In the Age of Facebook, Is Finding Actual Friends Harder?

07/21/2012

Facebook friends photoYou’re 30-something with 650 Facebook friends and 1,300 Twitter followers but when it comes to having a party you’d have trouble pulling a guest list together. Is this familiar? With a number of city moves as well as job and life changes under your belt, those of us in our 30’s and 40’s are finding it harder than ever to find the kind of connections that we had in grade school and college. 

The New York Times reported that while this generation comes in contact with all sorts of new people, finding best friends, those that you would call in the middle of the night with an emergency, has become harder than ever. So you end up “resigning yourself to situational friends.”

Three Conditions Not Met 

According to The New York Times, "[a]s external conditions change, it becomes tougher to meet the three conditions that sociologists since the 1950s have considered crucial to making close friends: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other." This is why we make such strong connections in college.

Work relationships don’t normally produce the same quality of friends because we’re less likely to show our coworkers our vulnerabilities, which makes establishing real friends impossible. 

Matchmaking For Two

When you get married finding friends becomes “matchmaking for two,” which makes the chances of finding lasting long term friendships difficult. Take Kara Baskin, a journalist who works in Boston, according to The New York Times

Not long ago, she invited her husband’s new work buddy over for dinner with his wife. But the wife was visibly unimpressed by Ms. Baskin’s half-furnished home (they had just moved in) and thrown-together spaghetti dinner. 'It was basically clear that his wife had been cajoled into attending,” said Ms. Baskin, 33. 'She settled on to our rickety Ikea kitchen chairs like she was lowering herself into a coal mine.'

This is hilarious and in fact not far from the truth. When we're older we may be removed from the communities in which we grew up, we have less sheer hangout time, and we're more picky about our friends than ever before.

I can absolutely relate to this phenomenon. Having moved three times since college, I find that most of the connections that I’ve established in new places revolve around my college friends. Whether my close friends from college or acquaintances, we’re drawn together by the common bond of having experienced so many of these growing years together. And having grown up in the same town for my entire childhood, my other set of best friends went to elementary, middle, and high school with me. I can only think of one best friend that I didn’t know at all before college and she’s my next door neighbor--the proximity conponent comes into play.

Does this ring true for you?

Photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images 

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Sara Novak writes about health and wellness for Discovery Health. Her work is also regularly featured in Breathe Magazine and on SereneKitchen.com. She has written extensively on food policy, food politics, and food safety.


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