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There is a toxic new trend sweeping social circles that is destroying friendships and ruining people’s mental health at an alarming rate.

We’ve all heard of the notorious ‘quiet quitting’ trend that is becoming popular in workplaces around Australia – but have you heard of ‘quiet quitting’ a friendship?

It is similar to being ghosted, however instead of being a sudden major change in communication, it happens very gradually over a long period of time.

It may make a person question whether they are truly being dismissed or simply overthinking it, until there comes a day where all communication is cut off completely.

Melbourne-based content creator, model and businesswoman Sam – known online as ‘CurvySam’ – claims she has sadly been a victim of ‘quiet quitting’ in her friendship group and has only recently felt comfortable speaking about her experience.

Toxic friendship trend on the rise

Rise of the ‘mean girl’

“I’ve been quiet quit by a group of friends, which has been really hard to talk about,” the 37-year-old told news.com.au.

“I know others have gone through similar things, and it really feels like the rise of the ‘Mean Girl’.

“They started planning trips without me and not inviting me to events. I asked if there was something I had done to upset them.

“I got a big bunch of flowers and apology from them, saying they had been bad friends. But it only got worse after that.

“I have read that being ignored causes the same physical reaction in the brain as physical hurt, and I can really resonate with that feeling.

“It is so hard when people suddenly stop answering calls and reaching out to you, and then they begin to treat you differently. It really hurts.

“It makes it worse when you then see those same people hanging out without you, and then to be uninvited from weddings and different events.

“Because I’m online, the public ostracism has fuelled conversations about it, which has made it more difficult.”

Sharing her experience

Sam recently shared her experience of being ‘quiet quit’ to TikTok, where is racked up almost 200,000 views and thousands of comments.

She revealed that the ordeal caused her to experience a distressing decline in her mental health.

Thankfully, she now feels she is in a better place, but urges anyone who may be going through similar struggles to seek help.

“It is absolutely gut wrenching to have who you thought were friends, just ‘quiet quit’ the friendship,” she said.

“I wanted to tap out, which is sad as I know I have so many people that love me. But it was so hard, and the aftermath was difficult to deal with.

“I spent a lot of time unpacking it, and I spoke to my GP about getting on a mental health plan.

“I’m now in a much better place mentally, and I would urge anyone who feels that way to seek help.”

She has now launched her own brand called HILDAS, which specialises in size inclusive robes and sleep dresses in sizes 8 – 32.

In each garment is hidden QR code that is a link to positive mental health podcasts and uplifting playlists, to help wearers achieve a relaxing state of mind and better headspace.

What exactly is ‘quiet quitting’?

Psychologist and communication specialist Jacqui Manning from Connected Women provided expert insight into the ‘quiet quitting’ friendship trend.

“While the term was coined in relation to slowly signing out of a job, it is now being used to describe the gradual withdrawal or distancing from a friendship without explicitly stating the intention to end it,” she told news.com.au.

“It involves reducing communication or declining invitations and gradually disengaging without a formal break-up conversation.

“This approach is unfortunate because it offers no closure nor the ability to come back from and repair differences.

“It also leaves a cloud of uncertainty over the situation, which for most people will lead to anxiety, rumination, and where the situation is unknown, most people fill the gaps by forming negative self-beliefs.”

Profound impact on mental health

Ms. Manning explained that quiet quitting a friendship can have a “profound emotional impact” on an individual’s mental health.

“People tend to ruminate on beliefs such as ‘nobody likes me’ or ‘I must be a terrible person’ and other negative thoughts,” she explained.

“They land on reasons as to why the other person may not want to be friends anymore, and these may be completely untrue or inaccurate because they have no information to go on.

“These beliefs get taken into future friendships and relationships, so the cycle just continues.”

Experiencing ‘quiet quitting’ in a friendship is usually only be made worse by seeing the other person or persons on social media.

“Technology compounds the hurt when you see that ‘friend’ who ghosted you having the time of their lives online, but won’t respond to your text from last week,” she explained.

“The lack of clear communication and closure can, unfortunately, lead to feelings of confusion, sadness, and rejection – much like a romantic break-up.

“The ‘quit’ party may struggle to understand why the friendship is changing or ending, which can be another obstacle to processing the raw emotions involved and moving forward.”

Why do people ‘quiet quit’ a friendship?

The psychologist offered some explanation as to why someone may choose to ‘quiet quit’ a friendship instead of simply ending things clearly.

She also advised what people should do instead if they feel a friendship is no longer working for them.

“People don’t find it easy to express themselves, especially if they feel like what they need to say is hurtful,” Ms Manning said.

“Each of us have varying levels of an inherent fear of confrontation, and when we have these tough conversations, hurting the other person’s feelings is going to happen.

“But instead of ‘quiet quitting’ on a friend, it is important to have open and honest communication.

“I’d recommend having these type of conversations in person or over the phone. However if you feel unsafe – emotionally or otherwise – the written word can play a role.

“A letter, card, or text is better than nothing, even if the tone isn’t always clear. It is still preferable to disappearing.”

Ms. Manning went on to explain how friendships have significantly changed over the last century, which has had a major impact on our social circles.

“There’s no doubt friendships have undergone significant transformations over the past century,” she said.

“We have a much wider exposure to people now due to increased mobility, globalisation, and instant access to things like social media and apps to facilitate everything from getting a dog walker to making a new pal.

“These factors have led a seismic shift in our long-established social norms and how we relate to each other.

“The rise of social media and digital communication has connected people worldwide, but in some ways, it has also posed challenges in forming deep, long-term, and meaningful connections.

“Modern lifestyles, characterised by a furious pace, limited free time, and sadly, and individualistic focus, can make it more challenging to establish and maintaining last friendships.”

Female friendships can be harder

The psychologist highlighted how women in particular may be more affected than men when trying to make and maintain new friendships.

“All human beings are social beings, but women are particularly relational in their DNA,” she explained.

“Which means a healthy range of friendships is particularly important to women.

“Certainly, research has suggested that women may encounter specific difficulties in making new friends, particularly as we age.

“Societal expectations and gender roles have a strong influence on how women engage in friendships, particular in the period immediately before midlife, when we typically prioritise family and career.”

The University of Sydney shared that before Covid, around a third of Australians had reported feeling at least one episode of loneliness.

But this changed dramatically since the pandemic, where they state that “loneliness has soared” – with just over half (54%) of Australians reporting experiencing great loneliness since the start of the pandemic.

jasmine.kazlauskas@news.com.au



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