Posted: 09 September 2019

How do friendships affect your life?

This year's Good Childhood Report found that young people are becoming more and more unhappy with their friendships. This could be a result of bullying, being unable to spend time with friends outside of school, excessive social media use or loneliness. 

We asked Alexandra, one of our young writing competition entrants, to tell us how friendships affect her life...

Froggyland, anyone?

I'm a bit weird.

I used to play the bagpipes. I like watching random foreign-language TV shows on Netflix, and my reaction when someone told me that there was a stuffed-frog museum in Croatia called Froggyland (look it up) was 'Wow, we should go!'

Luckily, these days I have the sorts of friends who see this as vaguely acceptable behaviour.

I am also quiet. I don’t tend to make a big impression on new people. For a long time, I thought this meant there was something wrong with me.

Tiny fish in a massive pond

My first year of university was interesting. A bout of depression and hypochondria over the summer had by that point shifted into a tendency for anxiety attacks that made my brain simultaneously heavy and light. It had also shattered my confidence, and as a chronically shy person who was now a tiny fish in a massive pond, I never had much to spare to begin with. 

Fresher’s Week was hell. I was inexperienced at small talk. I would look at groups of people who logically couldn't have met more than five minutes ago and say 'well, they already know each other. They won't want to talk to me.'

I would start promising conversations with friendly, hilarious nerds, and never follow up because I was worried about annoying them. I missed out on a few friendships this way. Every joke I made that fell flat, every reference that went over my head just made me more convinced that I was in some way unbefriend-able, that my loneliness was my fault.

[Spoiler alert: it wasn’t. I was talking to the wrong people.]

When you start university people tell you 'you'll make the best friends of your life.' What they should say is this:

'You might make the best friends of your life. Maybe straight away, maybe after a couple of years. Maybe you'll make your best friends outside of uni, or after it. IDK. Just turn up and do your best.'

Hey, you live and learn.

Someone worth knowing

Little by little things started to change. I came back in my second year to find that there were a few people who were actually pleased to see me again, and this number increased gradually as I went through my degree.

I'm 24 now. I have picked up friends in odd places and grown apart from others. I have learnt that some friendships stick and others fade with time and distance. I still have random attacks of shyness where I can't look people in the eye, and I still mumble sometimes.

But I’m better than I used to be, and that’s the point. The friends I have now are hilarious, intelligent, inspiring, supportive weirdos. They set a bar for me to live up to. They are a daily reassurance that my hard work is paying off, that I am better at this meeting-people malarkey than I used to be. They trust that I am someone worth knowing, and encourage me to live up to that expectation.

'Most importantly, I have someone to watch Netflix with.' 

For many young people, healthy friendships offer support when it's most needed. A decline in friendships is worrying as it means more and more young people are having to deal with problems on their own.

We need to listen to young people to help them overcome the challenges of modern childhood and face their future with hope, confidence and optimism.


By Alexandra Gough

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