Snap Inc. today released its second global Friendship study, interviewing 30,000 people across sixteen countries, to explore how the COVID-19 pandemic and global issues have impacted friendship. Seventeen experts on friendship from around the world contributed to the report.
Covid has further accelerated the importance of digital connections in India with nearly 91% saying that they have helped friends maintain their relationship, regardless of age. This is much higher as compared to the global average.
Snap spokesperson Durgesh Kaushik, Head of Market Development India at Snap Inc. said: “As friends around the world navigate the new normal of social distancing, this year’s Friendship Report shows us that during the COVID-19 pandemic visual communication has become more important than ever.Talking in pictures and videos layered with creative tools like our augmented reality Lenses, Filters, and personal avatars Bitmoji, help Snapchatters express themselves and interact visually. They serve as an essential connector when meeting face to face is not an option and at this difficult time have enabled Snapchatters to feel closer to their best friends even as non-Snapchatters feel more distant. We hope that new features like our Friendship Time Capsule will continue to help Snapchatters stay close with their best friends and support one another.”
The Friendship Report sheds new light on how COVID is affecting friendship and what other major events in life also have an impact, including:
- COVID has brought some friends closer together, but also made some of us feel lonely.
- COVID has also led to deeper and meaningful conversations
- COVID has seen people reconnect with lost friends
- Indians rate ‘trustworthy’ and ‘honesty’ as the top qualities that they look for in a friend
- Friends are our first line of defence against loneliness, and we generally make our best friends in childhood; on average we have known our closest friends for at least half of our lives.
- Most of us have lost touch with a close friend from childhood, with the majority wanting to rediscover that close connection.
- While most of us are keeping connected better through digital communication channels, we still need to develop our friendship skills to help us learn how to maintain friendships over distance and get back in touch if we do lose contact
- Dr. Rhea Gandhi, Counsellor and Psychotherapist in India and 16 other experts from around the world have provided advice and tips on how to do this
- Snap has also created a new Friendship Time Capsule to help Snapchatters celebrate their friendships.
The impact of COVID-19 in India
Six months after much of the world has put in place social distancing restrictions, friends are having to find new ways to stay connected, and the long term effects are only just starting to become clear. Rhea Gandhi, Psychotherapist specializing in interpersonal dialogue, says “While the lockdown gave us a chance to spend time with our families, it took away the opportunity to meet our friends in person. Friendship serves a need for freedom and unsurprisingly, we have started to value our connections with friends a lot more at a time when opportunities to meet them regularly have reduced. ”
Nearly four out of five of friends say they relied on digital communication to stay connected through the lockdown in India (87%). For many, those conversations have been deeper, rather than focusing on surface-level topics (76%)It appears digital communications are key to staying in touch when we’re apart, with a vast majority.
Even though there’s been an uptick in outreach to friends, COVID-19 has also led to loneliness for some. Half of those we surveyed said they’ve felt lonely since the pandemic started (51%) which is 13% higher than pre-COVID-19.
For many of the people (69%) being unable to see their friends has made them feel lonelier, with almost two-thirds of them feeling friends are not reaching out to them as much as they would like (59%). In fact, half of the people (50%) felt that social distancing has weakened their relationships with friends.
In total, a third of people we surveyed said that COVID-19 has affected their friendships (44%). With just close to one-third saying that it has led to them not feeling as close to their friends (33%), while over two-thirds say they have grown closer to their friends (67%). And nearly two-thirds of those surveyed agreed with the statement that they felt more disconnected from friends because they couldn’t spend time in-person (62%) .
The upside is that, with the pandemic causing so much isolation, people genuinely want to reach out and check in on those they care about.
More than half of the people (54%) say their friendships are more important to them now and nearly three-quarters of us are making an intentional choice to reach out to friends that they haven’t spoken to in a while (74%).
The one that got away and reconnection in India
Last year, Snap’s Friendship Report found that friendships, especially those from childhood, have a huge impact on happiness and wellbeing. So, it was surprising to see this year that 79% of us globally have lost touch with a close friend but heartening that 66% say they would like to rekindle their relationship. In India, those numbers are higher, at 88% and 72% respectively.
And we would generally respond positively to one of our best friends re-establishing contact, with the most prominent emotions being excited (50%)or delighted (37%), whereas a minority would feel guilty (12%) , or suspicious (15%).
How do we find our way back to close friends? Nearly 9 out of 10 people agree that digital communication helps people reconnect with lost friends (89%), with more than two thirds preferring to apologize to a friend online (66%) than in real life. However, more than a third wouldn’t know how to use digital communication to reconnect (38%).The number one thing people would like to send to their friends, would be a photo of them together (47%) , with the number two being a photo that reminded them of a shared memory (44%) . Humour also ranks highly, with a third thinking that sending a funny meme (40%) would be the best way to start a conversation.
There are many reasons why friends lose touch with distance being the leading cause (67%), followed by unresolved conflict (56%).
Rhea Gandhi says, “When anger is expressed well, you’re able to put it aside. The repair process becomes the discussion. When you are both accepting anger as part of communication, allowing that communication to happen is enough to cool down and be ok afterwards.”
In direct response to these findings, Snap has launched the Friendship Time Capsule, a collaborative photo collage allowing Snapchatters to create a new shared memory between themselves and a friend. The snappable invites users to take a selfie and then send it to a friend who does the same. It then uses Snap’s machine learning to put the friends together and age them up through a series of scenarios in the future. This tool aims to help Snapchatters show they care for friends when they can’t be together, or to act as an aid in getting back in touch with a close friend.
How to be a better friend
There are plenty of resources for people struggling with relationships like family or marriage, but friendship hasn’t received the same treatment. This has left many without the tools or confidence they need to develop and navigate the ups and downs of friendships.
British lecturer Gillian Sandstrom, who studies social psychology, talks about the “liking gap,” where we are prone to think people like us less than they actually do. This bias breeds insecurity about engaging in conversations. We fear awkward pauses and failed connections so much that foregoing the opportunity to start a friendship or deepen a relationship can be the safer choice. People are more likely to like you than you think, so go ahead and be brave.
Listening, staying present, and accepting responsibility are key friendship skills. Honing these skills can take a little work, but with some lessons and practice, our experts agree we can improve our friendships.
In India friendships are more informal and serve a need for freedom. Most Indian families still follow a traditional framework following a set of restrictions but the younger generation isn’t afraid to express their authentic selves. They view friendships as means of unconditional support and acceptance.
Last year Snap set out to understand the nature of friendships across the globe – explore the attitudes, values and perceptions that shape friendship across cultures and generations. Indians topped the charts with the most number of BFFs as compared to the other markets.