The modern day world has seen significant changes in multiple aspects of our lives and how we live today. One of the most important change perhaps has been the shrinking of existing family systems and structures. In this I talk primarily of the Indian family. From being oriented towards having large family sizes and integrated family networks, there has been a consistent move in the opposite direction. In addition, the movement that many individuals and families have to make on account of education or work have been changing the dynamics of the reliance which was previously seen on families.

These changing systems and structures have been pushing us to expand our social networks beyond the immediate and extended families to include people from other spheres of our life. Be it our colleague, neighbours of people we meet regularly in the gym or park, we have started to develop a strong reliance on these individuals – our friends.

The Role Friends Play

From the simple aspect of being there to hang out with when one is feeling bored or wants to go out, the role of a friend in fact has expanded far beyond the original scope of the relationship. Friends have assumed an all important space, where probably even families may not be accorded as much significance. This of course is more so in the urban, metropolitan cities and not much as we move towards the interiors of the country.

However, the fact is that if one needs to talk about something one turns towards one’s friends. If one needs to discuss something one would largely solicit the opinion of one’s friends who have assumed the position of being close confidants. If one is in a sticky situation one would turn towards one’s friends. If one is feeling low and unsure of what to do one relies on one’s friends to help pull out of this morose state.

The role of friends has undoubtedly expanded and with the expanding role their influence too has been enhanced on various aspects of our lives. This would also imply that the responsibilities and significance of the role too has changed drastically.

The Responsibility of Being a Friend

It is perhaps most important to recognise that each role has significant responsibilities associated with it and this too is the case with friends and friendships. Being a friend is no longer a frivolous thing of the past. As a friend one is a confidante, an influencer, a shaper of opinion and a determiner of choices. This means that there is a lot that goes into being a friend and as a result one needs to be cognizant of what one states and does, as every act has an effect and an impact.

As a friend it is important to take this responsibility seriously and think twice before making suggestions and providing opinions. At the same time it is jimportant that being on the receiving one needs to b more prudent about how much one internalizes and the level ofreliance one develops on one’s friends.

The Need for Balance

Balance is the key to life and there is no denying that the balance needs to be maintained from both sides. Whether you are the one giving opinions or you are on the other end, it is imperative that everything be said, done and absorbed with a pinch of salt. There is a need for exerting one’s own reflective thought process and utilization of prudence in making any choices or decisions. Friends are important but they cannot assume a position of omniscience about one’s life.

Friendships are a must in today’s changing world, but they need to have a sense of balance.