Escaping the Friend Desert of Adulthood
“I can’t do the 15th,” John said. “Can we push it back two weeks?” I looked at my calendar, trying to align the dates with our friend Derrick. Then, after finding a great window, John came back with another complication. I rubbed my temples in frustration.
I’m 40 and most of my friends are married and buried in toddlers. They also live in other cities. I try to arrange a trip each year, but coordinating it feels like pushing a boulder up a mountain. Beyond the scheduling conflicts, I’m in competition for their PTO with grandparents and extended family.
As a kid, it was all so simple. The only prerequisite for new friends was the spirit of play. If the other person was down, and nice, they became friends. In college, it was all about who I partied with and saw the most frequently. Everyone was so social. Then, this blur of obligations pulled us all apart.
As social primates, friendships are central to our health and happiness. Yet so many of us are painfully lonely and it isn’t entirely our fault. Since the 1950s, sociologist have asserted that modern life makes it difficult to meet the three conditions for close friendships: proximity, repeated and unplanned interactions, and an environment that encourages people to confide in each other.
Which is why it feels so forced to be planning hangout trips months in advance. It feels like I’m scrambling to keep legacy friendships on life support. I can scarcely plan dinner with people without complications.
In school and college, it was so easy because there was endless time for socializing, and we were all on top of each other in dorms and classrooms. And, we didn’t have real bills and adult problems. So how can we make more friends as adults?
Converting new friends
Per one study, it takes 40–60 hours within the first six weeks of meeting someone to turn them from an acquaintance into a casual friend. It takes another 80 to 100 hours to elevate them to true friend status. Which feels like a ton of time as a career driven person. But these connections can be built up over longer stretches.