25 and No Friends, Cliques Everywhere. What Am I Supposed to Do?
September 27, 2007 8:36 PM   Subscribe

25 and No Friends, Cliques Everywhere. What Am I Supposed to Do?

I've been out of college for a few years now and I'm finding it extremely hard to find friends, forge new friendships/relationships, or just meet people my age in general, who aren't closed off and in their own little cliques.

Most people in my town seem to hang out with their small circles of friends from high school and college, that they seem to have just kept, and I'm not really sure what I'm supposed to do.

I've never really had that kind of social network to fall back on

I was new to my high school, had friends, and it was fine and all, but nothing really developed that turned into anything long-term, not like the people who were born, raised, and grew up with each other in that small, middle class suburban community.

The college I went to was in an even more suburban and cliquey area. I had some friends at school, but again, nothing lasted. There is a very transient nature to that area as well and there was also a social disconnect with the people; it's an incredibly wealthy, suburban upscale area with shallow kids who are pampered and spoiled beyond belief. It made sense to just come home when I was done.

So now I'm back in the area where I grew up (well, 20 minutes away, in the large city of the area). Even though I'm local to the area, I didn't grow up in this city and just have no real foundation of friends, and things just haven't been happening after 3 years either. What should I do?
posted by MeysterR to Society & Culture (33 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Move. The world is your oyster. Things couldn't get worse.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:41 PM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Go backpacking.

posted by pompomtom at 8:50 PM on September 27, 2007

Go to the gym, volunteer, take some classes.
posted by mhuckaba at 8:57 PM on September 27, 2007

Seconding move - if there's nothing major tying you down, why not? Try new things - go to different restaurants, bars. Go to the park. Explore. Travel.
posted by wsp at 9:03 PM on September 27, 2007

Consider making friends with people slightly older than yourself. Go to places where you suspect interesting people hang out. Take some classes. Volunteer. Find a pool league, darts team, ultimate frisbee team and join up. Pick up a couple waiter or bartending shifts on the weekends...you pretty much get a built in group of pals working at a restaurant or bar.
posted by pluckysparrow at 9:09 PM on September 27, 2007

To elaborate on why I think you should move: You're 25 and you're talking about shit that went down in high school. 10 years ago. Everywhere you go, you're seeing reminders of things that happened 10 years ago, and running into the people you didn't want to be friends with then being annoyed that you never got on the inside. The world is so much bigger than them. You need to flee. Get in your car, drive away, and don't look back. Go to a new city, and stay there until the only memories you have of your hometown are fuzzy and sweetly sentimental, like a Hallmark commercial. You cannot live in the past waiting for it to change, but you can take control of your life going forward. Good luck.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:12 PM on September 27, 2007 [10 favorites]

What are your interests?

I know almost everyone I know in real life from running a large topical message board and meeting people at related events or making individual plans to meet.

I'm not the type of person to join a club or use online meetup services but when you share conversation and ideas in common with thousands of people it just seems natural to end up meeting them eventually. It doesn't even take effort really.
posted by loiseau at 9:23 PM on September 27, 2007


The people who have lousy social lives in their 20s often have wonderful lives afterwards because they read, developed unique viewpoints, and became interesting to other people. Trust me.
posted by unSane at 9:52 PM on September 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

While others suggest moving, I suggest you stop worrying about your lack of social life. The minute you stop looking, you will meet some people, and this is not to say they will all be good people. I am 24 years old, my husband is 25, and we do not have a big social network either. It is not that we are anti-social either, we just have not met anyone that we liked to hang out with and had the same values and views in life.

As a person in my twenties, I can firmly say I am not the typical 24 year old who likes to go out to the bars after work and party every weekend. This could be due to me being a young mom, but even before that, I was a homebody. During your twenties, you start to weed out who are good, dependable people and who are the jerks that are going to screw you over somehow, either via relationships or money, or both. I have lost many friends in the past 2 years alone because they showed their true colors. My best friends are all in other states and I have known them since I was 12 and we talk maybe twice a month.

I agree with those who suggest that you find things you enjoy. Build up your knowledge about life and experience. Enjoy flying solo, you will not have this time again. Soon, you will find someone, date, marry, deal with family and in laws, and then have kids. And all of that can happen instantly, trust me. Enjoy your quiet time and nights of staying up late watching tv and vegging on the couch.
posted by dnthomps at 10:40 PM on September 27, 2007

sounds like you should move, but if you decide to stay, is there a hobby group you could join? running room, or improv classes, or art course, or something like that? if not, getting a part-time service-industry job is a good idea. pick a place where you see cool-looking people- maybe an indie movie theatre, or easygoing internet cafe? for sure you'll befriend the staff if you do that.

also, check if there are metaspace people in your hood. maybe you can meet up with them and become friends in meatspace. (meatspace! i know, right? ...i wish i could say i made that up, but i stole it from a clever mefite named typewriter).
posted by twistofrhyme at 10:55 PM on September 27, 2007

Join BookCrossing! I joined several years into my time in London, a notoriously hard place to make friends, and met some lovely people. Moved to a new town, got in touch with people via the organisation, started a meetup group and now I have a whole range of different friends, who I outside of the hobby, all different kinds of wonderful people. Try it!
posted by LyzzyBee at 11:04 PM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Similar to what ThePinkSuperhero said: I'm by no means an expert on Making Friends™, but it seems to me that you are focused on why you don't have friends. Wrong approach. Stop worrying about that. Not everyone travels with the same pack of people from high school or college onward. Personally, I am suspicious of those who do (people change, grow, and all that...sometimes closer, but more often apart).

Stop fixating on why you don't have friends. Stop thinking that you're the only person out there without your Very Own Clique™. Take everyone's advice: go out and do stuff. If you're remotely outgoing and genuinely in search of friends, you'll find that they're there for the taking...er, making. Realize that not all the friends you make will be part of the same group/pack/herd/clique.

(For the AskMeFi Record™, I myself favor unSane's approach, but realize it's not for everyone.)
posted by splendid animal at 11:48 PM on September 27, 2007

Seconding pluckysparrow-- one of the benefits of being in your 20s is that now you can be friends with people of a much wider age range. I'm 26, and personally I've been greatly blessed by relatively recent friendships formed with everything from 50 year olds to 18 year olds. Interesting people come at all ages.
posted by nat at 2:10 AM on September 28, 2007

I'm a child of suburbs, grew up in suburbs, went to college in a smallish-city-cum-suburb: you gotta get out, way out, like Bhutan-Uganda-Paraguay out. The same goes for anywhere you grew up, I think. ThePinkSuperhero has it: the world is so much bigger than you ever expected it to be.

I'm 24 and I live 6000 miles away from my family and college and high-school friends while teaching English in Riga, Latvia, of all places. I've been here a month, and I've got a circle of new friends through work, and more friends who I've connected to through work folks. I'm not here through a program or anything; I wanted to explore somewhere new, meet new people, and develop as a teacher, and so I applied online for the job, got it, and came over. That's it. Did the same thing last year in Indonesia. And the people I love from home? We're on Skype and Facebook and e-mail and sending letters on absurd stationery to each other just to say hi. I'm flying home in April to officiate a wedding for two of them. Those I love have been right here with me in all but body.

But I will say that my grandmother used to say that you can count your closest friends on one hand, and that's absolutely true for me. You don't need quantity, you need quality. And if you're struggling to find even one, then, yeah, perhaps it's time to leave.

You say you're living in a big city, but if it doesn't feel big enough - if you don't feel like you can reinvent yourself - pick up and go! If you say there are cliques everywhere - change your everywhere.

PS - Welcome to MeFi! We're glad you're here. See if there are any meetups near you over on MetaTalk.
posted by mdonley at 4:15 AM on September 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm in a similar situation and have found OKCupid and Craiglist good sources for meeting people. CL has a platonic section for just meeting friends, and I've found OKCupid a good way to make friends if you make it clear that's what you're lokoing for.

Volunteering is always a good bet to meet people

Check on community ed classes. As much as I suck at art, I took some art classes at the local community ed center where I met some awesome people.

If you do the church thing, they usually have group meetings targeted towards age groups.

Get a second job where interesting people might work. Lame as it sounds, I've always found coffee shops a good source of meeting fun coworkers.
posted by jmd82 at 6:18 AM on September 28, 2007

Do you like anything about the area you live in now? Near family, happy memories, good food, anything?

It sounds like the only reason you live where you do is by default, that you don't like the town where you went to college, so you just moved back "home" where you are "local to the area". There is some good advice above about your friend problems, and you can use it wherever you live. Go on a road trip with an eye out for other places to live, different parts of the US (I'm assuming this is where you are) have different cultures, and you might fit in better somewhere else.

Just because you grew up someplace doesn't make it "home".
posted by yohko at 6:24 AM on September 28, 2007

Join a rugby team. You'll at least have people to drink with on Saturdays.
posted by electroboy at 6:33 AM on September 28, 2007

yeah, move somewhere. I lived in Boston for a long time and kind of liked it but was also really stressed by it. I've always wanted to live in Maine and I finally moved here. My goal is Portland but I'm currently living in the country. I love it here.

I didn't have trouble finding friends in Boston but I find that being in Maine where I feel at home, I'm much happier. The way people socialize up here is somehow more to my liking.

BTW I find Portland, ME to be a very very friendly and fun city.
posted by sully75 at 6:37 AM on September 28, 2007

Response by poster: Tried most of this already.
I appreciate all the responses, I just wanted to add a little more background to hopefully give everyone a better idea of what's going on, and mention the stuff that I actually already have tried.

Of course the sad truth is, if I'm here, it probably means I've already tried out a lot of the more standard things people try to do. Some people have recommended, try going to the gym, bars, try to just move.

The truth is, yeah, I'm the member of a gym now. I work out most nights a week, but people aren't interested in talking. They just mind their own business and work out.

I've gone to a lot of the bars here, but again it's mostly little cliques hanging out with their own friends. They act really snobby and in-crowdish when you try to use even a very standard small-talk-ish conversation starter. They're not there to meet new people. They're there to hang out w/ their friends. The same goes for the smaller groups of 2, and 3 people.

To the PinkSuperHero, I mentioned the high school thing not because I'm hung up on it, etc. It's just that some people suggest that as a natural first step, ("Who do you know in the area? Reach out to some old friends from high school, etc.")

From every area that I've lived in been, it just seems that the natural development of how people have friends, etc. is they hang out with their small circle of friends from HS and College, that they go to bars with, etc. That's all I see.

I've been in DC, its Northern Virginia suburbs, and Richmond, VA, and its suburbs. If that's not a typical cross-section, I don't know what is.

To Mdonley, I'm not actually *from* that suburban area, so I can't really reach back to it to tap it for social resources.

I've also tried moving. The only thing that really ties me down to the area is that all of my family is here, they're all the people I know prettymuch. I'd have to get a job in the city I'd move to; I've applied for quite a few and actually got a few interviews, but the truth is, I'm finding, I'm just not that competitive of a candidate to contend for these jobs in large cities; and when you factor in cost of living, etc. that's enough to make me decide to put the moving thing on the back burner unless something comes across that's REALLY awesome that I have to just jump for.

I hope that clarifies a little better what's going on here.
posted by MeysterR at 6:48 AM on September 28, 2007

I've been in DC, its Northern Virginia suburbs, and Richmond, VA, and its suburbs. If that's not a typical cross-section, I don't know what is.

Wow, so you've been in one little area of the US, I guess the South, or the West Coast, or Latvia would be all the same then. Forget seeing if there is any place you might like to live outside of DC and Virginia, everywhere else is exactly like one of those two places anyhow.

It's too bad there aren't any places you could go where most people have moved there somewhere else, and don't have their old friend from college and HS around, since that's what people do everywhere, all over the world.
posted by yohko at 7:38 AM on September 28, 2007

Move to a big ass city where there are lots of transplants.

I moved to Philly five years ago where I didn't know a single soul within 2000 miles. I was forced to make friends. And none of the friends I made were born and raised Philly, they were all transplants like me.

Sure, all the friends I made have since moved back to wherever they came from....but that's another issue.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 7:40 AM on September 28, 2007

Response by poster: Not trying to throw a pity party, for sure. No, I'm not dismissing the advice here. Sure, I can look into volunteering, maybe a club or two, or type of classes. Those are things I haven't done.

I just wanted to make sure it was understood that yeah, I'm already doing SOMETHING, but the standard stuff isn't working.

Thanks again for the feedback.
posted by MeysterR at 7:52 AM on September 28, 2007

I agree, go to a meetup.

Or do what I did if you can't move, travel. I used to think you couldn't travel alone and meet anyone, but that's not true. Travel and go to some kind of gathering (lecture or book club, religious meeting place, not a bar or club), volunteer, etc. Do what you've been doing, but somewhere else for a few weeks or months. Or, do something completely out of the ordinary, like backpacking.
posted by Danila at 8:04 AM on September 28, 2007

I've gone to a lot of the bars here, but again it's mostly little cliques hanging out with their own friends.

Make friends with the bartender and if he's any good, he'll introduce you to other patrons who he thinks you'd get along with.

I'm the member of a gym now. I work out most nights a week, but people aren't interested in talking.

Join a group that has some social aspect to it. An acting class, a sports team, a church... something that requires people to talk to one another.

From every area that I've lived in been, it just seems that the natural development of how people have friends, etc. is they hang out with their small circle of friends from HS and College

This is absolutely not true, so stop telling yourself that. Stop making excuses for not going out and making friends. Just get out and do it.
posted by turaho at 8:53 AM on September 28, 2007

Meyster, I know what you're talking about, D.C. is very transitory, but maybe less cliquey than you might imagine...

A couple DC-specific ideas off the top of my head: alot of young people in D.C. join sports leagues: kickball, softball, volleyball etc, and they all go out to bars afterwards. Some are more athletically competitive some are more about drinking... (you dont meet people at the gym, esp in D.C)

Find a group house to move in with! Great way to meet people! (getting in toone may be cliquey)

If you're into languages try the Alliance Francaise, or Geothe Institute...
posted by stratastar at 9:36 AM on September 28, 2007

It's hard, man. After college, it's just not as easy, at least for me. (I live in Northern VA, fwiw.) I've made friends in three ways, all of which have taken a while, and my social circle is still not nearly what it was in college or high school. The 3:

Work: Made one very good friend and a few semi-good friends that might eventually turn into more. This is over 7 years.

Sports: I play in several groups of pickup basketball&wallyball. I connected with the groups originally through people from work, but I've met a lot of others there as well.

Extroverted girlfriend: as an introvert, it's great to have someone to drag me (often reluctantly) to social gatherings. None of the people I've met this way has become a true, individual friend yet, but I've met some cool folks and some good "couple" friends at least. Finding a gf is relatively easy these days. Just hop online -- you don't have to strike up a conversation in a bar or bookstore -- there are thousands of women just waiting for someone like you to email them.
posted by callmejay at 11:54 AM on September 28, 2007

Take notice of where you volunteer. Being one of the 50 extra volunteers at a one-time blood drive probably won't make you many friends, because people often volunteer with members of their cliques and you won't have a lot of face time withpeople. I'd suggest focusing on joining a smaller volunteer group that really needs extra help (and of course is something that you feel excited and passionate about) You'd also want it to be ongoing, so that you can gradually get to know people. And don't be afraid to join in on existing cliques, or to make plans with people first.
posted by fermezporte at 12:33 PM on September 28, 2007

Whats up Rob. Shoot me an email. I live in DC and am in the process of building a new social circle.

I recently started a kickball team with WAKA. I invited my frineds and had them invite their friend and put up an add on craigslist. I've now got 3 or 4 more guy friends that kick ass.

Its hard but new friendships can be found.. you just kinda have to work towards it a little each day.

posted by crewshell at 2:56 PM on September 28, 2007

What worked for me was being a little bit more tolerant of people I did meet. I found that I was often critical of potential friends, and realized that I couldn't afford to be. Thankfully, those potential friends have turned into true friends.

Also, join a learn-to-run group. You're all doing the same thing, and don't have an instructor to talk to, so there are lots of opportunity to make small talk and see if connections can be made.

Oh, one more thing. I found more friends when I stopped stressing about finding friends.

Good luck! Your friends are out there waiting for you to find them
posted by ms.v. at 5:36 PM on September 28, 2007

Best answer: For all the haters: I am this person in many ways, maybe even worse since I am 30.

What I have found is that for some people it is much harder to make friends. It doesn't come naturally. My guess is, you live in a place for 3 years and you're not making friends, the problem is not just the place.

Moving, in any case, only makes sense if the problem is that you feel miserable in the place where you're at. The problem isn't the place, it's the way you're interacting with people. This is not to say you are necessarily doing something "wrong"; it's just some people naturally and automaticaly make friends no matter the circumstances while others do not.

A lot of the answers have been shot down, yes. This is because most people say things like "join a pottery class". A lot of people join the pottery class and then nothing happens. For example, I am very, very good at the meet and greet part of making friends. I have loads of acquaintances and have little problem going up to people and starting conversations.

My problem is that I am lousy at transforming these interactions over time into meaningful long-term friendships. One aspect of this is that I am incredibly shy when it comes to inviting people over to my house, or doing anything which requires me to interact one-on-one with that person in a private (rather than public) setting. Once I hit my teens I very rarely went over to friends' houses and almost never had a friend over to my house (I think I can count the number of times on one hand).

I wonder whether this is the case for you. For sure, if you are living in a city-like area there is no shortage of "people" out there that you can interact with. It's pretty clear though that the level of interaction is not satisfying. So it might be useful to figure out exactly where (as in, at what point in the "knowing people" spectrum) you are.

I can't offer any advice but if you are actually having problems meeting and greeting, I heartily recommend volunteering at a local community theater (theater as in Wherefore art thou Romeo?). You can act, I suppose, but in my opinion tech is where it's at. Many people in tech are right on the cusp of being socially awkward. Most of them are perfectly fine at social interaction but are also incredibly geeky and generally just clueless enough to be more open and understanding of people with somewhat questionable social skills like myself. You also get to see some cool plays and learn some tech skills like wiring, etc. The other nice thing about volunteering at a theatre is that
it is incredibly sticky. Most volunteers have been there and will be there for years, so you will get to know these people.

A few people above recommended church. If you are not normally religious but don't have an issue with the deity thing per se, you might consider stopping by the Unitarian-Universalist church to see if they have any youth groups going. Not sure what their presence is like in your area but these people are, in a word, awesome. I don't know a lot about religious groups, but they seem awesomely involved in pretty progressive activities and all the UUites I've met are really, really cool.

I don't necessarily think you should move but traveling is a great way to change your perspective. Living abroad is pretty awesome too. Different cultures have amazingly different traditions when it comes to friend-making and you can always steal their techniques when you get back. But I stand firm to my belief that, with a fair enough population, you really can make friends anywhere. You just have to work at it a bit.
posted by Deathalicious at 7:32 PM on September 28, 2007 [3 favorites]

Church and gym worked great for me.

But I live in a town that is majorly military. People here are ridiculously friendly because if they aren't they won't have any friends-because their friends will have deployed or gotten transferred.

Perhaps a different gym-or going a different time of day? Perhaps a spin class or somthing similar where you actually talk to folks before and after?

Don't give up. Just keep trying.
posted by konolia at 10:35 AM on September 29, 2007

seconding picking up a bartending or serving job. you make friends with your coworkers, customers, and other people in the industry. i moved to a big new city and within 6 months had a plethora of friends strictly made through my bartending job.
posted by butterball at 12:54 PM on September 29, 2007

There are people I hang out with who I've known since I started university. I didn't meet most of them as part of my study, though. And a lot of people are friends-of-friends-of-friends-of-friends, who I've slowly become friends with over the years. Most recently, I've made friends by hanging out at a cafe. Just the people you see most days in there, slowly you get to know them, be on a first-name basis, and become friends.

That's how most of my friendships happen. Months of exposure to the people who hang out with other people.

A small note: I suck at 'making/finding friends'. Usually I end up attaching to an extrovert and letting them do the hard yards of digging up new people. Or, hang around long enough for the extroverts to notice me and strike up a conversation. Doesn't work very fast, but over a period of years I now have a lot of friends who I enjoy spending time with, of many ages and interests.
posted by ysabet at 11:50 PM on September 29, 2007

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