How We Re-Live “High School Dynamics” on Digital Platforms! (Personal Musings during the 2020 Global
There is nothing more rejuvenating than reconnecting with childhood friends, school friends, college buddies, ‘building buddies’, old neighborhood friends and so on… It’s actually akin to reconnecting to one’s former self, reliving childhood memories, reexamining formative relationships, and having a glimpse of how our world view first came into existence. It’s a space where there is a lot of joy & laughter and shared memories of specific events, important milestones, and so many ‘firsts’ in everyone’s lives. More importantly, it is a period in our lives that defined how we connect with each other throughout the rest of our lives!
But it’s not all ‘peaches and roses’ – it has its fair share of pits and thorns!!! On any Saturday night cocktail hour (face-to-face or zoom), it’s not uncommon to hear about marriages breaking up because of ‘old friends’ reemerging in people’s lives! And as a Couples’ Therapist working in US and India, these stories are almost like the global pandemic itself- scandalous, and fraught with pain/heartache/uncertainty and much more! In addition, there are so many stories of relationships gone sour, shaming, betrayals, and painful falling-out between close friends!
As ‘grown-ups’, one interesting observation is that many of us ‘regress’ when we communicate in these spaces especially on Zoom or WhatsApp or Facebook; Because we inadvertently, give ourselves permission to be ‘looser’ in our communications, with less boundaries and no filters. There have been plenty of occasions, when this can lead to misunderstandings, finger-pointing, getting unduly personal, and the ultimate ‘no-no’ of having verbal ‘fights’ on group platforms; making everybody else uncomfortable and ‘silent’! A question that comes up is that, in these spaces, why are women harder on each other, almost competing for ‘attention’ and 'one-upmanship', more than the men? Or is it that men play out conflicts differently, behind closed doors and actually have BIGGER stakes at play?
Whatever it is, we witness ‘high school dynamics’ and ‘pettiness’ at times, which is atypical in other ‘adult-formed’ friendships. It’s almost as if, these ‘old’ friends are more ‘like family’- quick to dole out judgments, have unreasonable expectations, and ‘demand’ more than just friends. BUT, they are NOT family and we must access those parts of ourselves that are gentler, kinder, more compassionate; more accepting of each other; more forgiving when we interact in these spaces. And, let’s not even talk about opinions about politics & religion! Those tend to be hot-button issues polarizing the entire group.
There appears to be an undercurrent of ‘competition’ experienced in childhood that creeps into these friendships, without our knowledge or intent; and plays itself out in the present- maybe a residue from our foundational years- or maybe an opportunity to play out unresolved conflicts from yesteryears…
As a ‘process-trained’ therapist, it’s an occupational hazard for folks like me, to navigate these spaces and emerge ‘intact’ at times; but the richness in collective bonding with childhood buddies far outweighs the urge to stay away and remain ‘silent’!
A special shout-out to all my 'chaddi-buddies'- YOU know who you are and I value you more than any article can express or convey! Thank you for being a very important part of my life! I am truly grateful and blessed!