friends for so long, but you just have to focus on the good in life and move on.”
Jennifer*, 22, Edinburgh
“Over the course of the pandemic certain friends have behaved or made comments that have jarred with me – I should probably preface this by saying that I’m immunosuppressed. So I guess lots of it is to do with ableism and me being surprised or shocked about how people have behaved. I had one friendship where it did lead to a sort of intervention. Basically a friend had been kind of flouting lockdown and travelling quite long distances. We eventually had a talk and it actually went really well. So it was a constructive thing, and we’re good now, but it has been interesting to see how even people who are so pro-social justice and righteous have blind spots.”
Vicki*, 21, Bristol
“One of my uni housemates went to a huge house party, which I was a bit annoyed about. She ended up getting Covid and then we all caught Covid from her. Everyone in the house then started making up their own rules as they went along, [regarding] what they thought was and wasn’t okay for Covid. But yeah, I think it was all heightened because we couldn’t really leave the house because of lockdown. So in the end I just moved out; like, I literally packed up all my stuff and moved out. Then they blocked me and I haven’t spoken to them since. It’s been a bit weird really. In first and second year of uni these guys were like my best friends, and then they just went from that to blocking me on everything, which is really strange. So obviously it was quite sad.”
So why has lockdown prompted so many friendships to end?
Relationship expert Dr Sarah Louise Ryan explains that the pandemic has left some people feeling “disconnected” from their friends. “It has meant that we’ve seen people stepping away from friendships that have run the distance, aren’t equal in effort or energy or perhaps whereby two people have just grown apart and that is all okay.”
It’s not easy to get over a friend break-up, either. “For anyone who has experienced a friendship fall by the wayside or an actual ‘breakup’ between two people that were once friends, as with any loss, there will be a grief cycle,” Ryan continues. “Getting to grips with the grief cycle will help anyone feel that they understand the emotional process and path towards accepting that said friendship is no longer going to be.”
Ryan suggests that anyone struggling to come to terms with losing a friend should take stock. “You have to lean into understanding and take the lessons about said friend(s), break down and also accept and take responsibility for one’s part to play in that breakdown.”
“Breaking up is very hard to do,” she adds. “But when you know your worth and understand what true connection and good communication looks like you will feel strong in the knowing that you are not for everyone and not everyone is for you. Accept the things you can not change, change the things you can and have the courage to know the difference.”
*some names have been changed
Images: 360 Productions/Ruben Earth/Getty