“I’ll Be There For You” – What Friends Taught Us About Support Networks
“I’ll Be There For You” – What Friends Taught Us About Support Networks
Posted on February 28th 2020 by Laura Armstrong
Have you heard the word? It has been announced that the Friends reunion – which fans have been longing for – is finally happening!
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The unscripted special of ‘the greatest sitcom of all time’ is set to air on HBO’s new streaming service, HBO Max, nearly sixteen years after the last episode aired. The exact date has not been confirmed.
Friends continues to be one of the most-watched shows in the world. In 2018, it was one of the most popular shows on Netflix – viewers all over the world spent 54.3 million hours watching it.
Friends was a phenomenon in the 1990s and early 2000s – the finale was one of the most-watched in TV history. However, it is not just nostalgic thirty and forty-somethings keeping the love alive. Friends has reached a new fanbase as apparently Generation Z has taken it into their hearts too.
What is it about Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Chandler, Joey and Ross that appeals to us?
Why do we love Friends so much?
In a world of social media and advancing technology, could it be that watching a group of people interact face-to-face, building genuine connections with each other, is at the heart of the show’s appeal?
The apartments might have been unrealistic, but the struggles of the characters were not. They were portrayed with vulnerability and real flaws that we related to, from Chandler’s insecurities to Monica’s over-eating. We cared about them – and they cared about each other.
Despite coming under criticism in recent years for its lack of diversity and transphobic slurs, This article from Quartz proposes that we can forgive Friends’ flaws for “its message of the potential of a good friendship… It’s the connection between the characters that got viewers hooked back then, and keeps them coming back.”
Matt LeBlanc who played Joey Tribbiani summed it up perfectly in a 2018 interview when he said the show was about that “period in your life, between 20 and 30, when you’re out of school but your life hadn’t really started yet and your friends are your family, and you’re kind of finding your way.”
The strong bond between the characters showed the importance of a support network. That need for support is there at any stage of life which is why Friends has an almost universal appeal.
Why a support network is important
Social support is key to mental wellbeing. Support networks are not exclusively people you turn to in times of crisis, but like-minded people you enjoy spending time with and feel connected to.
It has been proven that a lack of social connection can lead to isolation and depression. A seven-year study of middle-aged men found those with strong support systems were less likely to die than those without.
Friends: social support in action
While the topics of mental health and wellbeing were rarely touched on in Friends, the show was an excellent example of support networks in action. Here are just some of the moments of social support from the show:
Rachel starts over: From the very first episode we were introduced to a group of people so supportive, they take Rachel (Monica’s high school friend) under their wing after she runs out on her wedding. The group showed patience and understanding as they helped her adjust to a new life, independent of her family.
Phoebe (doesn’t) meet her dad: Phoebe certainly had the most colorful life of all the Friends. Her lack of a conventional family meant that for her, friends really were her world. In season two, when she discovered the address of the father who abandoned her, Joey and Chandler went with her to meet him.
When Phoebe spent hours sitting in the car, trying to get the courage to knock on her father’s door, her friends offered gentle encouragement. When she still could not do it, there was no yelling in frustration about wasted time, just understanding and compassion.
Ross’ second divorce: Ross had a tough run over the ten seasons, but the fifth season was probably his lowest point. After his short marriage to Emily left him homeless, Joey and Chandler allowed him to move in with them, even though they did not really have space. They showed Ross great compassion when they continued to live with him, even with his annoying habits!
Friends showed us how important it is to have a strong support network, but how can you build one of your own?
5 ways to build a support network
1. Accept that it will not happen overnight
Unfortunately, not all of us are as lucky as Rachel when she walked into Central Perk and made five friends for life.
It is likely to feel uncomfortable initially as you put yourself out there and interact with new people. Stick with it and focus on building up your self-esteem. When you feel comfortable and confident in your own skin, it shows. Others will start to gravitate towards you.
Leading therapist Marisa Peer’s simple yet highly effective affirmation of ‘I Am Enough’ may be all you need for your confidence to soar. Repeat the affirmation to yourself daily for 21 days and you will rewire your mind to accept those words as true. Find more information in Marisa’s free ‘I Am Enough’ mini masterclass.
2. Start with existing connections
Are there friends you value from previous jobs, college or school that you have lost touch with? Use social media to reach out to lost connections.
A Facebook friend request followed by a message asking how they are and how great it would be to catch up might be all it takes.
3. Reach out to your co-workers
You might have been sitting next to your new best friend for years and did not notice! When you spend eight or nine hours of the day with someone, you quickly build a rapport without it feeling forced.
Think about the people you work with who make you feel good and make a plan to see them outside of work. Start by suggesting a lunch date in the week and go from there.
4. Take up a hobby
What do you like doing? Do not force yourself to do something you do not enjoy just to meet people. However, by doing the things you love you are likely to meet other like-minded people interested in the same activities.
Maybe you could join a local dog-walking group or running club. Or is there a skill you have always wanted to learn? Sign up for an evening course to learn a new language or improve your cooking skills.
You already have something in common with every person in that room so your conversation starter is in place.
5. Join a social group
There are groups for pretty much everything these days. Websites like MeetUp and Citysocializer are home to thousands of groups that bring together like-minded people, from computer gamers to photographers.
Most groups host regular events and you can see the guestlist beforehand to familiarize yourself with your new connections.
Your support network does not have to look like the ideal portrayed in Friends. It is more likely that yours will be a mixture of people and groups from different areas of your life who may never come together in one place. The people in your network do not have to know each other, they simply have to know, accept and support you.
For more support on building your self-esteem and self-acceptance, listen to Marisa Peer’s Lovability hypnosis audio.