How 'Not' to Make Friends as a 20-something

By Alex Gray | Tuesday 20th February, 2018

For a long time, most of my friends were people I had met when I was about six years old. Later there was university, with its structure of shared living and obligatory social events that makes it easy for freshers to cling together like survivors of a shipwreck in a sea of their own social awkwardness.

But how do you make friends outside of these institutions? What happens when you move to a new city as an adult and you don’t know anyone? If only it were possible to recapture the charisma of that 6-year-old social butterfly, in a TMNT jumper and corduroy dungarees, swapping lunchbox snacks for lifelong friendships like it was the easiest thing in the world.

These days, for me at least, making new friends is a surprisingly difficult and anxiety inducing process. Here are a few ways I’ve figured out not to do it.


Don’t pretend to like things you don’t

This lesson is actually one I think most people learn as children. For me, back then, it was football and as a result I now possess a lot of obscure knowledge about Ipswich Town FC in the late 90s even though I never cared about it and shouldn’t have tried to. In my defence I was trying to be friends with the cool kids, and maybe I still am because I seem to be repeatedly making this same mistake in adulthood.

Video games, Monty Python, cycling, snapchat, Pippa Middleton’s arse, drone music, anything Lewis Hamilton has ever done or said. These are all things I’ve pretended to enjoy because the people I wanted to be friends with liked them. But of course you can be friends with people and not share all of their interests. You can also be friends with better people who don’t listen to music that feels like fingernails clawing at the inside on your skull.

Don’t be cool about it

I’d like to think I usually give off an aura of relaxed aloofness but this kind of cultivated coolness doesn’t lend itself to making friends. That’s because cool people don’t make an effort, and you need to make an effort if you’re going to trick someone into thinking you’re a worthy permanent addition to their life.

The truth is, you have to go after friendship with the tenacity of a borderline psychopath. One of my sister’s best friends is a guy she once had a five minute conversation with at a party and then relentlessly stalked for weeks. I’m not exaggerating. She searched for him online until she eventually tracked down his work email address and then sent him what I’m guessing was the scariest email he’d ever received. She just really wanted to be his friend, and to her credit, now she is.


Don’t do the airport run

I can’t stress this enough. Never do this kind of favour for someone you only half know. Getting up at some absurd hour of the morning to drive someone to an airport should be the kind of thing you only ever do begrudgingly for family members or a significant other because with them you don’t really have a choice.

You might think, “hey it’s no big deal. I can go out of my way to do something helpful for this cool person I’ve just met.” But soon you’ll also be helping to move furniture and babysitting their nephew. And that’s not friendship, it's exploitation.

Don’t fuck everyone

We’ve been conditioned through basically all of mainstream media to have a strong idea of how to pursue romantic partners. But the pursuit of platonic friendship is less often portrayed and so sometimes it’s easy to slip into old dating routines when trying to make new friends. I’ve ended up on what can only be described as dates with both men and women who I was only ever trying to be friends with but somehow I got confused along the way.

I’ve also heard an alarming number of girls say some version of the following sentence: “Well he gave me a lift home from the pub so I felt like I should probably have sex with him.” Obviously I shouldn’t need to say this but, you do not need to have sex with people to make them like you as a person. Of course the best romantic relationships often start as friendships, but if you have sex with every potential friend you’ll just end up with a long list of people you need to avoid forever.


Don’t Google “how to make friends”

One obvious reason for this is the very real tragedy of the bleakest sentence you’ve ever typed now existing in your Google search history. But more than that, you’ll find hilariously bad advice, for example - “foster intimacy by asking questions such as ‘If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?’ ”

Call me a cynic but I can’t imagine a social occasion where I'd go around asking questions like this to strangers and them later saying to each other, “Who was the guy asking all the great questions? We need him at all of our parties!”

So to sum up, be yourself but also be a bit of a psycho if necessary, stop handing out favours (sexual or otherwise), and never ever ask the internet for advice - I mean just look at this article, you’ve read the whole thing and what good has it done you?

Photo credits: | GramUnion