Friendships are one of the three most important relationships in our lives. What makes them different from our familial relationships is the fact that they’re kind of, well, voluntary. You get to choose your friends. You don’t get to choose your family, but you can choose how wide or small your social circle is.
It doesn’t matter who we are or where we come from, friends are essential to our social lives and our attitudes to making and keeping friends changes over time. A 10 year long Australian study found that older people who had a larger friendship network were 20 percent less likely to die, than older people who had no or minimal friends. Friendships change over time, but we can’t deny that friendships are essential to a happy life.
As a kid, it’s so easy to make friends. Even if you were a particularly shy child, it was pretty easy to make a friend – just walk up and ask if the other kid if they want to play a game with you, or just shyly join in whatever they were doing. I remember some of the most fun I had was just joining in with other kids, even if I didn’t know half their names before just jumping in. There’s something that creates inhibition as we grow up, though, which can make it harder to make friends. Luckily for the younger generations, school and university creates a lot of opportunities to make and keep friendships, just by keeping kids around their peers and others doing the same activities as them.
It’s around this time that a lot of friendships are formed, however after university is when friendships are really tested against time. As people begin their careers and move away from university, valuable time is poured into work and home life, and friends might be nudged to the side. However, this doesn’t mean that friendships are necessarily over – great friends might not talk for a month because life gets in the way, but they’ll call each other and pick up right where they left off. Truly great friendships can withstand the tests of time and distance.
Making new friends as an adult can be hard – other than work, there’s not a lot of other options for proximity relationships like there were as a child in school. Other opportunities have to be created, (which in all fairness does take a bit more effort) like joining a social hobby club where everyone already has similar interests to you. This can be harder for a shy adult, but you won’t regret making the effort. Sometimes you might make a new friend just by saying “Hey, I like your shoes!”
As adults, there’s an increasing value placed on the time that we have. This is what will change future friendship patterns – we only want to give our time to those who we think deserve it. Think about it: you’re already so busy with raising your family and your work. Why waste time in a stressful friendship? As we age, our friend circle naturally narrows down to those who we truly want to spend our time with. We naturally gravitate away from those who are not on the same wavelength.
But what does this all mean? How do friendships really change over time? At the end of the day, friendships and people are incredibly dynamic and more responsive to the environment than you think. Despite things like such as school, work, and family impacting us at different times in our lives, we all still make our friends the same way – find people with something in common and jump right in.