Has friendship really sailed?

By POONAM GUPTA, columnist

WHAT’S IN A FRIEND? Someone we call a loyal companion could secretly be a backstabber. Maybe that’s a little dramatic, but in most high school friendships, it’s an unfortunate yet common reality. Over the years, friendship has evolved from an innocent relationship spurred by common interests into a superficial and melodramatic contest. Mercutio challenged Tybalt to a duel when Tybalt insulted his friend, Romeo. Would we do the same now?

Though sacrificing your life for a friend isn’t an expectation in society today, several guidelines for friendship have seemed to vanished in the adolescent world. At some point or another, a vast majority of us have said something similar to, “Sara told me not to tell you, but I’m going to, so don’t tell anybody!” If you have, don’t feel guilty; you’re not alone. However, the concept of keeping secrets has largely become obsolete because the urge to spread information and break the pact of silence is too great. When Sara tells us about her embarrassing crush on her lab partner, we simply can’t help but tell others. In our defense, though, Sara did let slip who our own crush was. So it’s only fair that we tell others about hers, right?

This brings up another faulty aspect of friendship: revenge. When a friend does something wrong, we naturally feel betrayed. They are supposedly the ones whom we can trust without question. This is why when they cross us, we feel the need to make things “even.” We fail to see that friendship shouldn’t be about getting revenge or settling scores. When a casual acquaintance evolves into a deeper friendship, an unspoken bond is formed. Therefore, if one person betrays the other, immense guilt is often quick to follow. There’s no need to add to that guilt unless you truly want to see your friend suffer, in which case he or she shouldn’t have been your friend to begin with.

The loss of this key factor in friendship only pales in comparison to the major dilemma facing teenagers: Who has more? Mercutio didn’t seem to mind at all that his best buddy was the Romeo. Mercutio may have partied all night with everyone else, but at the end of the day, he sacrificed his life for Romeo. Shakespearean events may be fictitious, but the main principle still applies. Friendships have evolved into embodiments of shallow and phony competition in which the winner is decided by who has the most connections — it’s an intricate and mentally exhausting contest, yet we play it surprisingly well. Being “close” is now sharing a single secret and suddenly becoming “best friends for life” with the person you confided in. In the game, one cannot appear to be too eager. Instead, we must always fake modesty and still retain an entire arsenal of loyal cronies. This isn’t to say that having a large group of friends is a bad thing. However, keeping them for the sake of showing off reduces friends to nothing more than flashy accessories.

At this point, I’d like to confirm that this article isn’t meant to be bitter or cynical toward friendship. There’s a large portion of teenagers who still understand what friendship is all about. People say that friends come and go, but family always stays with you; however, it’s not likely that your mother will stay up until two in the morning discussing your outfit for the next day, nor is it likely that your father will listen to your three-hour rant about your math exam. There are certain things that only a friend can do — they can relate to your problems, and they always know exactly how to brighten your day. For many, surviving high school would be impossible without friends.

In the end, Mercutio dueled Tybalt just because he insulted Mercutio’s friend. Whether this was an act of nobility or an act of temper can be left for debate, but the true message of his actions should remain clear. Friendships have become increasingly complicated, which presents a new set of issues regarding what comprises true friendship. Some people might think that they won’t see their current friends in ten years anyway, so what’s the point of even trying? To that, I say the experience of having a true friend is incomparable. How much satisfaction can you really receive from passing a math test without conveying your excitement to your friend? Or how can you move on from your breakup without a shoulder to cry on? These small, simple things should be the basis of friendship today. Superficial or not, friends are those who help us through it all, and it’s virtually impossible to live without them

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