As a child or teenager, friendships have a tendency to form spontaneously. As adults, it can be much harder for friendships to form as organically. They often require a little more effort to develop! In contrast to childhood friendships, the friendships we have as adults (once formed) tend to be longer-term and more stable, but with very different characteristics.
A common question people ask is “How do I make friends as an adult?” This doesn’t have a straightforward answer. You need to consider that proximity plays a very important role in who you make friends with. During your school days, you share 6 hours a day, every weekday, with a diverse range of fellows, numbering in the hundreds. This social context results in a rather high chance that you will meet someone you can form a friendship with.
For adults, our daily world is often a lot smaller. You may interact with more people overall, but ultimately on a superficial level, even in the workplace. Frequency and familiarity is key. If you want to make friends beyond your neighbours and workmates, it’s imperative to put yourself out there! This process differs greatly depending on the individual, but here are some general tips that may help you:
1) Brainstorm some social settings you can go to that surround you. Where do you or other people like to go? Is there a popular café or restaurant nearby? A store you like to frequent? A hobby you can participate in? Going to these places frequently will increase your chances of meeting someone with similar interests.
2) Consider the kind of friends you would prefer to meet. If you aren’t particularly interested in sports, it doesn’t make much sense for you to try and meet friends at a game. If you’re not much of a social drinker, don’t follow people’s advice to meet friends at a pub.
3) Use existing social connections to meet more people. If you already have some friends or acquaintances, talk about the kind of people they’ve met before. If any sound particularly interesting, consider saying that you’d like to meet them sometime! If you have long-term acquaintances, try asking them more about their lives and what they like. See if you have anything in common and perhaps they’ll become a friend as well.
4) Use the internet to browse interest groups. While not a complete substitute for in-person friendships, having someone to talk or respond to, even if it’s just once a day or week, builds a sense of routine and familiarity that can be positive for your mental health.