Going into my late 20's = Harder time meeting people. Is this common??
July 8, 2013 11:41 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to turn 28 this year, and I've noticed a trend when it comes to meeting people as I get older. It's become a lot tougher to meet people and hang out with them outside the workplace or school setting.

In college, I've always made an attempt to set up study groups especially for a difficult class thus exchanging numbers. Most of the ones who have actually gone and met up are the people that I've partied/drank/ate out with to a certain extent. There's others who always have something coming up that's work or personal related. At first glance, I used to think and understand that people are busy especially if they work and go to school while living at a distance. Then I realize that some of those people who are busy are VERY capable of making the time to go out. But they don't because they will prioritize and wait for a invite that they prefer to attend to rather than a specific individual such as myself who is interested in getting to know people. Eventually, I've developed that 6th sense whether or not the person I'm dealing with is someone worth inviting in the 1st place. Am I right all the time? Of course not, but my gut feeling has usually served me well as attempts in getting to know certain people outside work/school has ended in futility. Anyone in their late 20's experiencing the same thing??
posted by tnar23 to Human Relations (16 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Yeah, between my late 20s (my kids were born when I was 29 and 32) and my late 30s were a bit of a social wasteland. I make social relations with people in a different way now that I'm in my early 40s. I don't get a lot of time to hang out with people these days, but I get social capital by lots of relatively short social interactions in my local community and through the internet (where I make my living) these days.
posted by singingfish at 12:09 AM on July 9, 2013

Yeah, you're heading into the most difficult years for forging new friendships. People have lots of competing priorities: careers in a growth stage, marriages, kids, aging parents, maintaining existing friendships. Unless you hook up with people at the same life stage it's tough. New parents might form relationships with other new parents, but probably not with someone who's single and doing the bar scene.

On the upside, my mom and dad tell me it starts getting easier again in your late fifties and retirement.
posted by 26.2 at 12:10 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Get a hobby or sport that can involve other people. Make sure it's still fun on it's own. For me it's cycling, I can go on nice long rides by myself of course. If I make an acquaintance who I would otherwise lose touch with who rides, I can always say "hey wanna go for a ride on the weekend?"
posted by Joe Chip at 12:19 AM on July 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

Kind of. I think friendship is easy up until your 30s; it gets harder then, especially if you're single-- because all your existing friendships tend to enter this odd transitory phase as they start to settle down. And to add to that, if you want to make friends with other single people, you usually need to look younger, but there's a lot of ageism. At 28, you still have people in their 20s to hang around with, and people in their 30s too. If anything, you're at a great age to make friends with a wide range of people.

A lot of it is the context you find yourself in; it is infinitely easier to make friends when you've all started something new at the same time (school, college) and barely know anybody-- as opposed to joining an already established group (work, new hobby). That said, it depends-- when I downgraded my job to something easier and more social, (at around your age) I started making more friends there and getting invited out more, and I'm generally a super introvert, so, I wasn't trying all that hard. If anything, I made more friends at your age than in my 20s.

Also, I don't think a 'study group' is a real friendship hangout. I mean, I was never down for things like that-- I always liked studying alone and studying isn't that fun for me. If someone invited me for a study group I probably wouldn't go. If instead I got invited out for drinks or to grab a bite to eat, I'd say yes. Don't take declinations of that nature personally.

If people are prioritizing your invites in favor of something else, it could mean you just haven't hit it off necessarily. That's fine. It can happen. If people already have an established group of friends they may not want or be open to bothering with more friends. But this happens at any age-- like when you join a new school and find it tough to join a group that will open up to you. Also, some people just make/want people to chase them and come to them, instead of being an active friend. They always let other people plan things and say, yes/no. I've observed this way more in my younger friends, too.

I feel it's really more what and who you're surrounded by than an age thing necessarily at this point. I think it gets harder later, but I think this sixth sense about who not to invite is because you're picking up on the person not being receptive to new friendships, and it's what your gut feeling is about.

Join a hobby where people join on the regular-- (like Karate, or something-- where there are sign ups every month) because eventually you'll come across someone you'll click with and who is receptive to a new friendship.
posted by Dimes at 12:48 AM on July 9, 2013

Seconding hobbies. It's a cliche, sure, but when I think back to the friends I've made in the last few years (I'm late twenties too), they're almost all, if not entirely, connected to my main free-time interests. My closest friend I met volunteering, some I met through a choir, some I met through going to gigs.

I think the key thing here is that Uni can be quite insular. It's like it's own little ecosystem with events and stuff happening where you see similar people, and you kind of all have to be friends because otherwise it would get unbearable. It's weird, when you leave that world, to get into the swing of going to events and meet-ups and meeting new people all the time, 95% of whom you will probably never see again. But some stick, and it's worth all the bored moments and tedious conversations for them.
posted by greenish at 2:11 AM on July 9, 2013

I met a couple of friends through work in my twenties and early thirties, but not a lot.

Lately, I've met people doing activities I enjoy, like yoga or climbing (especially climbing - it's an amazingly social sport).

This helps balance things out with the old friends I don't see as often due to them having babies, or distance.

So yes, pretty common.
posted by backwards guitar at 4:28 AM on July 9, 2013

Checkout any Mefi IRL meetups in your area.

Sign up for meetup.com for activities you are interested in. I've had pretty good luck with some of the groups i attend.
posted by TheAdamist at 5:17 AM on July 9, 2013

There was just an interesting discussion on the Blue about this, with a lot of different approaches and some good advice sprinkled throughout.
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:32 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yup, that's how it is. When you are young, you're in the same boat as most of the folks you know. You're broke, you're in school and ramen is a large portion of your diet.

As you get out of school, and you branch out, your interests become more focused, your income determines where you live and what you eat and it's harder to bond with people because you're all at different places in your life.

Think about it. At school, you're all the same age. At work, the age ranges can be decades apart.

At school very few people are 'serious' about their relationships, as you get older, people marry and start families. So there are three buckets, single, couple, family. Singles don't usually want to hang out with families, and vice versa.

So it's a demographic thing, you segment out and you have less in common with the people you're interacting with.

So you have to find communities of interest. You can do it on line in chat rooms, or at Trivia Night at the local pub, or through meet-ups or hobbies or clubs.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:37 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, yes. I've experienced a lot more difficulty meeting people as I've gotten older, and I've thought a lot about this. I think there are a few things going on.

1. Like 26.2 said, there are a lot of things competing for people's time at this age: marriage, family, career.

2. As people get older, they have learned what they're looking for in friendships and will be more selective in who they spend time with. I can usually tell right away who's worth my time and who isn't. And because of 1), my time is at a premium so I cut my losses way earlier than I did when I had a lot of time to waste.

3. There are less natural ways to meet people when you're not in college or working the types of jobs one works in their early twenties (barista, retail clerk, etc.) when everyone is around the same age as you. In more professional work environments, there tends to be a much wider range of ages and interests, so the pool of potential new friends is much thinner.

4. It sounds like maybe you're still into doing the types of social things people mostly do in their twenties? Like loud bars and parties and such? I know personally, I was done with that scene by about age 27 or so, mostly I prefer more sedate social interactions now (having people over for dinner, quiet bars, cultural activities) -- perhaps you're just interested in doing things that are less desirable for the people you meet these days? (and actually, truthfully, most of my social interactions these days are based around toddler playdates, so if you're meeting people with little kids, that's basically a non-starter)

Meetup groups can be an excellent way to meet people who share your interests, especially if you're in an urban area. You'll definitely have to work harder to make friends in your 30's rather than relying on your environment to just provide friends for you. Good luck!
posted by rabbitrabbit at 7:59 AM on July 9, 2013

I noticed this in graduate school -- even with a shared situation, making friends was less likely to happen passively and took more active involvement. Basically, I felt like I had to "date" potential friends -- actively seek them out and suggest events, etc., at least until there was time to get to know them better and develop a routine. The older you get, the more people are pulled away and the less time they even have to hang out, but if you've established links, then it's less hard to maintain via occasional events. Agree with those who suggest hobbies, et al., but adding in that you have to be prepared to follow up by organizing events or just suggesting getting together with the occasional person that you think you might click with. (I'm in my 40s and find that it's only a little easier -- that is, I have to consciously pursue, say, parents of my daughter's classmates if we find we hit it off with them and don't want to just drift away.) Good luck!
posted by acm at 9:57 AM on July 9, 2013

Reposting because it seems that any mention of a particular group even in jest is too much for timid souls that are overly judgemental. Never mind that 99.9% of the advice is solid, it's the point one percent that is humorous that needs to be flagged for deletion.

If you want friends, first off have a sense of humor and don't be overly judgemental. Just because a person has a different sense of humor than you means diddly if you click with them. Even if your interests don't meet certain overly-genteel tastes, you can still make good friendships. There are solid possibilities for meeting people on the fringes of good society if that is your desire. I personally don't enjoy the fringes but they are there, they have a right to be there, and I am not judgemental about them whether they are jesus-loving, Phish-loving, or gun-loving.

Volunteer for the group or cause of your choice. Only you know what floats your boat. Even in smaller communities there are enough opportunities to meet people with similar ideals. Presumably you did the same in college instead of solely focusing on classes/drinking. The whole point is to make yourself a rounded person by opening up to new experiences and encounter things outside of your comfort zone. Again, don't be judgemental - EXPERIMENT! Maybe you'll like that social experience that you stayed away from in the past because you had a few biased associations.

Also realize the whole point of gaining new friends is not just to get back into the rut of going to a bar to hang out. Sometimes a new friend isn't going to be BFF but will be there and get it when you want to see the midnight art film at the local Landmark.
posted by JJ86 at 7:28 PM on July 9, 2013

I'm 32 and have been having an easier time meeting new friends now that I'm not saddled w/ a relationship (I was in one since my early 20s).

The thing is that you can't just wait for people to drop into your lap. You have to be friendly, interested in other people, easy to get along with, and ask people to do stuff with you. But start by doing different activities and joining groups, Meetup or otherwise. If you have any social anxiety, work on it.

And don't be needy and emotionally exhausting. Be the fun you want to have:-)
posted by discopolo at 7:32 AM on July 10, 2013

Also, don't be super offended if people can't do something with you after you ask, unless you get the vibe they don't like you (which is fine because not everyone will be your cup of tea and vice versa). But getting all riled up because people are busy, lazy or tired---that's needy. You have to be a lot more easygoing.

I just dropped a needy and emotionally exhausting person who was becoming my friend just because it is not fun to hang out with someone who is demanding and fragile.

Start having fun by yourself, then start inviting people you like to spend time with you doing fun stuff. Don't just latch onto people to stop feeling lonely.
posted by discopolo at 7:38 AM on July 10, 2013

The challenge is finding people who value what you value. If you value making and sustaining friendships, well, not everyone does. Some people will actively seek out new friends throughout their life, and others will mostly stick to the same group.

I've made friends with people I met in the grocery store, via online dating, at the YMCA, or friends of friends who I "adopted".

I find that most guys especially (I'm a guy) have a hard time initiating friendships with other guys. It's almost like they're skittish about it, like it's a date--"Hey, we should totally hang out some time!" Or they prefer group events, or bars, and talking about sports and music all the time.

Per the other posters, you will have to make an effort, and sustain it. The positive thing is you will meet at least a few people who are as good friends to you as you are to them.
posted by 4midori at 2:59 PM on July 12, 2013

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