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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Want your voice to be heard? Submit a letter to the editor, send us an op-ed pitch or check out our open positions for the chance to be published by the Daily Utah Chronicle.

Nshangalume: Value Platonic Relationships

We must learn to prioritize our friendships
Claire Peterson
(Design by Claire Peterson | The Daily Utah Chronicle)


During adolescence, we’re taught that becoming a great parent and spouse is the ultimate goal of life. This cultural norm in a time of post-pandemic isolation is partly to blame for recent drastic mental health declines. The minimization of friendships worldwide, especially in Utah, has brought forth a set of dangerous outcomes.

As Utah leads the charts with the highest mental health crisis in the nation, researchers have begun to look for causes. Our individualistic and patriarchal culture could be responsible. Its undervaluation of community and platonic relationships has detrimentally affected the well-being of our society. Understanding that platonic relationships can be as important, fulfilling and intimate as romantic and familial relationships can lead to better health turnouts for our state and country.

Friendship and Individualism

People commonly refer to their very close friend as “more like a sibling” or a “bromance.” These seemingly insignificant remarks can undermine the power of friendships. The centrality of romantic individualism and patriarchy have been key enablers, stressing a culture of independence and isolation, rather than collectivism.

Patriarchal societies position males as dominant by emphasizing gendered roles through heteronormativity and trumping the importance of all other relationships. These characteristics are common in religious settings. With Utah’s LDS ties and a majority of Utahns being actively religious, these structures are normalized in our states.

Utah’s LDS culture stresses and prioritizes romantic and familial relationships for its members because of its heteropatriarchal practices. The Church encourages members to center their familial and sexual relationships by getting married and having children as soon as possible. This creates a culture where platonic relationships are left to dissolve.

Married members of the church are taught they must refrain from practicing non-heteropatriarchal beliefs such as centering friends and deconstructing gendered roles. Couples are isolated from their friends as soon as they wed by deeply focusing on their roles in their marriages and making children. Many LDS couples are taught that their genders predetermine the roles they have to act upon and the ways must behave. These practices leave no room for how home couples should nurture their friendships.

A study from BYU’s Daily Universe shows that many married LDS couples isolate themselves from their friendships because they’re taught their spouses are their “soulmates” and only important companions. This frame of mind creates tensions within their marriages. BYU sociologist and professor, Dallan Flake, told the Daily Universe how unhealthy it is for couples to believe friendships are not an essential component of life. There’s a problem with “showing our love and devotion to our spouse by being entirely emotionally exclusive to them,” said Flake.

Friendship Heals

A lack of exposure to healthy and intimate friendships as adolescents can have effects on our youth and adulthood. Early practices of platonic relationships can enable people to experience life fulfillment, academic success and better physical and mental health. Considering Utah ranks highest for individuals with mental health issues, an emphasis on shifting our culture to become more collective and friendship-centered could lead to creating better health and life outcomes.

Many people, especially adults, lack motivation and time to create relationships due to their hectic lives. We’ve quickly solved this problem for romantic relationships by developing countless apps like Tinder, Bumble and Hinge to make dating more accessible to the average American.

However, we’ve not seen the same trend for friendship-specific websites. While some may point to social media as the friendly equivalent of dating sites, this isn’t quite the case. Social media has become a superficial way to create friendships through the rise of influencer culture, which worsens mental health rather than betters it. Without effective online solutions, we must go back to our roots and build human connections in person.

Find Friendship at the U

As the loneliest and most depressed population, it’s particularly critical for college students to learn to foster friendships. It can be a daunting task, but we can start small. Luckily, there are plenty of opportunities on the University of Utah’s campus. Over the past years, the U has been striving to create a more unified campus community to encourage student relationships. In a press conference, President Randall stated he plans to add more student housing to enhance and unite students’ college experiences.

Meanwhile, the A. Ray Olpin University Union offers countless clubs and affinity groups for students to connect. First-year students are provided with various opportunities to help ease the process of creating community through UPC’s Freshmen Ambassadors Program and ASUU’s First-Year Council. Upperclassmen also have opportunities to connect with one another through various student clubs and organizations such as the Union Programming Center and the Associated Students of the University of Utah. Additionally, the Union provides a high-tech lounge designated for students’ community-building needs.

Decentering romantic relationships won’t be simple, but it will be very rewarding and worthwhile. In addition to utilizing campus resources, we can begin by recognizing that our friendships bring the companionship and intimacy we so crave in life. We must take the time and effort to grow intimate relationships and open ourselves up in a culture that cultivates isolation.

We need to lean into the beautiful nature of friendships.


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About the Contributors
Iragi Nshangalume
Iragi Nshangalume, Opinion Writer
(she/her) Iragi Nshangalume is an Opinion Writer for the Daily Utah Chronicle. Iragi grew up around the Salt Lake valley, but spent most spent of her childhood in West Valley and Magna. She’s currently pursing her degree in Economics and Political Science. Outside of school and work, Iragi enjoys talking, music and the arts!
Claire Peterson
Claire Peterson, Designer
Claire has been a part of the design desk at the Chronicle since 2021. She’s a senior studying urban ecology with minors in geography and architecture. In her free time, she enjoys going to concerts, skiing, and paddle boarding.

Comments (1)

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  • Z

    zhengshiMay 1, 2024 at 9:03 pm

    excellent take on collectivism. colonial/col0nizer culture promotes ideologies of individualism and endless for-profit growth! this expansionism deprioritizes collaboration and comraderie and avails a culture of competitive individualism