The Unhealthy Cultural Shift in Friendship

Reported by Hannah Lee

There is an issue in today’s society, an unspoken red flag glaring through our phone screens. We scroll through social media and pretend we are not being manipulated in every which way—by our news, by our friends, by ourselves. 

Saying you are taking care of yourself is untrue when your phone is always on ringer, hoping and praying you don’t get that one call from that one friend. They emotionally drain you, but you cannot leave them—after all, they would be dead without you. 

From calling significant others at the top of cell phone towers, to texting late at night saying, “No one understands,” we are a generation steeped in manipulation. At this point, we don’t even recognize it in others or in ourselves. 

About a week ago, I received a text from one of my friends, saying, “What should I do if a friend tells me that they’re at an 8/10 for suicide, but absolutely refuse to tell the R.A.?” 

I called her immediately, recognizing that her friend had put her in a difficult place. Not only did my friend hold this knowledge of knowing that one wrong move could push this woman to kill herself, but she could not tell someone who could actually help. 

The woman was fortunately able to get help from her Resident Assistant (R.A.) and Area Coordinator, but the damage had been done: My friend was now in an impossible friendship. This is a scarily common scenario the majority of young people have faced. While the stigmas of mental illness ease, the need for help rises, and people are afraid to discuss their issues with a stranger. 

As young people become more comfortable in accepting their mental illness, they begin to make comments and jokes about it to appear “relatable.” 

Some of these remarks are, in fact, humorous and can even help ease the weight that depression, anxiety, and other disorders can cause. But they can also be very concerning, even manipulative at certain points. 

I am part of the problem.

It is entirely too easy to discard thoughts online. Verbally processing is very popular, and instead of using journals, teenagers vent on social media. 

I remember my mom coming into my room because my friend informed her that I tweeted, “Sundays are my suicide days.” I explained that these were simply song lyrics, but later realized how five simple words had caused great distress. 

I have friends whose partners have threatened suicide when they tried to break up. Many young people are overwhelmed with a feeling of responsibility for their friends that should be reserved for their parents and R.A.s.

Codependency can be too subtle to notice at first, but the main sign is manipulation. 

This can consist of threats, guilt trips, or one-sided relationships. 

If you are constantly telling your friend that you would do anything for them, but they do not care enough to ask how you are doing, that is an unhealthy relationship. Sometimes the manipulator simply needs to be made aware of their toxicity, but often it is best to distance oneself from this dangerous friend. 

The most important thing to remember is that you are not a parent or a therapist. Those are the people who need to be made aware of your friend’s destructive thoughts. You are not responsible for their actions, thoughts, or feelings.