The Friendship Bench: Pros

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In this post we will be exploring the ways in which the Friendship Bench works and some of the positive ways that it works to combat loneliness on campus.

  • Inclusive
    • The best part about this bench is that it doesn’t discriminate. Anyone can sit here no matter their gender, race, class, ability, or age. If the person is on the UBC campus, this bench is available to them.
    • Lynet Uttal has a written piece called “Nods that Silence” in which she expresses her frustration for complacent agreement when it comes to conversations surrounding social justice . This bench is a way for students to “learn to listen as well as hear on another” (319). Therefore combating the complacent agreement surrounding loneliness, this bench breaks the silence and forces a conversation surrounding mental health and loneliness. Once one sits on this bench, they get to reclaim their subjectivity and feel free to say exactly what is on their mind to a stranger who is willing to listen.
  • Initiation
    • Initiation is easy. All you have to do is sit. There is no pressure to sit or not to sit, only if you feel like it. Once you have initiated by sitting on the bench, other people are more likely to come and join.
    • The bench itself is an icebreaker. There is no need for awkward small talk because the bench itself is something to talk about. The whole idea behind the friendship bench is to start a conversation about a person’s mental state, whether they’re in a good place or a bad place, the idea is to get a conversation started. So no need to worry about being awkward – the conversation topics have already been chosen.
  • Face to Face
    • Another great part about this bench is that it requires face to face action. This is a way for lonely people to come and find another lonely person and talk in real life – not behind a screen. One of the biggest contributors to loneliness, according to Forbes magazine, is technology. While we may think that social media is keeping us closer to the people we love, it actually makes it easier for us to avoid human contact – contributing heavily to loneliness. This bench is an awesome way to combat that, by sitting on this bench it forces a face to face conversation and encourages meeting new people who may even become friends.
  • Free
    • The best part about the Friendship Bench is that it’s free. You can sit on the bench all day if you like and you won’t be charged a penny. Unfortunately, our capitalist society often takes advantage of the issues that we have by commodifying them. Many companies have taken advantage of loneliness by selling a solution, charging for professional cuddling services is an example of these.
    • Even going out with friends is rarely a free activity – coffee, dinner, drinks can all add up, making socializing and combating loneliness an expensive necessity.
    • This bench is a free way to create human contact and conversation which is a rarity in our society today.

 

Utall, Lynet. (1990). “Nods that Silence.” In Anzaldua, G. (ed.), Making Face, making soul, hacienda caras,  pp. 317-320.