Most clickbait advice is written by people who’ve never actually tried it. Either that, or they’re terribly unobservant. That’s the only explanation I can give for all the articles you’ll find if you google “How do I make friends as an adult.”
Don’t click through! Don’t even give them the satisfaction! All of those articles are like, “Go to meetup groups! Find people you like! Invite those people to chill! Keep making plans with them!”
Which sounds great, until you think: “Is this how people actually make friends?”
Because it’s really not. Most friend-making happens slowly and unconsciously. You see someone around a few times at a party or some big gathering. You find yourself drawn into conversation with them. Then maybe you’re going on an outing of some sort, and they tag along. Perhaps you’re in their part of town and you text them to see if they want to get coffee. Then maybe a few months pass, during which you run across them only occasionally. Maybe a few years pass, and you move to a new town, and they’re in that town too, and you reconnect. You get really distraught over something, and they’re the only person on Twitter so you talk to them over Direct Message for a few hours. Then one day you’re looking for brunch plans, and you text them, and they’re surprisingly down! You have a great time, and maybe you go to a movie afterwards. You start texting them more often. They become your go-to stop when you’re lonely. Maybe you carpool to work or something. Or you park your car in their garage when you’re out of town. They come to you crying about some shit with the guy who broke their heart, and you tell them they’re amazing and he’s an idiot. You tell them about all the guys who’ve broken your own heart. They invite you to parties, you meet their friends.
And then there’s the ebb of friendship too. Maybe they move a few miles away. Or they get a more stressful job. Or you do. Maybe they get really into roller derby, and you don’t hate it, but you’re just not into it. Suddenly all they can talk about is roller derby, and they can’t hang out, because they’re always derbying with the derby girls. You’re like, hey…that shit is dangerous. But they’re like ohhh that’s good old cautious Rahul–he’s so staid, he’s just totally not down to snort cocaine all night and throw trashcans into the street like us derbiers are. And now you only see them once a month. Or once every six months. Maybe at some point they’re only a picture on Facebook.
But imagine how this would go if you followed the clickbait advice. You’d go to a friend’s housewarming. You’d meet someone cool. You’d be like, “Oh hey you’re awesome, let’s hang out!” Then you’d text them, “When you wanna hang out?” And they’d comb their schedule, and you’d find a date maybe three weeks from now, and maybe you’d make it, and you’d sit across the table from each other, being like, what the hell do we talk about, we are two strangers! Or perhaps, because you don’t really know each other, you’d feel no need to be good to each other, so you flake out, first one and then the other. And you try to reschedule, but it never really happens.
And you’d think it was your fault! Or theirs! You’d be like, wow, this was such a boring person! Or such an asshole! And you’d keep trying to follow this terrible, time-consuming, and self-defeating advice until, if you were lucky, you connected with someone who was charismatic and together enough to do the work of friendship for you.
The problem with clickbait advice is that it’d have you believe that the way you make friends as an adult is in some way essentially different from how you did it in high school and college. But it’s not. Adults aren’t that different from teenagers; we simply live in a different social environment. And the trick isn’t to flail our arms and brute-force our way through our environment’s limitations: it’s to find ways to change that environment.
Which is why, although I’ll have plenty of advice here about person-to-person interactions, my primary lesson is that the main thing you need to do is find groups of people to interact with.
General Principle #2 — You’re not just looking for individual friends, you’re also looking to be part of a community.
Okay, but that leads us to a piece of fallacious clickbait advice that I’m going to attack tomorrow. This idea that you just need to “get out there and join some groups.”