Yeah. You. You don’t have any friends. None at all. You might be very uncomfortable at my typing this because you know that I’m peering into your sad, lonely soul. Some of you might be about to scroll to the comments section and call me an evil mutant twatmonster for suggesting such a thing and then emphatically (read: with profanity) tell me how you do, indeed, have friends. And maybe you do.
But for some of you, making friends is hard. Especially when you get away from the easy social barrage that is high school and college. When you get your piece of paper, throw your funny hat and move to a new city it can be very easy to find yourself with a very limited circle of people you know. Oftentimes the only person you know is… you. And sure you still have friends, back home, hours away, across the country, on another planet… but, you don’t always have friends readily accessible. So how do you… make friends? I mean. It wasn’t hard for the rest of your life. It just happened. How do you conjure new friends into existence now that you’re without?
For the purposes of this article, let’s assume your friend stock has dwindled. You’re essentially Kip Drordy, alone and staring at the sad clown painting you have on your wall. Whether it be through relocating, friends getting sucked up by work and family (babies!) or a world shattering zombie apocalypse, you need to make friends.
Why You Can’t Make Friends
Good news! It’s not because you’re an unsavory mutant!… probably. Or at least that’s not the whole picture. Proximity; Repeated, Unplanned interactions; and a Setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other has been the mantra of sociologists describing the recipe for making meaningful friendships. As you get older, it becomes more and more difficult to meet these requirements. Take an example:
Elementary School Dylan
I don’t have a picture on hand, but people usually say I looked like Ralphie from A Christmas Story so…
Proximity: Holy fuck! Other kids are everywhere! You can’t escape them. And I literally know zero other people. I don’t have a friend getting his doctorate in Guam right now. These half-brained unwashed animals are the only people are the only people I know who aren’t adults (and when you’re a young kid, adults are a completely different species).
Repeated, Unplanned Interactions: You see these kids every day. The same goddamn ones every day. If you stay in the same school district, you might see them every goddamn day for TWELVE YEARS.
Setting That Encourages People To Let Their Guard Down and Confide in Each Other: In Kindergarten, I became friends because I was chilling on a big concrete tube (because that’s what we played on in Arizona) and this other kid Scooter was there. Our conversation went something like this:
Scooter: “You have glasses.”
Me: “You have glasses.”
Scooter: “Why do you have glasses?”
Me: “My eyes suck.”
Deep. Meaningful. Philosophical. And that’s a relationship that’s lasted decades. We roomed together in college, even.
Proximity: A majority of my closest friends live no where near New York. They’re in Seattle, Arizona, California, you name it. And while that doesn’t make you love them less, it does make it harder to snort pixie stix and reenact the entire Lord of the Rings of the Rings trilogy. Friendships suffer from such things.
Repeated, Unplanned Interactions: With the exception people I work with and my roommates, there is no one in this category. And when you’re a freelancer, even work can be a crap shoot. I can go weeks, months without working with the same people more than once.
Setting That Encourages People To Let Their Guard Down and Confide in Each Other: I am lucky enough to consider myself friends with my roommates. But work isn’t always the easiest place to have an earnest heart to heart with people. Generally because you’re working and that keeps you from devoting your attention to things like, chatting. Often we’re different people at work as well, employment is important so it’s easy to modify your personality to become the type of person you think others will find most enjoyable, least offensive. Or if you’re in charge you have to be ‘in charge’, which can often be a roadblock to being ‘a chum’.
Granted, elementary school to adulthood is a pretty big jump, yet many of the above differences can be seen when jumping from college to adult life. If the GPAs of many people are an indicator, college is about social interaction. From my experience in a rather tight knit theater department, we were constantly in close proximity and interacting to (even when we planned, or hoped, to not). In that situation, people eventually let their guard down because… well… it’s 3am and you’re too tired to guard. You become close because if you’re not friends you’ll probably murder each other to death.
How to Make Friends
I’ll be honest here. I’m awful at making friends. Not that I’m the most repulsive or most awkward person I know (I tell myself pleadingly in the mirror), but it’s just a skillset I don’t particularly have. If the word “skillset” struck many of you as odd when considering making friends, join the club. When you just sort of have friends through the first formative decades of your life, it can be a real shock to the system when you get into a situation where you want more friends and realize you haven’t a clue on how to go about doing that.
The first problem many of us have is meeting people. If you’re in a place divorced from your group of childhood friends and your family, the only people you might find yourself around on a day to day basis are your roommates and your co-workers. For those of you who work-from-home or freelance or live by yourself, the number of people you interact with regularly and repeatedly can dwindle to truly dire amounts.
So what do you do?
Well… anything. Do something. First take a look at yourself. Do you get invited to things and generally turn it down because it’s late, you’re tired, you’re uncomfortable around people, you hate bars, you hate sports, you dislike… well, whatever. It’s remarkably easy to continually shoot down social opportunities for what are completely legitimate reasons and then be utterly flabbergasted when you find yourself sitting by your tub of fried chicken staring into a static’d TV late into the evening.
If getting out of your house and hanging out with people is low on your priority list, it’ll be hard to meet anyone. Don’t expect anyone to drag you to social events in spite of your curmudgeonness. They have their own woes. Other people will sometimes make an effort, but if they get the cold shoulder they’ll likely not do it more than once. A big part of growing friendships is taking those reach out opportunities and reaching back.
But perhaps that’s not you. You’d always go out! But there’s just… no one around. You don’t know anyone to get an invite from. Or the people you do get invites from aren’t people you care to hang out with. The latter sentence seems rather harsh, but sometimes the people in your life aren’t “doing it for you” for whatever reason. I’ll try not to judge you as harshly as you’re judging them… you monster.
However, now we have to go about finding people to meet! Work is the easiest place. Going out for drinks after a day on the job can be a great source of camaraderie, but we’ll assume for a second that you don’t want to swim in the company pool. Fine. You’re hard to please. So what do you, now? First: GET OUT OF YOUR HOUSE!
If you don’t know what to do, there’s a great site called MeetUp.com that consists entirely of groups where people to just get together. And the group variety (especially if you’re in a big city like NY) can be massive. Battlestar Galactica fanclubs, russian literature discussion groups, soccer pick-up games, pub crawls, bike rides, Dungeons and Dragons amateur night (NOT to be confused with the night for professionals). If you have a love, curiosity or even vague interest you can usually find that you’re not completely alone. And having common ground usually leads to conversations which can lead to friendships. There are plenty of other websites that offer similar listings and cater to specific types of people. More of a sports person? NYC has a group call the NY Social Sports Club. Play a game in a variety of sports every week with a team of your choosing (or be a free agent and they match you with a team) then go out for drinks afterwards as part of your fee. Not bad, eh?
So you’ve met people! Often times this can solve the problem as the proximity, repeated interactions, and letting your guard down will hopefully have been taken care of. But for the more socially awkward of us, we might be drawn to people just as socially awkward. So you have a great conversation with Dwight at your Star Trek costume party MeetUp (totally a random example and not something I went to last week) and even exchange digits, but never talk to each other again because… well… that’s weird to just call someone up and ask to hang out.
But as author Andrea Bonior of “The Friendship Fix: The Complete Guide to Choosing, Losing, and Keeping Up With Your Friends” points out, you’re not as creepy as you assume: “People are really terrified of coming off as that kind of stalker person. That other person might be feeling that exact same way.”
This may be stepping outside your comfort zone if people tend to scare you. But suck it up. After all, having friends makes you live longer. That’s right. Go be social. Or you’re going to die!
But I Don’t Have Time!
Oh for fuck’s sake.
I understand. I do. And it is hard. Careers and families and significant others, time easily gets eaten. Unfortunately, it’s not going to magically get any easier as time goes on. This can be the hardest lesson to learn for some of us as time goes on. Making and maintaining friendships can be work. And nobody likes work. Yet you shouldn’t think of it in a negative like. It’s a small investment of time and effort that can lead to endless dividends of happiness.
Go get some friends, lonely. It’ll be fun.