Having No Friends In Your 20S
Having No Friends In Your 20S: I’m 22 years old, and I have no friends.
No, that doesn’t mean I’ve been rejected by my social circle; it means there are none who remain close enough for me to call “friend.” The closest thing I have is a small group of online acquaintances, and even they’re not really people I’d want to hang out with. There are times when we interact — like our recent chat about this article — but those interactions never lead anywhere.
If you’re reading this because you also feel isolated at age 22, then I understand where you’re coming from. But if you’re still confused about why you might not actually need friends, consider these statistics:
According to the Pew Research Center, Americans under 30 now spend more time alone than ever before. They’ve replaced their parents’ generation as the biggest home-alone demographic in American history. And while older millennials do get together once or twice a week, many young adults today say they don’t see the point of getting together socially outside of work or school.
In other words, I’m part of an entire generation that has less meaningful connections in its lives than any previous one in U.S. history. That’s a lot of lonely folks all around us.
It’s true that some people just aren’t meant to make lasting relationships. For example, maybe you’re shy, introverted, or both. Maybe you’re already involved with someone who shares your interests. Or perhaps you didn’t grow up in an environment conducive to forming strong bonds. Some people simply haven’t met anyone who makes them happy yet, and that’s OK.
But for others, loneliness can be devastating. If you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, or self-doubt, try talking to a therapist. If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of clinical depression, reach out to your healthcare provider immediately. You deserve love and support, so please seek help if necessary.
However, if you’re feeling isolated because you lack meaningful friendships, here are some tips to start moving forward.
1. Consider how much time you use technology.
For many people, a smartphone is the only device that truly connects them to the world. We spend hours each day looking through Facebook feeds, scrolling through Instagram stories, watching TikTok videos, and otherwise interacting with apps designed to keep us distracted.
When your primary source of entertainment involves a screen, it’s easy to lose touch with reality. That disconnection leaves you feeling disconnected from everything else going on in your life. When you’re constantly plugged into screens and devices, it becomes harder to recognize what’s important.
Try limiting your daily tech usage, especially during peak internet hours (like late night). This will give you more opportunity to connect with the things that matter to you.
2. Try hanging out somewhere new.
You’ve probably heard that you should surround yourself with positive influences. Well, sometimes it’s good advice to take literally. Sometimes you’ll benefit tremendously from doing something completely different.
Maybe you’ve always wanted to go hiking, but you don’t know anyone with hiking gear. Hire a local guide to show you around a park and introduce you to trails you wouldn’t normally encounter. Sign up for a class in yoga, cooking, or pottery. Get a pet rabbit, learn sign language, volunteer at a soup kitchen, travel abroad, dance, play music instruments, join a book club, etc., etc., etc.
Find something that ignites your passion and get excited about exploring it with someone else. Then invite that person over for dinner, drinks, or whatever works best for you. You’ll likely discover that you enjoy spending time with him/her and vice versa, which could lead to a friendship!
3. Go meet people in real life.
One way to overcome feelings of isolation is to create opportunities for interaction. One great solution is to attend events that specifically target younger attendees. For example, my college alma mater holds weekly gatherings called “Get Togethers” where students gather to eat food, talk, share experiences, and generally have fun.
There are plenty of options available for connecting with peers near you. Look for clubs focused on topics that interest you, such as gaming, fitness, entrepreneurship, art, writing, photography, knitting, gardening, sports, volunteering, comedy, film & TV, fashion, nutrition, politics, meditation, religion, dating, travel, etc. Check listings for upcoming events on Meetup.com. Also, check out websites like Eventbrite, Eventbrite Arena, and Eventscope.
4. Join a hobby group.
Hobbies often require groups of people interested in similar pursuits. Joining a bowling league, dancing club, tennis team, knitting group, cycling group, or martial arts studio offers opportunities to build deeper connections with others. Even better, these groups tend to encourage camaraderie and cooperation.
5. Volunteer in your community.
Volunteering is a powerful tool for building meaningful relationships. Not only does it bring you closer to helping others, but you also enhance your sense of purpose and belongingness in your own life. Plus, you’ll likely meet individuals with diverse backgrounds and personalities, including people who share your values and beliefs.
6. Take advantage of communal spaces.
Many cities and towns offer free public libraries, museums, parks, theaters, amphitheatres, gardens, botanical gardens, farmers markets, festivals, parades, concerts, beaches, lakes, riverbanks, and countless other places where you can mingle with strangers.
Use every avenue at your disposal to explore your city, town, neighborhood, campus, or workplace. Do things that challenge you physically and emotionally. Find out what draws people to certain locations. Ask people what they like about their favorite spots. Listen carefully. Learn.
7. Don’t assume everyone wants to be your friend.
We live in a culture that celebrates being open and connected. However, you shouldn’t expect others to accept invitations to hang out without first asking whether they want to participate. People typically prefer privacy and intimacy when meeting others, so respect that preference.
8. Remember that you’re not obligated to answer everyone’s calls.
Some people believe that they owe it to themselves to stay in contact with everyone they’ve known since childhood. While it’s fine to maintain a friendly relationship with those classmates, colleagues, neighbors, family members, and exes who were particularly influential in your life, you don’t have to respond to texts, emails, phone calls, or messages from people you hardly know.
9. Keep track of your successes and failures.
Sometimes circumstances prevent us from forging meaningful connections. Perhaps you lost a job or moved across the country. Perhaps your partner got promoted. Whatever reason(s) led you to become isolated, write down what happened. Now, reflect on your experience. Did you miss out on opportunities? What did you gain? How might you approach future situations differently? Use this information as a learning tool to improve your next attempt.
10. Focus on your strengths.
Everyone struggles with moments of isolation. Rather than dwell on these negative occurrences, acknowledge that they occurred and then focus on improving the situation. Identify ways to address challenges, rather than allow them to define you. Think back to your past accomplishments, notice the qualities you possess, and celebrate your progress. Continue to develop your unique talents, skills, and abilities.
11. Seek out mentors.
A mentor can provide guidance, inspiration, feedback, and accountability. Having a mentor is beneficial for career development, personal growth, and overall well-being. Mentorships are common among athletes, entrepreneurs, musicians, artists, writers, photographers, dancers, actors, designers, engineers, doctors, nurses, teachers, and many other professions.
12. Be mindful of your body language.
Your body sends signals about your intentions and feelings. Often, we ignore our nonverbal communication because we’re uncomfortable expressing ourselves directly. Instead of thinking about what you want to communicate, pay attention to your gestures, facial expressions, eye movements, posture, breathing patterns, voice modulation, and tone.
13. Make plans to meet again soon.
Even though it feels awkward, you can initiate plans to reconnect with someone later. Simply schedule a follow-up date and time to catch up.
14. Put down your phone.
As mentioned earlier, phones are wonderful tools for staying connected to loved ones far away. Unfortunately, too often we rely on them to distract us from the present moment. Although it’s tempting to scroll through Twitter or Facebook, resist the urge. Turn off notifications and put your phone aside. Give yourself uninterrupted access to your surroundings and people around you.
15. Treat yourself.
Treat yourself with kindness and compassion. Recognize the value of your efforts to forge meaningful connections. Allow yourself to make mistakes and fail. Celebrate your victories and your journey toward reaching your goals.
16. Stay curious.
Keep an open mind and embrace change. Be willing to listen to different perspectives, opinions, ideas, and viewpoints. Remain flexible and receptive to new possibilities.
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