Why Is Making Friends So Hard for Adults Over 30?
The People Around Me
In the case of emergency, my list of people to contact is pretty short.
There is my husband, then maybe my brother is he could arrange to get off work. After that, it's pretty slim pickings.
Before we moved to Bolingbrook, the list of people that I could group among even acquaintances could at least fill a room for holiday parties. As people moved, started families, or took different occupation, or lifestyle changes, the group dwindled down. By the time we had relocated for work, the number was down to a scant handful that we mostly saw on social media anyway but hardly in person for anything is trivial as sharing a meal.
I couldn't blame people for the lack of getting together.
As working adults, everyone is tied up Monday- Friday for about forty hours and needed weekends to be filled with everything you couldn't accomplish during the drive to work and back. Promises of "We will drop by when everything slows down a little." became empty after I had my son and was back at work. I hardly had time to take a nap or start dinner let alone agree to meet somewhere for a few hours.
By the time we had moved, I had so little people that I was in regular contact with that I didn't want to burden anyone to help us pack up; thinking it would all be different in a new city.
It wouldn't be long until we were making plans with new neighbors or having drinks with coworkers after a long week in the office.
After almost a year in our new home there are neighbors that I wave and say Hello to in passing, coworkers that I only talk to during work hours or through a post to Facebook. My husband has friends that rush from work to pick up children and spend the evening with their spouses dishing about the events of their day.
Why did it become so hard to make friends?
Absorbed with our own concerns, it becomes even harder as an adult to stay in touch with those around you and bring new friendships into the fold.
Calling All Similar Humans
In college, I could always find someone to hang out. Taking advantage of opportunities to be clubs and various campus organizations, there was always something going on somewhere; unlike the adult world that college was set to prepare us for.
It isn't our fault as adults that the system is stacked against us by the time we reach our thirties. We spend too much time at our jobs and by the weekend we are just too tired to go out into the world and find people of similar likes and values to pal around with.
I suggested to my husband that we start going out more to places where potential friends might be. I thought how ridiculous it would look walking up to another couple at some social activity introducing ourselves as fairly new to the area and asking if they wanted to grab a coffee. Do people even do that anymore?
We tried some social events at our library but everyone was so engrossed in playing with their smart phones, very few people were even listening to the speaker leading the book club, acting as if their appearance had been court ordered and never really engaged with anyone around them.
I can't blame those attendees though. Even if my "off time" when I really want to be in the moment, I'm cramming in all the things I need to catch up before I lose the opportunity.
I considered starting my own sort of event like a board game night in one of the conference rooms but where to find people that would actually attend would be another matter.
We tried some social events at the library but everyone is so engrossed in their smart phones, there was little interaction between anyone in the book club.
Social Media As A Crutch
Adding just anyone to social media used to be my method in college. A friend of a friend sends a request and maybe you hit it off with the person, or maybe they are a weirdo that you have to instantly block. Still the exposure to potential friends seemed to be a steady stream of all types of people at my disposal to pick and choose based on their profiles.
I tried to turn back to Facebook with the same optimism. There were public groups for just about everything and in theory I should be able to type in a few hobbies, movies, or authors I enjoyed and join a collective of admirers that maybe a handful of might be people that would end in the occasional exchange of text messages.
I joined groups about writing, some groups that were into video gaming, anime, and the types of movies I could relate to. Then I waited.
And continued to wait...
This was rather pointless. Except for the occasional thread where people typed words rather than posting a simple GIF, this was hardly the same as the college message boards of my youth where actual ideas were exchanged and meet ups were planned.
I researched area churches thinking that maybe we would be attracted to a like minded congregation but nothing really stood out in the non denominational category.
I enjoy running on the weekends so maybe there was a local group that did some of the Chicagoland races, but to no avail I was still turning up empty handed. I needed to get back into the world and actually see people face to face and start a conversation.
I needed to get back into the world and see people face to face and start a conversation.
Safety And Concerns
Ten years ago, talking to someone on a street corner may not have been such a social concern, but as the world becomes more dangerous, people are internalizing for safety. The days of knocking on your neighbor's door to borrow a cup of sugar have passed.
Due to a rise in crime, people keep to themselves as much a possible. It just isn't safe to put yourself in a situation of being venerable so talking to a stranger in public is frowned upon. My husband held open the front door to the building to a woman struggling with shopping bags and she darted to her unit like we were about to rob her. I couldn't blame the woman as I have learned to become overly suspicious of other people and carry pepper spray on my keys as well.
This really hurts the making friends aspect.
In a new world where people don't feel safe making conversation or drawing attention to themselves in a group of strangers, how would we ever find someone to pal around with?
It's harder than ever for working adults to get to know new people between the obligations of family and work, so I put more focus on renewing friendships between people I already had some contact with.
Most of the friendships I had turned away after college as that had fizzled due to toxic issues or a change in interests, were the people that I contacted first. A quick look up if they were still in the cell phone contacts or a Facebook message later, a few had actually replied with a "I have been up to..." and took the opportunity to fill me in on some event where I could ask a few follow up questions and get a volley of conversation for a brief time.
Some people still lived near the area where we had gone to high school and I was able to arrange a dinner with one of the couples. Others were just people that I rehashed a few old stories with and were able to friend online and occasionally comment on their social media posts.
I went into work and managed to ask a few of the ladies that weren't attending the company Christmas party if they were interested in picking some night to grab a pizza and have our own group celebration instead. One even is making plans to organize a grab bag exchange.
I have come to accept that maybe this is the only level of friendship that is possible with the schedule that working adults have and for the moment that is actually alright.
Until then, I will keep pursuing new ways to get to know other people.