If you'd asked me where I'd be in 2023 as a teenager - there's no way I'd ever guess I'd spend my weekends couch surfing with my kids while watching Disney movies that I've seen a thousand times...and enjoying it.
My social life as a teen/early adult was that of scene from a pop-themed movie. Nonstop plans, no fears or worries about being mugged, short dresses, scandalous heels that I could actually walk in (how!?) and more than anything, friends out the whazoo. I had friends from college, high school friends, cheer friends, friends of friends, guy friends, queer friends, straight friends, family friends - you name it and they were a friend of mine. It was completely normal for me to strike up a full conversation with a total stranger on the L over their shoes. Oh, you're also getting off at Fullerton at the same time as me? Instant friend!
Fast-forward to today where I avoid making eye contact with strangers at all costs. Especially in public, unfamiliar places. Spark up a random conversation with a stranger that lasts longer than 30 seconds? As if.
Turns out, I'm not the only one. A quick Google search reveals that making friends as an adult is a common query and also that it is notoriously harder than it ever was. In fact, it is so difficult that there are apps dedicated to it. According to people smarter than me who are paid to research things like this, COVID is largely to blame. Per the Surgeon General, America is in the midst of a loneliness epidemic, and the forced physical separation of the pandemic certainly didn't help us stay in touch. Surveys show that many Americans lost friends thanks to two years of shutdowns and restrictions.
Also, newsflash - you still got it, sis! The difficulty isn't that you're uncool or awkward. It's that the essential building blocks of friendship are harder to come by when you're older. For example, research shows making a casual friend takes 50 hours on average, while close friendships take 200 hours (yes, like 199 +1). Ain't nobody got time for that!
So how do we push past the awkwardness and actually find time to dedicate to making new friends? And if you're anything like me, how do we convince ourselves that making friends is actually something we need? Because I have totally sold myself on Netflix and chilling with my kids in my spare time...
Here are a few tips!
Find your people
- Breaking news: to make friends you have to actually leave your house. But unless we are cool with being besties with our toddlers - teens, we gotta break free from the couch.
- An easy place to start, find yo' people! Finding a group of people that you naturally have things in common with is an easy launch point. Are you a new mom? Join a local new moms group (shameless plug for NPN's New Moms Group!), go to a family-friendly activity, or a networking event if professional friends are your thing. Don't just go though, you have to actually talk to people. As awkward as it may seem, approach someone and say something nice or ask them a question. Apparently this works.
Connect AND MEAN IT
- How often have you met someone cool, hit it off amazingly, and then you're like, "okay totally let's do this again!" Only to never.do.it.again?
- Fall out of this trap by actually setting plans (AND ADDING THEM TO YOUR CALENDAR) before you leave. Adult friendships are a lot like scheduled sex. You can't believe you have to, but you feel much better knowing what to prepare for.
Understand the benefits
- Adult friendships are a lot more than nice-to-haves or the icing on top of a successful adult life. Positive friendships are a proven mood booster and stress buster (while loneliness can be as bad for your body as smoking a pack a day). So unless, you're fond of smoking and want to die alone (okay, maybe a tiny bit dramatic) - the benefits to making friends are real.
- Also, for this assignment - work friends DO NOT count. Get out there and make some friends you aren't paid to hang out with.
Morale of the story...don't give up on making new friends! It won't happen effortlessly like it did when we were in college but a lot has changed since then so why wouldn't our process of making and keeping friends? With a little planning and courage, the whole friends as adults thing is totally doable. Wanna be friends?