Why Does Making Friends Get So Hard After College?

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It seemed so much easier in college, didn’t it? There might have been an awkward point or two during freshman orientation, but you found your group relatively quickly. You might have sought them out specifically, or been brought in by someone who was already there. Or maybe you all just happened to drift together like dust-bunnies, pulled together by the static electricity of weed and a love of watching Adult Swim completely high. It was easy. It felt natural. You had your weekly rituals – the Friday night TV marathon before heading out to the bars or coffeeshops to just… hang.1 You might have had some rocky times – inter-social circle relationships meant that lines might be drawn, personality conflicts meant trying to resolve things without picking sides – but you got through them OK.

Trying to sort out your social circle drama wasn't unlike binding arbitration...

Trying to sort out your social circle drama wasn’t unlike binding arbitration…

But after you’ve got that diploma in your hand… it all just goes away. Suddenly what was intuitive just doesn’t work. There might be an early grace period when you’re young and you’re working in a “young” company – some Internet start-up that’s trying to make up for low pay and shitty hours with a “cool-we’re-all-bros” atmosphere, say – but on the whole, after you hit your mid 20s, that sense of friendships “just happening” seems to disappear into the ether.

But why?

Well, to start with, once you’re out in the “real world” (such as it is) the demands on your time change drastically. We might have had classes and work-study programs, but we had fewer necessities and responsibilities to occupy our time. Meal plans and on-campus housing meant that there were fewer errands to run during the day. You had more opportunities to set your schedule to your preferences – if you were especially clever, by your junior or senior year, you could ensure you always had three (or even four) day weekends. When you’re employed, you have far less flexibility; even with flex time options, you still have 40 to 50 (or more) hours of your week accounted for. Throw in mandated overtime and the various little time-sucks – grocery shopping, waiting for the cable guy, etc. – that our lives are heir to and you’ve suddenly got less time for bro-bonding than you ever did before.

And speaking of less time: you frequently have more commitments and responsibilities than you had while you were in college. Relationships, especially LTRs, take time and maintenance. Even when you’re allowing for “me” time, you still simply aren’t able to devote quite as much time to hanging with potential new buddies. And if you have children… well, good luck there.

It also doesn’t help that when you’re in college, the vast majority of your peers are likely in the same stage of life as you are – you’re all young, possibly living on your own for the first time and around the same age – physically and intellectually. Once you’ve graduated, you’re tossed out into the world where you may be footloose and fancy free, but your co-workers are older, married or on a completely different path than you are. The commonalities you had with your fellow students that helped ease the transition from “person on campus” to “friend” just aren’t there.

This is why you have to treat making friends differently. In fact: making friends post college isincredibly similar to dating wen you come right down to it.


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