Aidan's Infinite Play 31 Beyond Likes And Follows: How To Create Deep Friendships In College To Combat Loneliness

Aidan's Infinite Play 31 Beyond Likes And Follows: How To Create Deep Friendships In College To Combat Loneliness
Photo by Geoffroy Hauwen / Unsplash

Hello players!

For the last three years, we have been facing a global pandemic, but a more insidious pandemic has been spreading underneath.

The loneliness pandemic.

According to a 2022 study by The Cigna Group 79% of young American adults aged 18-24, and 41% of those older than 66 are classified as lonely, meaning they reported feeling lonely more than once or twice a month. These numbers are much higher than pre-pandemic and tens of percentiles higher than loneliness levels before the 2000s. Loneliness is only getting worse.

It's especially noticeable at Cornell.

Cornell is notorious the Ivy Leagues for having students with difficult mental health struggles. One of the main reasons is that it's harder than ever to forge meaningful relationships. I know because I didn't know how to create meaningful friendships during the first semester at Cornell.

As a result, my first semester at Cornell was the loneliest time of my life.

The question is, how can we be so lonely in an age where we are more connected than ever before?

While we are more connected than ever before, we lack intimacy and commitment in our relationships. The combination of social media, technology, and the social isolation of the pandemic created an environment where cultivating great friendships was hard.

This increase in loneliness is killing us.

According to Lunstad et al. (2010) loneliness damages our bodies::

  • Equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day
  • Equivalent to being an alcoholic
  • More than not exercising
  • Twice as harmful as obesity

Thankfully there is a way to fight back against loneliness.

Building deep, meaningful friendships.

Loneliness is a subjective feeling. When you feel you are deeply understood and unconditionally loved by another human being, you are vastly less likely to feel lonely. So building these deep meaningful friendships is a great way to combat loneliness.

That's why in this article we'll be exploring:

  • Why Are We Focusing On Friendship?
  • The Benefits Of Having Deep Friendships
  • What Type Of Friendship Is Best To Fight Loneliness? Friendships of Character
  • How Can We Cultivate Friendships of Character
  • Tips For Cultivating Friendships Character

Be sure to read until the end when I discuss how we can cultivate friendships of character as those are some of the tips I wish I had known when starting college years ago.

Because while I wish peanut butter could solve loneliness, like it can most issues, it won't solve this one.

Why Are We Focusing On Friendship?

Why are we focusing on friendship instead of our relationship with family, lovers, acquaintances, or others?

It's because Friendship is in many ways the most pure relationship.

It's commonly seen as an insult to tell someone, "let's just remain friends." This is a product of the Disney culture we have grown up in where we see love as pure and virtuous. Admittingly it's with our lovers we can show the best side of ourselves, but it's also where we can be the most inhuman.

However, friendships are different.

True friendship isn't driven by a need for the other person.

We don't need friends for survival like we might need our parents to feed us when we are young. We don't need friends for sexual reproduction--unless you are friends with benefits, but this is a PG-13 newsletter :).

The fact that we don't need our friends makes the relationship unique in a few ways.

Firstly, who you are friends with is often entirely up to you.

You don't get to choose your parents. You have a degree of choice with who you choose as a lover. But neither compare to the level of choice you have regarding friends.

This means you can find someone that resonates with you on a deep deep level.

Secondly, it's not expected friends will support us no matter what we do.

They don't live with you. They have their own lives to worry about! In many ways, this allows us to be our true selves in front of our friends in a way we can't with parents or our lovers.

They give us an outside perspective.

These two reasons show how powerful friendships are and why we will focus on them to combat loneliness in college.

So maybe the insult should instead be, "I'm sorry, let's just remain lovers."

The Benefits of Having Deep Friendships

Some of this is going to be incredibly obvious, but I think it's important to hammer home why having friendships can be so powerful:

  1. Emotional support: Good friends can provide emotional support during difficult times, helping us to cope with stress and manage our emotions.
  2. Improved mental health: Close friendships can benefit our mental health, reducing the risk of depression and anxiety.
  3. Increased sense of belonging: Feeling like we belong to a social group can give us a sense of purpose and connectedness, improving our overall well-being.
  4. Higher self-esteem: Having close friends who accept and appreciate us can help boost our self-esteem and confidence.
  5. Positive influence: Good friends can encourage us to make healthy choices and engage in positive behaviors, such as exercising, eating well, and pursuing our goals. There is truth to the saying you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
  6. Fun and enjoyment: Spending time with friends can be fun and enjoyable, providing opportunities for laughter, relaxation, and adventure.
  7. And finally, my favorite, free access to their Netflix account. Because we must watch The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

The Three Types of Friendships

Now that we know why friendships are so special and their benefits let's adventure into the different types of friendships.

Because not all of them are created equal.

According to Aristotle in his Nichomachean Ethics there are three types of friendships:

  1. Friendships of utility
  2. Friendships of pleasure
  3. Friendships of character

Friendships of utility are friendships between people purely based on the utility of being together.

For example, a business friendship where two people combine each other's skills to run a business, but aren't friends outside the endeavor.

Friendships of pleasure are friendships based on the pleasure of being around the other person.

For example, two people that love playing video games together but doing nothing else.

Finally, we have friendships of character, which come from each person's mutual love for the other's character, values, goals, and actions.

While there are times for all three friendships, cultivating friendships of character is the way to combat loneliness.

That's why we must explore what defines friendships of character so we can learn how to cultivate them.

What Defines Friendships Of Character?

As said earlier, friendships of character are friendships made between people that come from each person's mutual love for the other's character, values, goals, and actions.

But what exactly defines them?

I believe there are five things:

  1. They enrich you
  2. They want what's best for you
  3. They do things for you without expecting reciprocation
  4. They can survive conflict
  5. They love you unconditionally (unless you like killed someone, lol.)

Firstly, friends of character enrich you.

With a friend of character, you are in a lifelong conversation.

No speech or topic is off-limits. They change your mind about things, and you change theirs. You respect each other's views even if they differ.

Each side is enriched by the other.

Secondly, they want what is best for you.

Friends of character understand your dreams and goals and help you make progress toward those dreams and goals. You know someone is truly your friend if you can tell them good news and they are genuinely happy. If you tell them bad news, they are genuinely sad.

If they secretly enjoy your failure, they aren't your friend.

Thirdly, they do things for you without expecting reciprocation.

Friendships of character run so deep you could ask them to fly across the world if you were experiencing a mental health crisis, and they would. Even better. They wouldn't ask for anything in return.

The quality of a friendship of character can be defined by how much you are willing to do for each other without reciprocation.

It's beautiful.

Fourthly, friendships of character can survive tremendous conflict.

To have someone enrich you, they must differ from you in opinion in some way. They must not shy away from conflict. But at the same time, they must argue over ideas, not people. In this way, friendships of character can survive incredible conflict.

It's the very conflict that sparks growth and makes the relationship so powerful.

Fifth and finally, friendships of character love you unconditionally.

Love as a feeling can be temporary.

If you truly love someone, you show love to them even when you don't feel like it. This means seeing love as an action rather than a feeling. Friendships of character act out love even when they don't feel like it.

They give love unconditionally.

If you only love someone because they hold a certain achievement or quality, do you really love them for the whole scope of their being?

Loving someone involves loving their faults just as much as their virtues.

How Can We Cultivate Friendships of Character? The Triforce Of Good Friendships

Now that we know what defines a friendship of character, how can we cultivate them?

Researcher Shasta Nelson, social psychologist, believes there are three requirements to all healthy friendships summarized as P+C+V.

Positivity, Consistency, and Vulnerability.

Lack any of these three things, and it's difficult to downright impossible to develop a friendship of character.

Firstly, positivity simply means you and your friend must be kind, nonjudgmental, and overall a positive lights when around each other.

You should both feel energized by each other's presence.

Secondly, consistency means seeing the other person regularly enough to develop a meaningful relationship. Ideally, at least once every week, but it varies.

Thirdly, vulnerability means you should feel comfortable sharing weaknesses and struggles with the other person, and they will still love you unconditionally.

Take into account these three things when developing a friendship, and it's much more likely (but not guaranteed) you can create a friendship of character.

My Best Tips For Building Friendships Of Character

Now it's time to put this all into action.

Taking into account everything we have discussed about cultivating friendships of character, what are some practical tips for building them at college. Here's a massive list of ideas you can use to your heart's content:

  1. Be the organizer. I know it's unfair, why should you have to set up everything? But if you don't, who will? You have to take the initiative.
  2. Try and have one on one conversations. Group conversations are hard as you have to talk about something everyone in the book can resonate with. But in a one-on-one conversation, it often goes deeper into passions, beliefs, and more. As said earlier, you must understand each other's goals, dreams, values, beliefs, and more to enrich each other.
  3. Create rituals to see the other person. I have regular lunches, dinners, D and D parties, scheduled during the weeks with my best friends. Of course I set up more spontaneous and novel things to do as well, but these form the bedrock of me seeing them.
  4. Keep in touch even when out of physical touch. If you can't do that it's not a friendship but a situationship. Message your best friends about how your week has been, or month. Keep them in the loop. Show them your thinking about them. Call during breaks, summer, or after college. Create a regular get-together as adults.
  5. Create shared experiences. Go to a concert together. Host a dinner party. Play D and D. See them in many different situations.
  6. Find shared passions. While it's not required, finding a common interest you can bond over is way easier.
  7. Join more clubs and organizations. Ideally, places where you are likely to meet others you would resonate with. Activities that filter out those you don't want to be friends with.
  8. Attend social events on campus and start conversations with new people.
  9. Get involved in volunteer opportunities and community service projects.
  10. Take advantage of study groups and peer tutoring sessions.
  11. Participate in intramural sports and fitness classes.
  12. Attend concerts, plays, and other cultural events on campus.
  13. Join a fraternity or sorority if Greek life interests you.
  14. Attend orientation events for new students to meet people in your class.
  15. Organize a study group for your classes.
  16. Attend guest lectures and seminars on campus.
  17. Hang out in common areas on campus, such as the library, student center, or coffee shop.
  18. Attend sporting events and cheer on your school's team.
  19. Offer to help plan social events for your dorm or residence hall.
  20. Go on group outings, such as hikes, picnics, or museum trips.
  21. Take part in campus-wide events like homecoming or Spirit Week.
  22. Join a book club or film club.
  23. Participate in service projects or community outreach programs.
  24. Attend student government meetings or join a student organization.
  25. Offer to study with classmates who may be struggling in a subject.
  26. Attend religious services or join a campus ministry group.
  27. Offer to cook or bake for your hallmates or roommates.
  28. Attend campus job fairs or career workshops.
  29. Attend campus leadership retreats or workshops.
  30. Join an intramural team or start your own sports team.
  31. Attend cultural events, such as food festivals or dance performances.
  32. Participate in campus-wide charity events, such as walk-a-thons or benefit concerts.
  33. Offer to carpool to events or group outings.
  34. Attend campus art shows or theater productions.
  35. Go on weekend trips with new friends to explore the area.
  36. Organize a potluck or game night for your hallmates or roommates.

And finally, give value to the world, expecting nothing in return.

As a content creator, this is where most of my friendships of character have come from. Paradoxically, when we give free value, we get the most back ourselves. We start to see our relationships as win-win rather than a zero-sum game where one must lose for the other to succeed.

Beyond Likes And Follows: Fighting: Creating Deep Friendships In College To Combat Loneliness

Relationships are what make life worth living.

No single factor is more critical to your mental and physical health than the quality of your relationships. Right now, we are living in a modern-day loneliness pandemic. It's killing us. But now you have the wisdom to foster deep friendships of character yourself, ones beyond likes and follows.

You have the tools to combat loneliness.

Go use them.

Here's what I would like to share this week.

📸News From The Channel!

📺Latest On De YouTube - The Four Step MOC Creation Process I Use to Maximize Understanding of My College Classes in Obsidian: In this video, I will show you how I learned to create Maps of Content (MOCs) inside Obsidian by following the simple four-step course MOC creation process. Using these four steps will allow you to scale your school learning across semesters.

🎙️Latest On De Podcast - EP17 Anthony Metivier: How To Use Meditation And Memory Techniques To Live Joyously: Anthony Metivlier is the creator of the Magnetic Memory Method, a collection of courses that teaches students how to memorize words, numbers, names, poetry, and more, as well as the author behind a dozen bestselling books on the topic of memory and language learning. In this episode, you will learn:

💡My Best Insights:

📖Book - The Power Moments: 60% of the most memorable moments of our lives happen between the ages of 18-30. 20% of our life accounts for 60% of memorable moments. What the heck! Luckily, in this book, Chip and Dan Heath explore how powerful moments are happening under our feet all the time. By understanding what makes for a memorable moment, we can spot the ones happening all the time and create more of them ourselves.

✍️Blog Post - 40 Lessons From 30 Years: Nat Eliason, spouts some great wisdom in this blog post. Some of which is quite controversial. One of the most interesting lessons was oney can absolutely buy happiness . So long as you spend it on upgrading and expanding the things that make you happy, instead of using it to play status games or on fleeting experiences.

🎙️Podcast - The Pathless Path How to Recreate Your Life In 2023: Most people are living a default path. Get good grades so you can go to a good college, get a good job, raise a family, and retire. This works for some. But work for many remains a source of anxiety, boredom, and a simple money maker. Paul decided enough was enough and entered the pathless path. He quit his job as a strategy consultant making six figures, and became a pathless freelance traveler. In this podcast, he explains the mindset that allowed him to get through such a turbulent and confusing time in which all the people around him thought he was crazy.

📺YouTube Video - How to remember conversations using a Memory Palace: Tired of forgetting things during conversation or from a podcast? Using the memory palace technique, you can memorize things people say. Watch this video to find out how!

If you liked this newsletter post, sign up to Aidan's Infinite Play to get a newsletter every Sunday on:

  • A personal essay targeted towards college students in the realm of gamification, relationship psychology, or Obsidian Personal Knowledge Management
  • A curated list of everything that has come out on my content channels
  • A curated list of my coolest learnings over the past week

In addition, consider checking out my digital notetaking course Obsidian University to help students like you build a notetaking system that compounds your school learning across semesters.