I wanted to start this off like one of those Reader’s Digest columns where an email to an editor is written out, followed by a thoughtful response, but these days I don’t get those kinds of emails. The only emails I get are the ones inviting me to wine tastings at noon on a Tuesday. Who, besides an unemployed alcoholic… with a drinking problem… drinks wine at that time? And do you really want that kind of person tasting your shit, then writing about it? That’s what passes for an authority these days?
As each year goes by, making good friends becomes harder and harder for people. In my 29 years, I haven’t found any one human being who is an exception to this. “Oh, but I know this guy who is really outgoing and friendly. Everyone loves him. He can make friends with anyone,” you might say. That person may very well be outgoing and friendly, and everyone does indeed love them. I know many people like that. Hell, my mom is one of them. The incorrect part of that statement is that they can make friends with anyone.
How are friendships made?
No, they can make acquaintances with anyone (that, too, is an exaggeration, but I’ll humor you), but not friends, and most certainly not good friends. The title of friend goes beyond a fist bump when you recognize the person at a party, and a good friend is something else entirely. I feel the need to differentiate between “friend” and “good friend” because social networking has desensitized us to what a friend really is.
If you have 2,000 Facebook friends, maybe 1% of those are actual friends, and 33% of those are good friends, if you’re lucky. Even if you have 100 Facebook friends, only a small percentage are actual friends. Nobody has 100 friends. You might have 100 people you’ve spoken to this year and whose names you know, but you don’t have 100 friends. Unless you live in some fucking hippie commune, there’s no way for you to maintain the kind of relationship necessary for true friendship with 100 different people. Have you ever played The Sims? It’s hard to juggle 10 friendships in that game without your stupid-ass sim pissing and/or starving himself and whining like a bitch due to lack of time, and it’s a goddamn game. I see my best friend once every two weeks or so, and he’s my best friend. If you’re #300+ in my Facebook friend’s list, I probably don’t even remember ever meeting you.
But whatever, this isn’t about the superfluousness of social network friends, it’s about the real ones, and how to make them.
Why does it get harder as you age?
The answer to that is pretty simple. As a kid, you like a lot of shit. Maybe it’s not so much that kids have a variety of interests, it could just be that kids don’t really have any interests at all.
Asking a kid what his interests are:
And the kid won’t shut up about his so-called interests. If you’re six and you ask another six-year-old that question and he doesn’t mention, “Throwing rocks at the neighbor’s trash can,” you could probably be like, “Hey, wanna throw rocks at the neighbor’s trash can?” and the other kid would be up for that without hesitation. And a friend is born.
Kids have interests?
Asking an adult what his interests are:
The adult will give you one, maybe two things that can be actually considered interests, followed by a list of vague shit everybody likes. Who (besides bodybuilders eating plain, grilled chicken six times per day) doesn’t like food?
If you’re a 30-year-old with bills and concrete interests, and you meet someone who shares none of your interests, will you want to hang out with them? If you said yes, it’s because you found them attractive and want to lock genitals. Otherwise, no, you don’t want to hang out with them. The adult didn’t bring up an affinity for rock-throwing, and if you brought it up, they wouldn’t go along with it like the kid would. It’s not their interest, and thus they have no interest being friends with you.
What if they like throwing rocks at things?
I’m not saying it’s impossible to be friends with someone you have no interests with, it’s just that neither of you are likely to give it a go. That’s why it’s difficult to form solid adult friendships. Real friendships.
That’s why childhood friends can work out pretty well, at least until you hit high school, turn into a piece of shit, and alienate them. When you and your friends have no real interests, you can develop your interests together.
As an adult, you’re pretty set on what you like and don’t like. If you don’t share interests with someone, you’re far less likely to engage with them on a personal level, because what would you talk about? Smalltalk alone doesn’t lead to bonding, and while it’s not entirely necessary to have interests in common with a person to be their friend, it’s the thing that gets you to the point of wanting to explore the relationship further.
So how do I do it?
You have a few options:
Meet people who also enjoy your interests.
Do you like photography? Take a photography class, join a Meetup on meetup.com, or go out and snap photos of strangers and hope someone who calls attention to you is doing so out of genuine interest and not because you’re hiding in their bushes while they undress. Are you a gym rat? Maybe try Crossfit or one of those other stupid workout fads where you’re surrounded by other like-minded pumpaphiles. Whatever you’re into, there are others into it. If you have no interests, maybe try finding one. If you still can’t, ouch bro, that sucks. Maybe try…
The shotgun approach.
Maybe you’re better off finding someone who you click with mentally rather than someone by interest. After all, just because you share interests doesn’t mean you’ll be fast friends. I know plenty of people who, like me, enjoy writing, but I’d rather eat discarded liposuction fat than to talk to them. For the shotgun approach, you just try to be friends with everyone. You won’t actually become friends with everyone, but if you try, you’re bound to find a good one. You’ll probably need to be a friendly, outgoing person. If you’re not, fake it. Dale Carnegie wrote a good book titled “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. Those people with 2,000 Facebook friends may not have 2,000 real good friends, but they’ve got at least one, and one good friend is all anyone really needs.
Use your existing network.
A friend of a friend. A coworker. A classmate. This is the easiest way to do it, in my opinion. With a friend of a friend, you’ve got someone to vouch for you and an easy way to interact with the new person in a no-pressure situation where conversations spring up organically. With coworkers and classmates, you get to learn things about the person before you dive in.
I’m done writing. Sorry for the abrupt ending.
Post picture credit: Sarah Kochan