How To Make Friends

I know this is not among my “usual” blog topics. But I think it is worth talking about. We see this sort of stuff mentioned too much.

I shared an observation on friendship the other day on Instagram with only “close friends.” Doing that apparently subsequently led to the algorithm shoving this at me in a scroll, and I saved it because I wanted to know more. I had not seen it before:

[From Instagram.]

I thought her statement was so sad that I wanted to see the full video. Here it is just below, posted in August 2019. It has had over 5.5 MILLION views so far:

[“21 Years Old: I Have NO Friends.” Myra West on YouTube, August 12, 2019.]

The video having gone “super-viral,” she wrote nine months ago in the currently “pinned” comment:

I recorded this when I had around 9 subscribers. And for the first 9 months or so this video garnered around 300 veiws. the algorithm picked it up and bam!

Her channel has 110,991 more subscribers now… and Myra West presumably now has at least lots of online new friends. I watched the video and then scrolled some of the (huge number of) comments. In some respects its sudden popularity is probably nightmarish for her; of course she never expected so many people would ever watch it… and some often decidedly critically so (but that is the internet, as we know).

Despite its tsunami of visitors and the stresses that likely causes her, obviously she decided it is better to leave it up than to delete it. Indeed many commenters I scrolled through sympathized with her and – younger ones especially – shared that they have “no friends,” too. Reading some of those commenters, I found myself thinking also that there seems to be a misunderstanding among younger people about the nature of friendship and how friendships arise.

Although homeschooled as a pre-teen, Myra says she entered state school at age 12, so was then tossed in with other teens. In this she is not uncommon, but US teens and young adults often seem to use the word “friends” synonymously with acquaintances who are just “classmates.” (I once did, too.) If you are in Myra’s general age group and feel at least something of the same way, it is worth bearing in mind that you were in school with your classmates not because they were “friends” but because – particularly in the US state system – you simply lived in the same school district. You did not necessarily have anything more in common with them than geography: you were living in your parents’ house on Broad Road near the river, and “Sally” happened to live with hers on Washington Street, and “Maria” with hers on Second Street, and you all ended up on the school bus together. (Indeed, homeschooled children are in much the same boat: they know other children nearby purely because they live nearby. She also says her relationship with her family is “non-existent,” but as she does not elaborate I am not sure what that truly means so I am sticking here with friendship.)

She shares as well school socializing problems that, having happened only a few years before, understandably still loom large in her mind at age 21, but nearly all will in years to come almost certainly recede into the past and she may even forget most of them. (Or at least much better contextualize them. Nearly everything that was TERRIBLE at 16 is not nearly as relevant at 40.) Her life that she recounts stretches back essentially from the letter “C” (her current age 21) all the way back to “A” (her infancy). As of now, she has barely gotten started in life; she has to get from “D” to “Z” ahead of her. Thus her perspective – and that of many other young people generally – is, unsurprisingly, myopic and far too limited… and that is not a criticism, it is just a statement of reality. (Again, I once held much the same view.)

[My writing desk. Photo by me, May 4, 2021.]

Compared to Myra, and probably many of you reading this, I am perhaps at around the letter “P” now alphabetically in terms of my life. For instance, I watched Friends first run, particularly in its first year or two in the mid-1990s. I was a similar age to its stars and identified with a lot of it.

I detect many younger people seem to think that one makes friends for life in school or due to socializing as teens. As an author now in my – eeks! – 50s, I recall high school was not especially social fun, but it is also ever more remote from my lived life and is just – at worst – memories. Indeed I have struggled at times recently even to remember the NAMES of some classmates; my contact with all of them ceased after at most about two years following graduation. (That was now over thirty years ago – longer than you may have been alive.) I have no idea now what any of my former classmates are doing. (Except for a couple of them who have become entertainment celebrities.) Nor do any of them have any idea – I presume – of what became of me. We have all simply moved on in life.

Separately, I continued to cross paths intermittently with non-school-based neighborhood childhood acquaintances – kids I had known not because we met at school, although we went to the same school, but because we had met playing, for example, in the street – until that contact petered out in adulthood as well. It is hardly also a shock as to why it did: life and change. While we may have bumped into each other during visits “home” because my parents, and theirs, continued to live in that same area, that stopped once my parents moved away in 2011, and/or their parents also either moved away or even died.

[In “1997,” looking ahead to “2014.” In Distances, on Kindle. Photo by me, 2021.]

I developed adult friendships AFTER leaving high school, and even after university (and I continue to do so), and those friendships have often lasted decades. That is because mere co-location had/has nothing to do with them; shared interests has always been the driver. So if you are now “age 21” and feel you have “no friends,” I urge you not to be discouraged because chances are you have simply not crossed paths with enough people with shared interests yet.

Church and the workplace are more similar to school than we may realize – you are in that church or at that job for a reason that actually has nothing to do with friendship; you are there to worship or to earn a living. Merely attending the same church or working in the same place for a time is not necessarily enough of a shared interest to serve as a basis for friendship. And it is important to remember that not all adult friendships are destined to last a lifetime either; oftentimes you also find you go your separate ways as adults, too... because that is, again, simply life.

To make friends, the first question you should ask yourself is this: “What do I really enjoy?” If you like hiking or online games or traveling or even just reading, you should consider joining walking clubs, or gaming clubs, or travel organizations, or book clubs, etc. I would never have met my future wife if we had not had shared interests – especially travel. (Myra does mention group activities at one point, but I did not feel she really threw herself into any such activities. Importantly, not nearly enough time had passed to see what might have come of any of such “joinings” anyway. To borrow from the Bible, we cannot just hit the rock with our staff a couple of times and friends burst forth.)

Wherever and however you do meet others, including possibly at school, university, place of worship, or work, or even (increasingly nowadays) online, true friendship is rooted in shared interests. Once you start to encounter more people with those, many will probably like you in return for much the same reason. When you get there, if you want to be friends you may find they are rather naturally and genuinely drawn to you and you are drawn to them.

That is what I think, anyhow.

Have a good day, wherever you are. 🙂

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