In most films and television shows, school friendships are a lifeline for all those involved. Friends might bicker or have serious drama, but they'll always get back together in the end -forever. The reality is somewhat different- while many people look back at their school years and friends with fondness, staying in touch with their school friends is a different matter altogether.
In my experience, my school friends were the main characters in the tv show that was my life in school. I never realised the meaning of simple things we did together, like what route to take to get to class quickest, what snacks to get from the canteen during lunchtime, and how to eat school samosas the right way.
Maintaining friendships in school was relatively easy because, for most people, their school friends are in the same class as them. What happens to school friends after school? As we change and evolve beyond our school years, do our friendships change and evolve with us, or do they stay static? With Friendship Day festivities around us, we asked college students from different parts of the world to answer the most important question- are school friends built to last?
How Do We Make Friends?
Before we can question whether school friends are built to last, we have to look at how school friends are made- and it’s not as simple as going up to someone and saying “Hi!”. Friendships in school are formed due to a variety of factors, mainly through being in the same class, or club, or having mutual friends. Ahaanaa* said that her friend group from school was comprised of 18 people. Her friend group was formed after 10th grade when a lot of people left her school, and “all the little remnants of acquaintances merged together to make one big group.” What brought them together? “We’d been doing Secret Santa, for 4-5 years.”
Having those shared interests, or just simply hanging out with your friends every day, is important in maintaining any friendship- both in school and after that. In school, this was easy- you’d spend almost every day in school with your friends. Making plans would also be relatively easy, given that everyone lives in the same area and within the same time zone.
How Do We Keep Friends?
But making new friends can be a problem even in school. Kendall* says that the shuffling system in her school left her isolated in a completely new class, far from the people she’d known for over five years. “Being separated from all my closest friends did lead to some doubts,” she says. In her experience, while not all her school friendships lasted, they were wonderful, and some of those friendships did last beyond school too.
Prateek* spoke to a similar effect. In school, he had a relatively small group of friends, and even from that group, he has “drifted from most of them now.” However, those he is still in touch with are the friends he was the closest to in school. “One could argue that school friendships are built to last,” he says. “Although I would probably say that those that do are a product of hard work and compromise.”
Can School Friends Truly Last?
School friendships are built within a certain time frame within the individual’s life. Once school is over, the individual moves on with life, and as such, their reality changes. Ananya addresses this, saying that all friendships last up to a certain point, and the test for long-lasting friendships is how fulfilling and sustainable they feel to the individual. People change with their experiences as time goes on, and their friendships reflect that. “The more you engage with a different reality that’s different from the reality you had in school- like college- and the more you grow and change within this new reality, the more difficult it gets to keep those friendships still,” she says.
Neha* feels the same. In her opinion, some school friendships do last, but it is only because of the will of those involved to maintain the friendship. Asked whether school friendships are built to last, she says no. “You end up meeting a lot of new people in college, leaving very little time for being fully present in school friendships.”
According to a 2014 Oxford study, despite the advent of communication technologies like mobile phones and social media platforms, people tend to limit their inner social network, often unconsciously operating on a “one-in, one-out policy” for friendship. We end up drifting apart from our older friends when we make new ones. We see something similar happening in real life as well- despite having access to social media and other methods of communication, we often end up losing touch with our school friends simply because we have other commitments and responsibilities in our lives.
On a different tangent, school friends are representative of our formative years. We often connect the people in our lives with the spaces we see them in one’s family with ‘home’, for example. The term ‘school friends’ inadvertently implies that one’s connection with these friends arises from a common shared space- school. As such, your relationship with the place, and the way you felt there, might positively (or negatively) influence your school friendships after school, and your willingness to stay in touch with them. If school wasn’t a place you look back on with undiluted pleasure, your school friends might get left behind with school itself- in the past.
But this also varies. Tina*, says that while she enjoyed school, despite having grown up with everyone in her batch, she’s only been able to stay in touch with 1-2 people. That seems to be the case for most people- even with social media, most people say that they are still close to 1-2 of their school friends. “I really think it’s about luck in finding a group you do stay in touch with,” she says. “In school, that’s really hard to do, given that you don’t always have that much diversity.”
Could luck have something to do with maintaining school friendships? Maybe. In many cases, staying in touch with your school friends is like the waves of the sea- it ebbs and flows. You’re extremely close during certain points of time, and not talking in others. In most cases, school friends end up losing touch 1-2 years after school, and end up reuniting down the line at official events like batch reunions, when a mutual friend gets married, or other events throughout the individual’s life. Maintaining school friendships consistently takes effort and dedication, which depends on the physical and emotional availability of those involved.
While the jury for whether school friendships are built to last is still out, most people agree that they can- provided there is effort and a willingness to maintain the friendship from both sides. School friends, at the end of the day, are the friends you grew up with, and spent your formative years with- and the memories you shared with them will never change.
*Names changed due to purposes of anonymity.
Suggested reading: 4 Relatable, Real Stories Of Friendships That Blossomed Online