The social media hashtag “no new friends” has existed for quite some time now as a seemingly clever photo caption or as its own hashtag supplanting a witty Facebook status or tweet (for those of us who still tweet…). Like many trends, the phrase has lost much of its original pleasing power at the cost of its rising ubiquity. But perhaps there is a deeper truth here as well.
For as long as I can remember, actually, the premise of a good social life has revolved around a dangerous double standard. On the one hand, there is the perception that having more friends is somehow better. More friends tend to help reputations rather than hurt them. Social media exacerbates this phenomenon — more likes means more approval, which means more influence and respect amongst your peers, purportedly. But then there is the other side of that coin, the idea that a fulfilling social life requires participation in a close-knit group of friends. This group may be small, but it doesn’t matter, because groups of friends hang out with other groups of friends — call it reverse osmosis — and eventually some ideal combination of quality and quantity emerges. If you happen to have transformed this art into a science that I don’t know about, let me know.
To be clear, I am quite content with the balance I have struck between having close friends and having many friends. Sometimes it feels like the scales like to fluctuate precariously, but I dismiss the feeling and assume that must be a kind of normal perception.
Which is why I think the phrase “no new friends” is here to stay. It is easy to joke that having no new friends is a bad thing, yet having a stable support system at all is a significant comfort in itself.
As an upperclassman I am partly proud in my social complacency. Look at me, with no new friends, no longer having to consciously try to meet new people when I decide to go out. I am a senior, I know my friends well and I am grateful to have friends across different axes of my life at Dartmouth and beyond.
But let this not be interpreted as one giant self-call, please. I still go out to Greek houses and sometimes feel awkward or uncomfortable. My friends and I disagree on things and dealing with those isn’t always fun or pretty.
What this also may come down to, honestly, is exhaustion. I am a senior, hear me yawn. Do I really have the energy to go to meetings this week? Thankfully I will have my Thursday morning swim practice as a constant fallback.
Going out is no longer a ritual pressured with expectations to “hang out” or “rage” as in years past. My nights with friends never lack a genuine earnestness to them.
Remember #nofilter?? The description for seemingly untouched photos and/or embarrassingly edited ones on Instagram is used so infrequently now. To speculate the exact cause of this is trivial — we have ultimately accepted, begrudgingly or otherwise, that most of our uploaded works of art are retouched. That may be argued as a bad thing, for reasons I do not have time for in this column. But one benefit of such a reality today is that our generation of social media users is one step closer to beginning to admit that we actually care a lot about how our social media lives are perceived, arguably creating opportunities for conversations about our actual social lives, too. “No new friends” is just the latest iteration of this same discussion.
In my freshmen year, my teammates went out a lot. They were a close-knit group of guys and girls who enjoyed going out together — can you blame them? They did not necessarily go out more nights per week than the average Dartmouth student, but they were almost always reliably together. I could go out to a given fraternity and know with near certainty that I would find people I knew there, with or without a direct text. I hear the occasional throwback song and am immediately taken back to a dark and crowded basement with my sweaty teammates, dancing around and jumping wildly in the zenith of the night.
I still have those nights as a senior, albeit to different music and without my teammates. All of the new policies have made it significantly harder to recreate these kinds of scenes with my entire team.
In my freshmen fall, teammates who “didn’t hang out” were seen as reclusive and less “fun.” But those same stigmas were attached to other friends and floormates beyond my specific team, and beyond a specific fraternity. There was definitely pressure to go out, at least in my mind, since that’s what everybody else was doing.
This weekend, freshmen may begin to fall into those same kinds of traps. I do not want to speak to the freshmen fall experience today, given how different it is from my own. I imagine the ’19s are ready, having waited patiently to create their own basement scenes, wild or otherwise, with or without “no new friends.”