Why Making New Friends Gets More Difficult

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I read this post on Why Making New Friends Gets More Difficult as You Grow Older and had to stop and consider whether I felt it was true for myself.

Some of the reasons given are pretty depressing.

“As you grow more mature, your morals and standards start to change and solidify. As a young adult, you may have been more flexible and open-minded about some things, but time has worn grooves into your soul.”  Grooves in my soul sounds really bad. Am I less flexible in my views than when I was 22?

I believe my friend-making changed when I stopped being a student and started being an employee. Though I met many more people in my working years than in my student years, the vast majority (probably 90%) of them are better described as acquaintances than friends.

Another article states that “Marriage changes a lot, but kids change everything,” and I would agree with that when it comes to making new friends. Like my working life, getting married and having kids opened up many new vectors to meeting people. Some of them have remained true friends. Most have dropped down on the friend scale. Some people I socialized with a lot when our kids shared mutual activities (school and sports especially), have disappeared from my life now that my children are adults away on their own. Were they really ever friends?  Yes, they were. But friendships, like all relationships, change, evolve, devolve.

The author of that first article says that “Social media is ruining making friends.” I think social media has tried to redefine “friend” (as used on Facebook) to mean someone who we have a very thin virtual relationship with. I have “Facebook friends” that I have never met, never will meet and that I only connect with through an interest. Might we be real life friends if we met in person? Possibly.

A good example is the list of people on Facebook that are listed as my friends because of poetry. A very few of them are people know and see and talk with about poetry (and other topics) regularly. There is a larger group within that list of poets that I have met or at least heard read their poetry in person. I doubt that many of them would recognize me or know my name if we were in a social situation. And there are an even larger group of poetry people who I have never met and will likely never meet in real life. Friends? No.

I prefer when social networks use terms like “follow.” I follow some celebrities on Instagram because I like seeing their images, but we have no friendship at all – and that is fine.

The author of that article is 43, so I have a few decades on her, but I certainly hope this is not true of me.

“Maybe, as we grow older, we just get rusty at making new friends. Think about it. Many of us get married and have children, and for decades of our lives, we see our children as our best friends. No, we don’t tell them this, but we hold this feeling in our hearts, now don’t we… Well, when our children leave the nest, we are left with our mate, or we are left alone. When this happens, we have forgotten how to socialize correctly.”

I haven’t sat down to make a list of who I would consider actual friends versus acquaintances or any other label. It would probably be somewhat painful. I do know that my closest friends tend to be ones I have known for the most years and with whom I still have face-to-face contact, even if that part only happens once a year. I can’t think of any “virtual friend” that would make the Friend list. And that has less to do with me getting older than it has to do with the world getting older.

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Ken Ronkowitz

Random by design. Predictably irrational. It's turtles all the way down. Dolce far niente. A lifelong educator.

2 thoughts on “Why Making New Friends Gets More Difficult”

  1. “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.'” – Genesis 2:18 (UCC translation)

    So, both the UCC and Catholic Church had the same reading today, Genesis 2: 18-24. The Catholic church took the approach of using Genesis 2: 18 as support for the idea of marriage. Interestingly, I had just finished reading the a section of my Catholic Bible on “How to read the Bible.” The authors concede that very little of the Bible is historical fact, and that it is mostly a theological interpretation which follows a theme in the story of the Hebrew and then early Christian people. Yet, the Catholic interpretation of today’s reading was definitive in making the passage a re-affirmation on marriage. And how marriage is a reflection of our divine relationship. And how Catholics in a struggling marriage should rely on the Church to help them: go to your pastor, church groups, Catholic support groups, etc to help save the marriage. Sadly, no one in the Church was there for me. One priest told my former spouse to do whatever her conscious told her to do and left it at that. A priest told me to just accept it and walk away. Needless to say today’s reading triggered some traumatic flashback to those days, ten, twelve years ago where I fought for my life to save my marriage. I felt abandoned by the Church. At first, I resented my friends because they did not want to help us at all. They just wanted to stay out of it. Over time, however, I realized that God had blessed me with many companions, one of whom was Ken (thank you for reaching out to me), who patiently sat and listened through many tears and years of turmoil. I may not have always been the best of friends in return, but I hope that in some way I will be there for ALL of you who are “flesh of my flesh,” we are ONE. Done ranting. I like the UCC interpretation (however, I have to give the Catholics credit for not bringing up the one man, one woman argument today, perhaps there is a softening on that issue) of Genesis 2:18 better (not that I don’t think marriage is sacred and unique, i still do), but I feel that Genesis speaks to a much broader need to not feel alone, which I struggle with. Some thoughts from the UCC on loneliness and friendship: http://www.ucc.org/daily_devotional_lonely_hunter?utm_campaign=dd_oct7_18&utm_medium=email&utm_source=unitedchurchofchrist
    Some thoughts from Thich Nhat hanh: https://plumvillage.org/sutra/discourse-on-knowing-the-better-way-to-live-alone/


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