Making Friends In Your Twenties
When we’re young, we’re lumped together in classes or sports and have shared experiences that naturally bond us together, yet as we leave school and get older and are no longer grouped among people with similar interests we spend longer hours at work, sneak in a quick gym sesh where possible and spend any precious ‘downtime’ left over plowing through back to back episodes of Game of Thrones and Broad City. Whether you’ve left school, moved to another city, or even just sick of the same crowd — making friends in your 20’s is hard. Sure we may have a plethora of acquaintances and good pals from high school, but where are the sitcom friends I always thought would appear after leaving school or moving to a new city? While everyone’s on the search for the perfect soul mate, awkwardly putting themselves out there in hope of meeting someone ‘normal’, making friends in your 20’s doesn’t seem to be all too different.
Surface level judgment — just like dating, we’re judging from the outside first. We judge what people are wearing, who they’re hanging out with and where they’re hanging out. While we accept that friendships blossom from deep connections, within society’s superficial culture there is little time available to get to know another person’s soul first. Instead, we accept that if someone is wearing Nike Airs and a Snap back, we know more about that person’s soul than any conversation we need to have.
You look creepy — Friendship is as important as romance and both kinds of relationship often start with one person pursuing another. Someone has to make the first move. You both have to play it cool yet overly (somewhat obnoxiously) excited, and you have to convey that you’re interested without seeming like there’s a reason you don’t have a ton of other friends — it’s a juggling act between coming off as friendly or freaky.
Friend dates can be weird — With an actual date, even if you don’t like each other, there’s at least the sex factor riding on it. ‘Fine he sucks, but he’s hot.’ Or you have no chemistry across the table but there may be enough in bed to balance it out. With new friend dates, from conception to end, it’s all about the personality and the connection between personalities. But one minor difference, one bad taste, and it can be all downhill from there. What do you mean you don’t like ‘Broad City’? Well if you don’t like Broad City, where the hell do we go from here?
While it can feel strange for women, Friedman points out that this can be more complicated for men for fear of being seen as gay (there’s certainly more homophobia associated with male friendships than female), and commenters on her article point out that it can get even more complex with different sexualities, such as a gay person trying to platonically court a straight person of the same gender. While this can get confusing, friendships exist in all gender and sexuality pairings.
Introducing each other to your friends — Introducing your new friend to the other people in your life can be a bit daunting, hoping that everyone will get along with your new found BFF just the same as you. As well as meeting their effortlessly cool/beautiful friends you cross your fingers and hope that they won’t immediately reject you.
The Break up — However, what if it doesn’t work out? What if in the ‘getting to know you stage’ the friendship begins to get awkward? Breaking up with someone you’re dating is hard enough, but breaking up with someone you’re friends with or thought you could be friends with is even harder. How do you break it off? Do you meet up to break it off with them face-to-face? What do you say? I don’t think there’s a spark between us so we should stop being friends? Just like sparks in a relationship, there also needs to be sparks in a friendship.
Twenty-something year olds are among the ‘friendliest’ out there, using at least some form of social media, which provides constant opportunities to share intimate details of their daily lives with hundreds, if not thousands, of connections. However an American study has found that we have fewer friends than we did in the 1980’s, and all of these virtual relationships are not nearly as satisfying as the kind in the flesh. As many 20 year olds complain about not knowing how to make new friends, or feel abandoned by old ones, this is a troubling trend given that friendships are crucial for our wellbeing. Some scientists argue that humans are inherently social creatures, wired to benefit from close relationships with family, romantic partners, and of course, friends, with other research suggesting that a network of close friends can reduce stress and promote good health and longevity. Yet, making and retaining friends in your 20’s isn’t easy, so for anyone confused about how to forge a new friendship, here are some handy hints for hunting down your new favourite hump day hussy.
Online — The rise of online technology means we’re more proactive in our social and romantic endeavours than ever before. As a generation obsessed with online dating, it only seems logical to make friends in the same manner. The popular website Meetup allows people to connect with like-minded people who share similar interests and are equally as keen to make new friends. Not only will you make new connections, but you are also likely to learn something new and meet new people with fresh perspectives. The popular dating app Tinder have also added a Tinder Social feature, allowing you and your friends to create groups and set up group dates by swiping and matching with other groups who like you back.
Be yourself — When you pursue hobbies and activities you enjoy, you have a higher chance of meeting like-minded people with similar interests. So sign up for those dance classes or check out the next networking event on at university. Each event is a chance to meet a whole room of like-minded buddies, while doing something you all enjoy.
Set a goal — It might sound trivial, but the next time you attend a function or go to a party, tell yourself you want to leave with three new friends (or maybe even just one). At least if you set a goal, you will be more open to meeting new people and having in-depth conversations instead of standing in the corner with the leftover, unwanted horderves, smiling from a distance at others trying to make it seem as though you’re having just as much fun as everyone else in the room.
Learn how to make friendly chat — Do you have familiar faces you see? Whether it’s a stranger at the gym, around campus or just down at the local shops, starting a conversation is crucial to making new friends. The chances are that people who have similar routines and shop at the same places will be really compatible with you, but unless you start that conversation, you will never know. In fact, small talk is the quickest, most efficient way to gain insight into someone’s personality and find shared interests, it’s all about finding common ground to form a base for prospective friendships. While not every person you meet will be perfect as your new BFF, by learning and initiating friendly chat with others, this will improve your confidence and social skills in future situations.
Be persistent — While not all of us actually do it, most of us know how to pursue a crush. Send flowers to their work, invite them to a band you know they love, or even just rock up with Nando’s because you know nothing beats that sweet sweet peri peri. Yet when pursuing a friend, you should try and apply similar (but less romantic) tactics. For example, send them a message to hang out for a coffee or wine date, and then follow up after the ‘date’ with a message to say that you had a really nice time.
While sometimes it just happens — bonding over the colour of nail polish, or how good the person’s food next to you smells, nek minut you’re dining out on weekly brunches! While other times it can be much harder, feeling like you’re the only one at the party without a wingman, or the only one on campus who doesn’t know anyone, it’s important not to get discouraged. With enough confidence, flexibility and patience, it’s possible to find friends in just about any situation — just remember to strap on that sensational smile! ;)
Originally published at The Isthmus.