Another installment in the High School Halls series in which we are taking a look at teenagers then and now on Deep-Fried Friday. Today we’re looking at friendships in high school. Some teens have a lot of friends and some have very few, but our friendships have a deep impact on how we experience high school. At times, having a close friend is like having an anchor when you feel adrift in those teenage years.
That Was Then
I am an introvert, which means that while I had many connections, I typically had one or a few close friends at a time. I was quite content with a single best friend or a small circle of friends. Here’s what I remember about my friendships in high school.
Friendships were formed through school and outside activities. I got most of my friends through band and classes–usually both. For instance, Tammy sat behind me in algebra and played saxophone in band. Diana was in my English class and played clarinet. Cindy was in another English class and played flute.
What drew us together was shared values and interests. My closest friends also wanted to do well in school, had authoritative parents, and enjoyed music. I looked for smart people who would understand how much I enjoyed reading or talking about something deeper than nail polish color. I related to other students whose parents also had curfews and rules and grounded you from time to time. I desired friends who enjoyed music and dancing and sarcastic humor and more sarcastic humor.
Yeah, I suppose I was a bit of a square. But I liked it that way.
My friends and I didn’t cruise from party to party, but rather hung out in small crowds at school events, at each others’ houses, or a local dance hall for teens. We also did stupid stuff–harmless stupid stuff. Like the pranks I discussed on the blog earlier.
All of our interactions were face-to-face or phone-to-phone (as in LANDLINE). Most of us didn’t have phones in our rooms, so we were relegated to whatever sliver of time we were allowed on the family line. Which, no, did not have call waiting. Or caller ID. Or a cordless connection. Typically, the phone was used for planning later excursions or sharing the “Guess who asked me out!” sort of news.
What my friends afforded me were:
- Sense of belonging. I had people to sit with at lunch and hang out with on band trips and share news with and feel a part of. I belonged somewhere.
- Care and concern. When things weren’t going well, my friends cared. They wanted what they thought was best for me (even if going out with that guy didn’t turn out all that well in the end). They were rooting for me.
- Fun, fun, fun. From our toilet papering escapades to seeing movies together to attending school dances or whatever else we did, we laughed a lot. Those moments with friends had my smiling muscles getting a workout.
- Personal growth. Being in relationships with others pushes you to grow. You have to think about others and not just yourself. I learned a lot in those years about being there for people you love.
- Better sense of self. Learning who you feel comfortable with helps you know yourself better. I gravitated toward people who liked what I liked, did what I wanted to do, and were like me. But not. In those ways there were not like me, I also learned who I was because I was pushed to become more.
This Is Now
Friendships for teens today also seem to be driven by shared interests–whether that is video games or extracurricular activities or something else. There are many more opportunities now to participate in sports, gymnastics, academic teams, dance, Lego building, or whatever. Find an interest. Find a group. You can find friends.
However, the tool of friendships these days tends to be technology. Kids connect through Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Minecraft, and other online chat rooms and games.
They rarely talk on a phone (and certainly not a landline). They text. In addition to texting while away from each other, they may even text while together. Back and forth. Across from each other at a table. What is up with that? my generation wonders.
Group activities seem to be more prominent than dating or other one-on-one outings. When I go to my local coffee shop in the evenings to work, there are usually a few high school study groups, with anywhere from 3 to 10 teens at a table.
Yes, these teens interact face-to-face, but it’s mixed in with checking texts from other friends, looking up something on their laptop that was mentioned in conversation, clicking through a tablet for homework information.
Still, the shared interests are there. The laughter is there. The sense of belonging is there.
Looking at who a teen is hanging out with gives me information about the teen herself–which is likely to be fairly accurate. Because we choose friends who support who we want to be or to become.
When I am asked by a teenager for the best advice I could give them, it has always been choose your friends wisely. If your friends couldn’t care less about schoolwork, you eventually won’t care either. If your friends do drugs, you’ll likely do them at some point too. If your friends work for charities on the weekends, you’ll start working with them just to hang out and then you’ll become charitable. And so on.
Who your friends are (or were) can have a lasting impact. I’m grateful that I had such great friends in high school–several of whom I’m still in contact with today.
How about your high school friendships? Did you make any friends for life? Do you have special memories about certain friends? How did/do your friendships affect your experience of high school?