Is it acceptable that I categorise my friendships? Based on my experience, I have ended up creating categories in my head. Core friends, close friends, friends, good acquaintances: I generally have an idea on where I stand with every relationship in my life. Let me be clear, I do not have a list in my head where I constantly think about which “box” the people around me are put in. However, if I have to choose spending time between two people, I know who I will prioritise.
I revealed my concept to a group of friends. “Yeah that is fair, everyone categorises friendships but no one admits to it,” one said. “The only danger to categorsing friendships is that people are going to find out their categories and they dump you.” True, a lot of people will probably not like to hear that someone else is more important than them. Another disagreed with my opinion, “I think it is dangerous to deliberately categorise your friendships because you might not be able to progress these friendships or accept new ones. You should just spend time with whoever you want to spend time with.”
To clarify, I do not permanently keep the relationships in their categories. Friendships always fluctuates as time passes, and it is important to maintain flexibility in friendships. After all, my best friend was once just a friendly acquaintance.
Perhaps I’m overthinking this concept. I should listen to my friend and perhaps just spend time with whoever around me is available. However, to me, that is easier said than done. When there are overwhelming responsibilities from coursework, a part-time job, and societies, I am often left scrambling to find time for people whom I care for and trust. I do not want to waste my limited time. We all know the extreme importance of having friendships. Their ideas and actions help us develop as people. Building a strong friendship takes time, dedication, and support so I want to be able to use my limited time on developing friendships.
In the 1990s, leading anthropologist Robin Dunbar proposed that humans could maintain stable relationships with only around 150 people: five core friends, 10 close friends, 35 friends, and 100 good acquaintances. I do not agree with the exact numbers, but I wholeheartedly concur with his idea. It is extremely difficult to maintain strong friendships. When it comes to core or close friends, you end up deeply caring for them and being invested in their thoughts and feelings. It is extremely unrealistic and exhausting to deeply care for so many people equally. I want to support my close friends whenever they need me. Therefore, understanding who I prioritise helps me be able to completely be there for the right people.
Prioritising the right people ends up meaning that sometimes, friendships end. Looking back on past friendships, I have narrowed down to three reasons as to why a friendship may end: it has become toxic, there are other priorities, and/or there is physical distance. Just like a romantic relationship, friendship means that both parties must make effort, be honest, and care for each other. Thus, when spending time feels more like a chore or is purely toxic, it should make sense to end it.
Most times, I notice that my friendships end without any particular bad reason. Whether there is a physical distance or not, it just so happens that even though I would love to spend time with certain people, there are too many other overwhelming responsibilities to make time for them at this moment. There are some people that I truly want to get to know more, and it is quite unfortunate that potential friendships may be hindered.
And to my friends…
I hope that those around me understand that even if I may not prioritise them as much as they would like to be prioritised, I genuinely care for them. To those long distance friends who I Skype for hours once in a few months to those that I have almost daily catch-up sessions, I treasure our friendships and am fully engaged. I love that I get to choose to spend time with you. Likewise, I understand that you have other commitments in your life to prioritise as well, and I am extremely fortunate to be able to spend time with you.
There are a lot of friendships that I know will end once I leave St Andrews. We may swear that we will keep in touch and promise to “Skype every single week”. That will probably not happen. Realistically, our lives and priorities will change and it will probably end up with us occasionally liking each other’s social media posts, and that is okay. Maybe we will reunite once in a few years, and we will reminisce our treasured memories. I truly hope that happens. Please just know that even if our friendship fluctuates, our memories will constantly be cherished.