Remember when it was easy to meet new friends?
Our whole early lives, from preschool through college, the educational system made it tough not to make friends. Sharing classes, sports teams, and activities with peers in school and other prearranged settings allowed us to meet people with whom we shared common interests, or at least age. And we didn’t have to go out of our way to do it.
Shoot forward to today. Many gay men who I advise as a life coach in New York are long past their school days, and it has become trickier to find and keep friends. Even here in the city where people are plentiful, true friends and new friends can be hard to come by.
Yet friendships don’t become less important as we age in some ways, they may become more so. As our adult lives move us in new directions and perhaps to new locations, we may find ourselves feeling alone even in a crowd.
Clients have shared the reality of growing apart from old friends, as interests change and common bonds they shared fall away. This feeling can be exacerbated when you’re gay, since childhood friends may have known you as straight. Some of your old â€œfriendsâ€ may even be homophobic.
So what’s a gay guy to do? First, accept the fact that cultivating and maintaining friendships gets harder as you get older. The situations to make friends don’t present themselves as often. So it takes more work on the front end from you.
Here are some ideas about how to keep a supportive circle of connections alive and thriving into your future:
Think quality not quantity. I
n the era of social networking, the emphasis is often on how many “friends” you have, without regard for the closeness of your connection. But as we age, this equation should be reversed. Quality does matter, and focusing too much on quantity can be a deterrent to cultivating close ties with people you really care about.
Talk show hosts often joke about the inverse proportion of Facebook friends to actual friends: that the more friends one has on Facebook, the fewer one has in real life. Although having a larger number of connections can help in networking and business, there may be some truth to the joke.
If you spend all your time reading Facebook walls, then you’re interacting with your Blackberry, not with people. That means the Internet consumes the limited amount of free time you could use to socialize in person.
Focus on face-to-face, not just Facebook.
While Facebook serves an important purpose, when it comes to making new friends there’s no substitute for the real thing. To get to know new people, you need to keep in circulation. And the best way to do that?
Do things you like.
You can recreate the childhood feeling of ‘insta-friends’ by finding things you enjoy doing, and doing them in a group. There is a group for almost everything and if there isn’t, you can start one! If it’s a sport you like, you’ll put yourself around other sporty people by joining an adult league or team. If it’s knitting, you can discuss stitches and sweaters with fellow yarn lovers.
Initiate and invite. Once you’ve found a group of possible kindred spirits, push yourself to make the first move in the friend department. It’s hard for almost everyone to take a risk and talk to a potential friend, but if you don’t do it, it’s possible no one will. Go out on a limb, and you just might find yourself with a new friend.