It used to be relatively simple. You asked, Can I borrow your crayons? They said Yes or No and you knew where you stood, within the first five minutes of starting a conversation.
If you were athletic, there were your teammates – all those practices together had to count for something right? Plus, there’s bonding over a championship win or commiserating over a catastrophic defeat.
Making a new friend is just not as straight forward when you’re an adult. In fact it’s a whole lot more frightening. But maybe it doesn’t have to be.
I was always the “new kid” in school because we moved around as a family, a lot. Being new lent itself to curious stares and questions from classmates. They asked who I was and where I had come from – which at least got the friendship ball rolling. I was pretty much just a welcome disruption to the status quo of the school day but being new is actually a great way to pick up some new friends. This is especially true if you’ve travelled from a different country and have a strange accent – both of which I can claim.
When I was seven, we moved to Brooklyn from Ireland. I was so new and different that my Mum was amused to hear American parents whisper in the school yard, Look at the little Irish girl. Isn’t she so pale? One day, the curiosity of one of my classmates got the better of her and she convinced her grandmother to follow me home so she could see which house I lived in. That little girl is still one of my best friends to this day. See what I mean about making friends as a kid? Imagine if someone did that as an adult?! Stalker.
The procedure in college is relatively easy too. You bond during orientation and everyone is fresh, new and ready to embark on this three or four year adventure. If you live on campus, your fellow students become like your family; friends for life, surely. At DCU, I was heavily involved in societies and was an active DCU Drama member. Doing an extra curricular activity is another great way to meet new people – and my Drama friends are still close.
But what happens when University finishes? Do people still continue to make new friends? Or do you just keep the old ones and hope that their new busy lives will allow them to cross paths on a regular basis?
Some claim that social networks are making keeping up with old friends easier and making the world a smaller place, but I’m not entirely convinced. I have some six hundred friends on facebook. SIX HUNDRED! How many do I engage in conversations with? Roughly twenty. How many do I just facebook perv on? Maybe fifty. How many do I never hear from? Oh too many to count. And even worse, how many of my facebook friends would I stop to talk to in the street? Embarrassingly, too few.
Facebook doesn’t necessarily cement a friendship; it just gives you lots of information about people. Sometimes so much information that you no longer need to ask your friends about their holiday because you’ve already seen the photos and read the status updates. Done job.
I suppose there are new friends to made when you eventually grow up and get a job. But with so many of us unemployed, how do we fare on that front? When you are temping or working freelance, this can be just as tough. Just when you join a team – you’re moving on to a whole new role. Good thing you’ve added the first team on facebook and can now perv on their photos to your heart’s content!
Even though I’m giving social networks a hard time here, I do have to admit that the internet has a role to play in facilitating new friendships. For example, the small community of Irish bloggers – people from different places and walks of life – come together online in mutual appreciation of each other’s work.
I experienced something like this recently. A few years back someone left a nice comment here and it turned out we had mutual friends from college but never met. Now we work in similar circles and interact through twitter and facebook all the time. All that was left to do was meet for lunch! And that’s how I met the lovely Aisling over at Think What You Like.
Later that night I told my house mates that I had made a few friend today. They looked at me like I had six heads.
As much as I love my long time friends and believe me, they are scatted across the globe and are great at keeping in touch, I really believe it’s important to engage (in real life) with new humans.
Now there’s a new summer goal for me: make one new friend before September. Any takers?