The time has come to accept the inevitable: you’re growing up. Embrace it! Becoming an adult can be daunting, but not when you have guides as easy (and, let’s face it, as cool) as the ones in our new Adultify series. Now, you won’t ever have to utter that cringe-worthy term “adulting” when you accomplish something, like doing your laundry—you know, basic, responsible grown-up activities—because you’ll know these truths to be self-evident.
By the time you’re 30, you’ll be able to count on one hand how many real friends you have; if you’re lucky, two. Or, at least, that’s what one of my best friend’s mothers told me during college, the time where everyone and anyone you meet is a potential something—friend, foe, lover. And now that a “friend” is one click or tap away, our definition of what a true friend is has shifted. There are party friends, work friends, internet friends, and best friends. A recent study published in the journal PLoS One argues that half of the people we consider to be best friends aren’t really. Another study from the General Social Survey found that the number of Americans who have zero confidants in their lives has tripled over the past few decades. How ironic, the isolation that comes from our hyper-connected society.
“In this age of social media,” Andrea Bonior, Ph.D. and creator of The Friendship Fix tells us, “we might feel like we are connected and feel like our lives are full, even though we are secretly lonely.” Men, especially, feel the weight of a weak, unemotionally invested social network—though they’d never say it. Through a Movember Foundation poll, YouGov found that 12 percent of men over the age of 18 don’t have a close enough friend with whom to share their insecurities. Women, according to Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., psychologist, and professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine and creator of The Friendship Blog, “are more likely than men to share intimacies and emotions with friends.” This may not necessarily lead to best friendships, but they do lead an emotional release nonetheless which has mental and physical health benefits, like a longer lifespan.
Who has the time, though? Friendships take work. Jodyne L. Speyer, author of Dump ’Em: How to Break Up with Anyone from Your Best Friend to Your Hairdresser, says it’s harder to find time for friends because with time and age “we partner up, have a family, move, [and] get a full-time job.” As much as we’d like to believe that we grow out of our insecurities and self-esteem issues with each passing year, that just isn’t the case. “As we get older,” Levine says, “we tend to be more self-conscious.” She adds that many “mistakenly think that everyone already has their friends,” which, she urges, could not be any farther from the truth.
So, how do we fight this fear of rejection and swallow the bitter pill that, hey, we may not have as many friends as we once did, but the ones we do have are damn good ones and worth working for? Easy. Be bold and take note of the following six steps. You may only be able to count your besties on one hand, but that just means your other hand is free to high-five, wave, or shake hello.