Cate Roser

Last week, during a conversation with a group of friends, I had a revelation that sent me down a rabbit hole of introspective thoughts. As I exchanged cheerful smiles and waves with countless familiar faces on a stroll through campus, it dawned on me that I know shockingly little about these individuals, despite having shared classes, parties and walks down from SPL with them.

Last week, my group of friends told me that these types of relationships are called “mild-friends,” and I absolutely loved the new terminology. We’re in the era of the “mild-friends,” where most of our connections run wide and shallow. Have you ever paused to consider how many people you’ve checked problem sets with, friended on Facebook before Bulldog Days, accepted Instagram requests from after attending a chaotic suite party? Let’s face it, our LinkedIn connections alone could form a miniature army! But, really, how many of these people know your pet peeves or your dog’s name?

At first, this notion struck fear in my heart. I began to question the authenticity of my “mild-friendships,” worrying that our interactions had become as hasty as an Instagram reel. Were we just collecting connections like Pokémon cards, all while knowing very little about one another? But then I realized, maybe it’s not really a terrible thing that the girl I sat next to in my math class doesn’t know whether I have a dog or not. 

We all have our trusty problem set buddies, the unsung heroes you rely on to navigate the treacherous waters of thermodynamics or quantum mechanics. Your group chat is almost only used to decide the optimal time for commiseration, peppered with a few minutes of life updates. These folks are your academic lifeline, and they’ve got your back through thick and thin. I, for one, wouldn’t trade my p-set buddies for all the textbooks in the world.

There are also other people such as your first-year floormate. You’ve shared countless glances while brushing your teeth and exchanged a few friendly “Hi!’s” in the hallway. They know your red scotch plaid pajama bottoms and you know their sleep attire from that one time the fire alarm went off in the middle of the night. Some would say too much information; some would say not enough. 

There are also the “swipe left, swipe right, match, have a brief chat or not, and then … nothing” interactions. It’s the modern dating dance, and sometimes, it’s more of a stumbling waltz. I have a friend who once accidentally waved to one of these vanishing acts in the middle of Cross Campus. Which, believe it or not, started a relationship that wouldn’t have started otherwise. 

So are we all just drowning in a sea of mild-friends that we have to accidentally wave to one of them to re-meet the love of our lives? No, not really. In fact, I hope not.

We have these light-touch connections without which our lives would’ve been much more miserable. While they may not be the kind of friends who’ll bail you out of jail at 3 a.m., they are the companions of our modern existence. They’re the audience to our digital monologues, the cheerleaders for our achievements, and maybe even shoulders to shed a few tears on.

The next time you find yourself wondering about the authenticity of your friendships, think about how we can’t bare our deepest fears and secrets to everyone we meet, but we’re all part of a huge, ever-expanding social tapestry that makes life a bit more enjoyable. And, sometimes, that’s all we need.