Meeting People is (Not) Easy
We talk a lot about living a life focused less on stuff and space and more on relationships and other things that truly make us happy. The epoch in most of our lives that best embodies that way of life is our college dorm days: days when rooms were small, the conversations were nocturnal and hopelessly interesting, when meeting people and making (and even retaining) friends was easy.
Fast forward a few years. The time spent wiling away hours is spent at work or recovering from work. The once-open hallways, resplendent in conversational possibility are replaced with lawns or vacant hallways in apartment buildings. Neighbors go unknown for years. College friends move to Portland, OR. All of a sudden, we find ourselves with few friends and having a hard time meeting new ones.
A recent post in Apartment Therapy based on a NY Times article called Friends of a Certain Age: Why Is It Hard to Make Friends Over 30? breaks down why meeting people is not that easy for many in the post-post-graduate set. This passage from the latter article explains some of the problem:
As external conditions change, it becomes tougher to meet the three conditions that sociologists since the 1950s have considered crucial to making close friends: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other, said Rebecca G. Adams, a professor of sociology and gerontology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. This is why so many people meet their lifelong friends in college, she added.
There are other issues. As we get older, we tend to focus on emotional quality of relationships, versus quantity and novelty. That’s great, but what often happens–because of a move, divorce, new job, child, etc.–is the circumstances that foster deepening existing relationships evaporate. In other words, we find ourselves living away from the people we want to go deep with. Many adults find themselves isolated and with few resources to make new friends.
The Times article leaves off on a not-so-optimistic note, though it does point to a big part of the answer for ending isolation: get over yourself and get out. Isolated adults must try new things and meet new people if they want to connect.
They point to a guy who, after a recent move to New York City found himself so lonely that he’d walk his cat in Central Park to initiate conversations. To deal with his isolation, he started a site called The New York Social Network that hooks fellow social New Yorkers around activities. Activity-based social networks are distinct from networks like Facebook, who provide social narrative more than social directives.
Apartment Therapy suggests a few other, non-romantic online resources for meeting friends:
- Girlfriend Network is a pretty self-explanatory site. It hooks up women looking to connect as friends.
- Companion Tree connects people looking for friends. Connections are based on your specified interests.
- Meetup.com is the granddaddy–and probably still the most robust–activity-based social networking.
Google and Yahoo groups are good too as they tend to coalescence real networks.
Take caution though: none of these resources will work if you don’t use them. Meeting people takes effort and a little bit of humility–the willingness to admit we want companionship and taking actions aligned with that desire.
Are you older than 30 and have successfully made and kept new friends? We’d love to hear what you did in our comments section.