Does Pop Culture Set Unrealistic Expectations of Friendships?

If you believe that your friends would drop everything at a moment’s notice to rally by your side because of a minor heartbreak, then, my friend, you might just be a victim of unrealistic expectations of life and friendship, as painted by TV shows and movies. 

Let’s be honest; most of us are stuck in our everyday grind and are more likely to offer condolences via text rather than rush to your doorstep. And that’s okay!

Friendship in TV shows and movies often depicts an ideal friend as someone glued to your side all day or available at your beck and call, an idea that may sound charming but is often impractical. Such portrayals of friendship in media create a distorted image of what a ‘good’ friend should be. 

On-screen friendships are primarily characterized by unwavering availability. This portrayal, while appealing to scriptwriters seeking to weave feel-good stories, leaves us with an unrealistic template and impractical expectations for friendships in the real world.

In the process, these portrayals inadvertently set lofty standards that our real-life relationships are measured against, creating an unfair and unachievable benchmark. When our friends fail to meet these exaggerated standards, it leaves us with a sense of disappointment and dejection.

While these shows have offered us comfort and companionship during our formative years, it’s time to transcend beyond these unrealistic friendship tropes. These unrealistic portrayals of friendship do more harm than good. We end up burdening our friends and ourselves with impossible expectations. We start craving the ‘3 a.m. friend’ syndrome as if our friends don’t need to sleep!

Ever noticed how your favourite sitcoms promote ‘friendship monogamy’?

Take shows like “Seinfeld,” “F.R.I.E.N.D.S,” and “How I Met Your Mother” for instance. It’s like your friends are expected to be a one-stop-shop solution for all your needs, from a therapist to a legal counsel, to even a romantic partner! 

Doesn’t that seem like too much pressure for one group?

We’re also quick to fit our friends into the clichéd trope boxes of ‘the funny one,’ ‘the responsible one,’ or ‘the romantic one,’ not letting them grow or evolve beyond those limiting labels. And that’s not even the worst part. We start feeling guilty if our friendships don’t mirror the ones in sitcoms. It’s time we accepted that real-life friendships come in different shapes and sizes, and that’s fine.

It’s crucial to remember that we all juggle diverse responsibilities and pressures, which might limit us from embodying the ‘perfect’ friend depicted on TV. The impressions left by these shows form the foundation of our understanding of adult friendships. 

It’s time we recognize the unrealistic friendship expectations that popular media has ingrained in us and, instead, cherish our real-life friendships’ beautiful complexity and diversity. Recognize that friendships can be dynamic, sometimes leaving us alone, sometimes surrounding us with new companions and that it’s a natural part of life.

And remember, it’s okay for friendships to evolve, not to have a ‘Central Perk’ type group, and not to be able to attend every event in your friends’ lives. It may be time for TV shows and movies to depict more relatable friendships that better reflect the varied and nuanced nature of our real-life connections. Wouldn’t that be refreshing?