Late-20s unexpected isolation
December 4, 2007 5:53 PM   Subscribe

Late-20s unexpected isolation. Is this common?

I'm 28, and I've found that over the past year or so I've become quite solitary and isolated, which is not a turn of events I'm happy with.

Most of my friends in the same city as me have girlfriends or boyfriends and are settling down. They make me welcome in their company, but tend to function as independent units - we don't meet up as a group regularly - so when I am with them I am usually the third person, which gets tiresome after a while.

I effectively live alone, as the other person I share an apartment with is rarely home. At work, I have lots of acquaintances but few that I would describe as friends. For a long period I went out with some of them a lot, but that always involves getting drunk, and I found myself drinking more than I was comfortable with so distanced myself from the scene. (I think in retrospect I was drinking so much to avoid feeling what I am feeling now). If I don't make some calls and push to arrange something, I will end up spending the entire weekend alone.

I have a reasonably wide rang of interests, but most of them are solitary - reading and writing are the major two, though I'm open to trying just about anything.

My last serious relationship ended two years ago, and while I have dated on and off since then, and I would certainly like to meet someone new, I don't see a girlfriend as the answer - I want to make myself happier with my own life first. The whole sense of isolation comes home when I think that if I was actually introducing a new girlfriend to my life, there would not be a whole lot to introduce her to.

My question is, is this common? It seems to be that it must be at this age - college is firmly in the past, settling down and having children has arrived as a reality, and increased job seniority means no more sharing houses with multiple people. I think mostly what I am missing is the sense of belonging to a group, of regular nights out, or calling over to other people's places etc, all things that seem to have disappeared as I and my circle have got older. And if this feeling of isolation is common, do late-20s+ MeFites have any advice with how to deal with it?

Thanks in advance.
posted by StephenF to Human Relations (58 answers total) 114 users marked this as a favorite
The best answer I found at that age was to join some sort of club, based on common interest or a shared hobby.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 5:59 PM on December 4, 2007

My question is, is this common?

Yep. Absolutely. Look forward to a rash of wedding invites over the next few years, followed by (or interspersed with) a rash of babies.
posted by pompomtom at 6:05 PM on December 4, 2007

I agree with SCDB, and given your interests ("reading and writing are the major two"), perhaps a book club would be up your alley?

My uni friends and I have organised a "Third Tuesday Dinner Club" -- the third Tuesday of every month, we all go out for dinner. If people can't make it, no worries: it will go ahead even if there's only 3 or 4 of us. We take turns choosing the restaurant. That might be a good way to get all of your "couples" friends to meet up as a group more often.
posted by robcorr at 6:06 PM on December 4, 2007

StephenF, are you me?
posted by mr. remy at 6:07 PM on December 4, 2007 [2 favorites]

It is common! Your are not alone in your alone ness!

And do remember that the wedding, babies and all the rest will be followed by divorces and stuff.

You go from friends coming naturally through school and new jobs and stuff to it being harder to meet people. It becomes an effort, but it is doable.

Join some things, make an effort to say 'yes' to social things. Get a dog and walk it, learn to paint etc.
posted by sien at 6:09 PM on December 4, 2007

It is definitely annoying. I kind of wish there were outward bound camps for 20-somethings that did not cost $6,000 and did not require me to take Spanish classes, work on a playa, or teach kids to make lanyards.
posted by parmanparman at 6:15 PM on December 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

It is definitely not unusual. Hell, I'm married and I even feel like I'm going through the same thing due to my platonic friends either being really absorbed in some aspect of their lives or having moved away.

I feel like my mid-late 20's so far are more awkward and isolating than I can really remember, ever.

I would try making yourself do something out of the house, even if it's not with someone else. Bring your laptop or a notebook to a coffeeshop or library and just work on something creative. Maybe see about taking a class in something you're interested in.
posted by tastybrains at 6:17 PM on December 4, 2007

It's quite common for all types of people. The only answer is to get out there and do/organize SOMETHING. I myself have had this problem do to working from home, so instead I began writing and working at cafes. There are literally infinite ways to find interaction regardless of your personal tastes, just find something in your area and start attending. No one is going to come beat down your door and turn your life around, that's up to you. As an aside, I wouldn't dwell too much on "waiting until my life is better", meeting people and having a relationship changes everything. I've ended up finding interests I never knew I had due to relationships I've forged. You obviously are not giving yourself much credit, as you mention reading and writing, which are two very interesting and life enriching pursuits that offer much to share. Just get out there and stop dwelling. The more you wait, the harder it will become.
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 6:19 PM on December 4, 2007 [4 favorites]

The problem you describe appears to be one of a greater need to meet more people. And as a fellow late-20er I would definitely echo Den Beste in joining an interest group.

There are many ways to remedy your isolation. In San Francisco there's The Commonwealth Club which holds excellent talks that have plenty of late 20s and above people who are interesting, intelligent, and active. Perhaps your town has a similar organization if you don't live near San Francisco.

Another idea is to start participating in your local government, supporting measures you wish to see passed and working to defeat the evil ones.

Also, a lesser known jewel is which is of course more useful in more popular cities but is filled with interesting, open minded, and wonderful people. Sign up and join the group in your city and attend a meetup. This is especially fun since you end up meeting people from all over the world and then get to go visit them! ( Disclaimer: I just returned from 5 months of traveling through Europe and India and my CouchSurfing experiences were all amazing. ) And if you like it, definitely host people.

And if isolation seems to keep sticking, pick up a copy of Walden by Henry David Thoreau and learn the art of self cultivation and love for life. PS, it's available online for free: and there's also an excellent free audiobook of it: ( Disclaimer #2: I sadly only just recently discovered Thoreau and am in love with his work.)

Good luck fellow late-20er!
posted by physics at 6:20 PM on December 4, 2007 [5 favorites]

You could be describing me, to be honest. I even had to check the post footer to be sure I wasn't having an out of body experience...

I find it is an enormous effort to go out, so I rarely bother - Nothing seems to interest me enough, even though when I do go, I have a good time as if no time has elapsed from when I was socialising more regularly. It just feels like I am in limbo in the mean time.

So, it's perfectly common, I think. Especially as others marry and necessarily move on in their style of living. My nomadic lifestyle extended this period (I am now 35) and I am pretty much still in that style of living. But I really don't mind it too much. I'd like to go out a bit more, I guess, but find that (as I get older) the bar scene bores me a bit so I can never muster the enthusiasm. Sound familiar? I have taken to making sure that once or twice a week I still go out and have dinner somewhere in a bar, just on my own, just to be 'out'. I often end up chatting to random people (often bar staff who are very easy to talk to, of course), and it is enough as a tide over at times. Also, Bar people always know everything that is happening - a great way to find out cool events or the like that might interest you.

But. People more sociable than me made me go out. People who I met through a common interest (online, actually, but kind of a club I guess) made me be sociable and in the process I've met someone that is in the process of changing all this hermit stuff. And, more to the point, making me want to not be a hermit. And being happy about it.

There's hope, and it's not all that hard to break the habit of 'just staying in' as that is how I get. Go out, even on your own, and find things you like. In all my moving around, as socialising was initially always alone, my first friends in any one area are often bar workers. It's a very good way to get a feel for an area. Join clubs/communities of things that you like. For extra karma points, volunteer for some charity work, as it sounds like you feel you want to add some sort of value - think of a cause that you feel strongly about and approach local charities. It may even give you something to write about and/or make this part of your charitable donation. Or join a gym that maybe isn't the best, but is busy at the times when you go. There are many ways of meeting people in a low pressure environment that don't feel that whole 'effort to be sociable' deal that I can't be bothered with (maybe you also align in this aspect, too), so be creative. If you look at 'meeting people' as a fringe benefit, rather than an aim, then follow your interests firsts and see what happens.
posted by Brockles at 6:22 PM on December 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

SO common. i actually haven't found a great solution--i did join some groups but never quite meshed with anyone.

i think a book club or class is a great idea, though. haven't tried that yet.

also, becoming a "regular" somewhere (coffee house, bar) start to see familiar faces, then one day it's crowded and a familiar face sits at a table with you, you start to talk....etc etc.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:26 PM on December 4, 2007

Pretty common. Not just you. This is why being a grown-up sucks.

The only thing I would add is that if you don't find a group that caters to your interests, start one.
posted by Brian James at 6:40 PM on December 4, 2007

Very very common. Grad school was the cure for me, for a while, because it was a fantastically easy environment to meet people and if one group wasn't doing something you wanted to do there was always another group of people that was. But now many people have left town, I just got out of a two year relationship, many of my friends still in town are married or in couples, and... I'm just about where you're at. My best advice is to see if you can find several different groups of people that will satisfy different needs. I was happiest in grad school when I had my "fix dinner at each others houses and play board games" crowd, my "go out to the bar on the weekend" crowd, my "gather weekly to watch a tv show" crowd, and my "hang out in someone's basement and make videos that involved bananas and lasers" crowd (Ok, so we only did that that one time. Mostly we played pool and watched Adult Swim.) But since most of these groups were usually doing something at least once a week, I always felt like I had options. So... redundnacy, if you can swing it. Join as many things that you're genuinely interested in as possible, and see where it goes.
posted by MsMolly at 6:43 PM on December 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

My wife and I have had the same challenges, although we each have plenty of friends we don't seem to have the same schedule as many of them. We've found the dog is a great social motivator as well as volunteering. It's hard, we have friends who are single and express the same feelings, it's the age we are, the society we live in and the technology we embrace. Being married or in a long term relationship isn't a cure for feeling alone, so I think you're on the right path, it's possible to be in a relationship and feel alone with the exception of your partner...feels the same.

There's no solid answer but what I can suggest are:

Start circulating and planning regular excursions, the dinner suggestion was great but other things like camping trips, open them up to friends and friends of friends. As corny as it sounds we do a game night every now and then or organize an outing to the local movie theater that serves dinner and beer. You being persistent and taking the initiative here will make a difference.

Volunteer, there's organizations all over that need help for almost everything and generally the folks are terribly social and nice to hang out with.

Be flexible, people have more involved lives as they get older, if you want to spend time with them often you're going to have to be flexible, you should expect the same from your friends.
posted by iamabot at 6:48 PM on December 4, 2007

Yeah this actually happened to me after college when I moved to a medium sized city where I didn't know anyone other than some older relatives, my only friends were my roommates and even they weren't good friends. To be honest I ended up moving because of it. It's also the reason I now doubt I'll ever move to a town where I don't have a good base of friends, it is so difficult to meet people outside of school.

I would consider trying to find a 3 or 4 bedroom place with other single professionals around your age. I know plenty of people like you who still have roommates basically because they don't like coming home to an empty house. It doesn't mean you have to live in a party house either. Also, I don't know where you live, but if you live in a big city, start looking up old friends its amazing how many random people have ended up in the same place I have who I hadn't talked to in years. It's a great way to reconnect with people and you get exposed to a whole new group of people.
posted by whoaali at 6:56 PM on December 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

I also hit the wall in my late 20's. A serious serious slump. Time is your friend here. I have nothing else to add.
posted by Danf at 7:27 PM on December 4, 2007 [3 favorites]

It is not just you, hells no. I could've written this post - I was nodding with every paragraph. I'm going through the late 20's disjointed feeling of having loads of friends following "the script" (marriage, suburbs, house, kids). Me not so much, and it feels alienating and lonely, especially when they drift off to do their thing and I can't offer a cute double-dating experience as a means of spending time together.

It really helps to get out into social situations like what people have suggested - volunteering, joining a club/meetup gang for a hobby or interest, going to a regular social dance (especially something like contra dancing where it's not couple-centric), getting active in a political or civic cause, or hooking up with some kind of socially-oriented scene (sometimes with those scenes, it's just a matter of showing up enough and then boom, you have fifty new pals. The only examples I can think of are all related to alternate sexuality ... don't know if that's in your interest, though).

I can't tell where you are - if you're in a city like New York or Boston, you might have a local alternative paper with listings of stuff to do. This can be a way to find out about regular hobby clubs, social nights, or good-cause organizations worth investigating.

Also, if you can, I recommend social situations where you can hang out with people outside your age group - helping out with local kid activities, or going to a book club with a wide range of ages. This has really helped me get a bit of perspective on life and to break me out of my 20-something hipster headspace.

And seconding the roommates/housemates idea. Just having other people _around_ can be so helpful.
posted by cadge at 7:51 PM on December 4, 2007

By all means, please report if you find a solution.

I would say that your (our) condition is more common than the opposite.
posted by Willie0248 at 7:57 PM on December 4, 2007

Dear Mr. F,

I just turned 20, so I am not yet in your age bracket, but I've already seen this coming around the corner, in which as more times passes it seems that our close connections break off and the circumstances for group cohesion or connectivity also dwindle. One thing struck me in particular about what you said. You said you want to improve your life before getting a girlfriend, and I infer that you're point is that you want to be able to be self-sufficient in being happy. I think this is logical, because if you weren't happy in your own life, than you bring this mental baggage and expectations to whatever relationship you engage in. However, logical as it is, I think the reality and answer to your problem is actually counter-intuitive. You don't sound needy to me, as evident by the fact that you want to be self-sufficient in your happiness, and this means that you're the sort of person that OUGHT to be in a relationship. Some people have mentioned involving yourself more, like book clubs and such, but I would guess that those are really hard to find. And when you go it's already like a clique or a group in which you just feel awkward or an outsider. I think you should make a pass at a cute girl. Anyways, you'll find that once you're in a relationship, as you have probably experienced, when you have someone to share something with, you're more inclined to explore your interests, more passionate about life, and you just feel more alive. You feel like your time is being spent well, and you can explore together, whatever you're interests, yours, hers, or novel come about. Good luck!
posted by albernathy0 at 8:01 PM on December 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

sorry for all the grammatical mistakes.
posted by albernathy0 at 8:02 PM on December 4, 2007

Don't give up
posted by albernathy0 at 8:03 PM on December 4, 2007 [2 favorites]

I also want to add that those QuirkyAlone people are idiots. Though that is totally off-topic. My advice: never eat alone.
posted by parmanparman at 8:07 PM on December 4, 2007

I agree this is very common. I don't have any solutions yet because I am going through the same sort of situation. But you are not alone!
posted by falconred at 8:09 PM on December 4, 2007

I just entered late twenties and am feeling the isolation bug myself.

I was surprised to find that some of the best interaction I have found, in my life thus far actually, has been through blogging and posting on messageboards. If you like reading and writing the most, this can be a great opportunity to talk with and potentially meet people with similar interests. It was for me, since I tend to enjoy such indoor thinking activities as well.

And I definitely second the suggestions to just do something, anything! Computing at cafes or just generally putting yourself in places where people are create a much higher likelyhood that you will meet new people who are fun to talk to.
posted by fan_of_all_things_small at 8:11 PM on December 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

This just happened to me about 6 months ago (I moved to a new city, got a new job, and had absolutely no friends here) and though I'm younger than you by about 5 years...I found a solution that worked for me, and hopefully will for you.

**Place a platonic friends ad on CL and be brutally honest about the type of people you want to hang out with. You're in a large enough city that people will respond. Meet them all.

**Be proactive. The hardest part about moving was thinking that night after night, I'd be alone. Go to different events alone. Bring a camera. That will help people talk to you. Ask people you meet if they're going to other events. They probably are.

**Be proactive and plan events. I had a party with 3 people I knew. I told them I'd cook, and they'd each bring somebody over that I didn't know. Boom. 3 new people.

**I am taking a letterpress class and a photography class. Both are filled with young, single people. I don't know if you like anything artistic, but those types of classes seem to draw quirky single souls.

**Same goes for cooking classes.

**I decided that instead of joining a gym, I'd iceskate every night. I met people there.

**Don't sit at home online. I think the hardest part is getting yourself out of the rut that your friends who are single might be scattered across the country. Spending your evenings talking to them online may seem like a solution, but it's temporary, and also doesn't solve the problem of meeting new people.

**I was dreadfully depressed about 3 months into my move, and now feel as if I have somewhat of a community, even if it's not all there, like it was when social situations were forced through's hard, but it will get better.
posted by moooshy at 8:11 PM on December 4, 2007 [12 favorites]

If the number of people who favorited this thread is any indication...

Basically, no, you are not alone in your aloneness.

And thank the heavens for blessed Metafilter. Amen.
posted by iamkimiam at 8:17 PM on December 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

So common they even made a musical comedy about it.
posted by munchingzombie at 8:27 PM on December 4, 2007

You are me. See my earlier question here
posted by special-k at 8:30 PM on December 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

join an art, life drawing, photography, improv, toastmasters, or similar class?
join an indoor sprts league? i made pals playing volleyball.
start a writers' group, and use word of mouth or craigslist to populate it? (invite ppl over, asking each to bring under 10 mintues of whatever they're writing. read the work aloud, have a friendly critique/Q session, drink some wine, eat bread & cheese).
host a weekly poker night, and invite any new promising ppl you meet?
go on some friendship dates looking for new friends? nerve is ok for this.
go to other cities sharing rides via craigslist rideshare? i've driven with some cool people.
move to a building with communal space (like a gym), or a co-op, where you can meet other residents?
or... arrange a mefi meetup? there are a lot of interesting people your age on here, it seems.
this is a great Q- i often feel like i'm in this boat too- thanks for asking.
posted by twistofrhyme at 9:03 PM on December 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

It's common, but is it desirable? You are seeing friends make a transition you haven't yet made. Social life changes as you mature. There are fewer people 'at loose ends', as it were, and socializing becomes much more intentional, much less call-up-and-hang-out. Stop now and give this some thought. If you'd like to be more connected, are you willing to learn and try the new behaviors that become more common when you arrive in your late 20s?

I'd encourage you to work at this - at building social connections. Things really do change as formerly single friends pair up. Those friends have been doing something almost imperceptible but important: working on their personal lives, seeking partnership, building relationships. It's not something you've given a lot of attention to yourself. If you'd like to get where they are, make your social life and love life a priority.

People who don't pursue more intimate, content-filled relationships at about your age sometimes end up getting a little bit delayed in the relationship department - or if not delayed, then going down a different road entirely. Just make sure this isn't something that 'just happens' to you. If you want to live a more solitary life where you pursue your interests and let the chips fall where they may, continue as you are. But if you hope to have a longterm partner and a group of close friends later in life, try adopting some new habits.

You like reading and writing - how about going to readings, reading at readings, attending bookstore events and library talks. Look around for a writer's group. If there isn't one, start one. If there isn't a book group, take a book you like a lot and approach your local bookstore about hosting a discussion. Start something. Not a joiner? Become one. Try things out. Keep an open mind. Talk to a lot of different people - people lead to other people. You may not become best buds with the first few you meet, but they may introduce you to other people, even other worlds, you would't otherwise know. Go to art openings. Volunteer for stuff - to help put on a festival, feed the hungry, whatever captures your interest.

To keep building your network, you have to combat the natural 'social desert' that starts to occur when your age cohort is in the first delightful years of marriages and serious relationships and children being born. They are quite fulfilled for a while with family life. A few years after that, they'll be looking for more diversions again; but right now, they won't leave the rails that often. It's up to you to reach out to the world and find the people that are still available to connect with you.

Definitely make it a priority, since it sounds like it bothers you. This doesn't get better on its own.
posted by Miko at 9:10 PM on December 4, 2007 [8 favorites]

Do what I did, stay in school as long as possible. Plenty of friends there.

Don't move away from, or move to, a city where you know people. Building a new social circle in a place where you don't know anyone is impossible.

Cherish your friends. Casual contact at the bar isn't enough to maintain friendships into your thirties. It takes work. Make plans to see people, call them to chat, remember their birthdays, throw dinner parties for them.

Find an awesome group house to move into.

Be outgoing. When your buddy invites his coworker along to the ballgame, go out of your way to talk to him. Treasure every opportunity to meet new people.

A 37 year old married guy who has managed to hang on to a dozen close buddies and goes out with them regularly. Hang in there!
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:12 PM on December 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

at around that age i starting going skiing every weekend with some friends that liked it as much as me. boy i tell you, i miss it.
posted by alkupe at 9:14 PM on December 4, 2007

After graduating from college, I spent a year being social and being part of a community. Then I went to a job in Taiwan, and to be frank I was stunned by how much time I was spending alone. I am an introvert, and I have an inclination to get away from people. The fact that I lived out in the boonies and couldn't read street signs to figure out what there was to do or where to go for it, that was a contributing factor. But even so, I was spending so. much. time. alone. I wondered what was wrong with me. And I didn't like it, but I didn't loathe it.

Here's the kicker: When I moved back to the States and entered grad school I found I was much more ready to have roommates, to cultivate friendships, to date, to do the social thing than before. I think it was just my psyche putting itself back into balance. For several years before I had never really been alone, what with roommates around and whatnot. It was hard to find a quiet spot every day to read; usually I had to settle for going to a public place where I wasn't likely to know anyone—but that's just not the same as alone. So when the chance finally came up, I took it, and it was good for me.

If there's anything to this theory, you'll know when to end it. And the thread's got a lot of good ideas for how.
posted by eritain at 9:15 PM on December 4, 2007 [2 favorites]

parmanparman: "I also want to add that those QuirkyAlone people are idiots. Though that is totally off-topic. My advice: never eat alone."

Um, okay, I've only read about the concept of QuirkyAlone, but what makes them crazy? I thought they were just people who don't mind being alone?

I too am in the same situation... we can all be alone together here on Mefi, now can't we?
posted by IndigoRain at 9:29 PM on December 4, 2007

Oh! And technique: Remember that small talk is horrible and stupid. So forget about suavely leading into a conversation with wretched innocuous remarks. Develop ways to communicate that you want to meet someone. Two of mine are, "I'm not sure I can call you by name, and I think this unfortunate," and "So I've met here, but I don't think I know you." Get the basic themes that small talk covers (in its reach for shared interests), and hit them fast: "Where do you come from? What do you do? Where do your imagination and sense of humor tend?" (Asking that third one directly is a drag, so I ask something open-ended and ridiculous instead. Which vegetable is most useful around the house, and why?) Introduce yourself by answering the same questions for them, and grab something interesting they said and expand a question on it any way you can. Notice when they're excited about their topic, lead them further that way, and try to link it to something you've read. Boom, you win.

Seriously, I have met more people and remembered their names more easily than ever since I started (a) going to regular socializing events, and (b) using the above to beat the tar out of the small talk game. It's been so much fun. (Remember, that's an introvert talking.)

posted by eritain at 9:29 PM on December 4, 2007 [2 favorites]

Very common, I imagine. Well, it happened to me, at least. Your friends form long-term couples & become very, very boring - staying at home, cooking dinner for each other & watching DVDs every night, no more group social events, no more parties.

Some quick pointers on what's worked for me, or others that I've noticed:

First, you'll inevitably have to shift your social circles. Keep in touch with your coupled friends, sure, but inevitably they'll drift further & further from your orbit. Have no fear, though - you'll inevitably gravitate towards others in your position (including the young'uns) and they will likewise find you. This comes about naturally, because you're the people who still go to parties, concerts and so on. You might also find that your friendships with certain non-couplezombie friends deepen.

Second, enjoy your space. You'll have more time & freedom to pursue your own interests. You'd be surprised at how very many different things there are to do in your town every week: tours, galleries, festivals, sporting events, culture...

Third, join some sort of sporting, social or interest club. I actually got into a sporting activity purely for the purposes of staying fit without really even conceiving that it would have a social aspect, and now I probably have to turn down more dinners & drinks nights & parties & other events than I attend. Other clubs that I haven't even bothered to try to use socially include Toastmasters & my vintage motorcycling club, because I simply don't have the time. There are so many to choose from here, from reading circles to stich-and-bitch sessions, to sailing or community gardening or rock-climbing or film clubs etc etc etc, not to mention adult education courses in languages, photography, cooking, hobbies, whatever.

I'm tired of numbering these points. Don't discount the value of online interaction. A significant part of my need / desire to engage people in conversation is alleviated simply by hanging out here. (amongst other things, mefi makes a huge number of real-life conversations kinda boring & redundant)

If you have family locally, you can hang out with them more. Chances are you might have lost touch a bit with them during the heady years of college & enjoying your first real pay cheques.

Volunteer work is probably good, although I haven't personally done that during the friends-have-become-boring years that we're talking about, other than sporadic work with a political party (another social opportunity that I haven't felt much push to pursue, although it would surely be a rich vein to pursue - lefty environmental party, you see...)

Not one that I've done, but walking a dog in the local dogpoo park apparently works for many.

Sharehouse mates are good value.

I also drop by my local pub every other week, at least. There are a few dozen regulars there from all walks of life, who are a great source of local knowledge & history, and these people are my neighbours, more or less, so there's a nice community spirit.

Finally, a couple of things I do / would have done anyway, but which alleviated the emboringisation of old friends as a side benefit: postgraduate uni a couple of nights a week after work, and overseas travel of between 1 month & 3 months per year (nice if you can manage it).
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:39 PM on December 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

(wooo - three 'inevitably's in two sentences! go me!)
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:43 PM on December 4, 2007

Host parties, organize trips! Invite people you don't know well and the couples you mentioned.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:12 PM on December 4, 2007

Yup. I was exactly there at your age, except female. :)

I decided to get a dog. In fact, a French Bulldog through a Rescue. He was the best thing that ever happened to me. He forced me to get out of the house. He was a cool little guy that didn't require a shitload of exercise, and had a ton of personality - which inevitably resulted in *lots* of people stopping to talk to the two of us.

I made a lot of new friends as a result of Willy Pigdog (he looked like a potbellied pig). Major benefits were that I couldn't stay in bed all day on the weekends because Willy had to be taken out for walks, lots of people in the identical situation to be found at dog runs and I actually looked forward to going home at the end of the day to go see Willy.

In fact, when I met Mr. dancinglamb (via, btw), he was also in a somewhat unintentional isolation. He told me (after the fact) that he decided that if things didn't work out with me, he was going to definitely get a dog because he couldn't get over how many people came up to him whenever he walked Willy (Mr. dl lived in NYC at the time). So, you see, I wasn't completely delusional in thinking the dog was exponentially increasing my social potential.

Don't know if it's feasible in your situation to get a dog, but I tell you, it made a huge difference in my life.

By the way, I didn't get married until I was 31 and Mr. dl was 37, so don't give up yet.
posted by dancinglamb at 10:22 PM on December 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

not alone, not alone. It sucks, try to keep your head above it by re-reading this thread if necessary, exercise, and treat yourself right. Other than that, I have no idea what to tell you, 'cuz I find myself climbing the same bloody mountain all the time.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 10:43 PM on December 4, 2007

An afterthought, whilst cycling home: none of the activities i mentioned were consciously taken up in a spirit of "oh, I'm so bored; what can I do to fill in the time / meet people?". It was, and continues to be, more a matter of "Woohoo! I have so much free time & there are so many things to do!" ~ my second point above, "enjoy your space. You'll have more time & freedom to pursue your own interests" pretty much sums it up.

As it is, I can probably only make it to about a quarter of the events & activities I want to attend - at most! - and this actually acts as a bit of a disincentive against socialising more widely or trying to find a partner, partly because I simply don't have the time or energy to follow social opportunities on a number of fronts, and partly because I know that opening myself up to more socialising or dating would adversely impact on my lifestyle, forcing me to cut back on things I enjoy when I'm already stretched far too thin.

I'm not saying I'm against socialising or dating; just trying to make a point that pursuing one's own interests is a very rich & rewarding experience, and shouldn't be thought of a some sort of second-rate, fallback option for filling in time.

(then again, i think i have almost the highest possible quirkyalone score, which might also sum the whole thing up)

posted by UbuRoivas at 11:10 PM on December 4, 2007

I have this problem, and college is firmly in the present. What I've done recently is to take advantage of all the free time I have. In the last 3-4 months, I've read several interesting books, both related to my academic interests and not, I've completed some projects that I've meant to do, I signed up with Netflix so I could catch up on all my movies, and I've started exercising again.

My advice is to try and enjoy it while it lasts, because everything is temporary ("This too shall pass."). And to speed things along, you could try some of the social things other people have suggested.
posted by philomathoholic at 12:24 AM on December 5, 2007

Best answer: I think this is very common at your age. I went through this myself at around 28. My theory is that it's a transition age. Because a lot of people transition into Marriage at around this age doesn't mean that it's the only transition to focus on. I think a lot of people feel like their life is standing still if they're not following that specific track. Not the case. Chances are if you focus on any of the other transitions in your life you'll find a lot of like minded peers diving in headfirst along with you. Career, interests, socially, or whatever it is. This is a prime opportunity to make your life into what you want it to be. Socialize, go on dates, focus on hobbies, etc. Just keep in mind that these things aren't always going to be the same as the were when you were in your early 20's. Make new habits, develop new priorities. Now's the time for it.

I disagree that it's impossible to build new social circles in new places. It's just important to come to grips with the fact that making friends is harder and takes longer the older you get. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Part of being a full fledged adult is being ok with acquaintances. Some will become friends, and some will become close friends. But they don't HAVE to be. The really good friends I had in my early 20's became my truly close friends. Some of them I had known from childhood, some I met at the age of 22, but for the most part, all of them will probably be around when I'm old and gray. The majority of the people I met in my late 20's I didn't bond with as closely, but I developed some good relationships. It took me a while to realize that this was ok. Socializing doesn't have to mean bonding. A lot of people are sometimes amazed at how many people I know. I don't discount acquaintances. I am the world champion of "having a friend who works there" Doesn't mean it's my best friend and we grew up together, or that they're involved in my personal life. Just someone I know well enough to call a friend. If you ask me, you can't have too many of those people. And your old close friends are still the ones you go to for the deep stuff.

Think of it like moving into a new bigger house. If you try and arrange all your old furniture the way it was, your house will seem empty. if you toss all the old furniture and get new stuff, your house will be uncomfortable. So you put the old couch in the den, and buy a new couch for the living room. The new couch will never get broken in like the old one, but its there, and looks great, and it fills the space.
posted by billyfleetwood at 1:04 AM on December 5, 2007 [7 favorites]

pompomtom - followed by a rash of divorces?

Since a lot of people have voiced similar issues, perhaps this should be given a name and self-sufficient support societies could be set up in every town... this could be huge!
posted by tomw at 2:02 AM on December 5, 2007

This is completely and utterly normal, and it sucks. When I first moved to London aged 23, I was working for a big consulting firm, doing long hours, often out of town. I would come home at the weekends and do laundry and play xBox, mostly because my 'flatmate' had gotten himself attached and I essentially lived on my own for a year.

I made a very conscious effort to get out and do things. I joined Flickr and started going to physical meetups, I joined a book club (which was fun, but didn't last long because they kept trying to make me read worthy things, and I guard my reading time jealously), I took up scuba diving again, etc etc.

I also got out with an A-Z and my camera, on my own, and did lots of wandering about in London, getting to know the city. That's paid off in spades, because I have a mental map of the city that's pretty good considering the relatively short time I've been here.

Also, have you thought about going along to a MeFi Meetup? I've yet to make it to a London one, but I think they're a pretty good night out, and given the answers on here, you might meet a few folks in similar predicaments to yourself.

I can remember a few times when I was on my own (yeah I'm married now, and have a cat, so I'm part of the problem), that I sat looking out of my window, thinking 'I bet there's literally thousands of people my age, with my interests, out there in this city, staring out of their own windows.' The web lets you connect to more and more of those people.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:10 AM on December 5, 2007

Response by poster: MeFites, thank you.

I posted this question about 3am GMT, and watched a few replies come in before I fell asleep, thinking the thread would probably top out around five answers. And now that I see the time and effort so many people have put in to writing such detailed, thoughtful, helpful answers, I am a little overwhelmed. I've been reading MeFi for a long time, since late 2002 / early 2003, and I'm not sure I ever quite realised the full value of this community until now.

This question seems to have touched a nerve, and its very comforting to know there are so many others in the same situation; I was really starting to feel like it was very unusual indeed, even though I suspected it must not be.

I want to call out/answer/specifically think a few people, and thanks also to anyone I haven't mentioned by name:

pompomtom, your answer made me laugh out loud. The marriages-and-babies storm is almost upon me. robcorr, I _love_ your dinner idea, definitely going to do that. physics, thanks for the Thoreau link; happily I have lots of time to read, and don't need the audiobook :-)

mr. remy, meeshall, brockles, cadge et al - I am reasonably confident I am not any of you. However, I have been experiencing balckouts, memory loss etc; do any of you run an underground combat club which it is not permitted to talk about?

albernathy0, I hadn't considered it from that angle - thanks. twistofrhyme, iamabot, Slarty Bartfast, eritain, Happy Dave, particularly moooshy and UbuRoivas, and others - thanks for what my company calls 'actionable' advice, there are loads of good suggestions here.

Miko, you are wise. Thanks for sharing. billyfleetwood, furniture in a new house is a _superb_ metaphor. dancinglamb, I would so love a dog I can hardly bear to think about it, but I would need to get a new place to do it. Hmm... ISeemToBeAVerb - you're right that I can't just wait this one out.

Onwards and upwards :-)
posted by StephenF at 5:54 AM on December 5, 2007 [2 favorites]

Just thought it wouldn't hurt to chime in (even this late in the thread) that I also feel this way. I am in a serious relationship and I still feel a bit isolated. I adore my boyfriend and love spending time with him, but since I've moved to a new country it's been difficult to re-establish a circle of friends like I used to have at home. Thanks for posting this question.
posted by like_neon at 6:25 AM on December 5, 2007

Mod note: a few comments removed - metacommentary on flight club or existential ennui probbaly need to go to MeFiMail or YOB
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:56 AM on December 5, 2007

I think this is more common than not in your late 20s. I'm not a very social person anyway, and most of my real life friends live 200 miles away. Around where I live, I don't have any personal friends and don't socialize at all (well, except with my girlfriend and family, etc).

My girlfriend is a very social person with quite a few friends, but all of her friends are from work. That just seems to be how it works out here in the boonies.

Clubs are not a solution in many places, as if you go to the book clubs, art clubs, and stuff round here.. it's all people 40+ who, sure, can be cool, but they're not people you can go speeding around knocking over mailboxes with ;-)

I think the best solution, honestly, is to start a business and hire the sort of people you want to be friends with!
posted by wackybrit at 9:46 AM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Add me to the list of "wow, did I write that last night". I don't have any answers yet but am liking the ideas others posted. One trick for me is never to do grad school in a small acultural USA town again. (shouldn't be difficult, intending to only get my PhD once). But until that time it sucks large.

Not sure if others feel similar, but for me there's plenty options not to be isolated, but I miss the type of friends I had back in the big city (cultured, open-minded, artistic) and have a hard time finding the motivation to relate to the other students here. That or I'm just a pretentious twit and am making excuses until I move back to a place where I can meet other pretentious twits so I can get back to the one thing that makes me happy. Eating lots of fine cheeses!

Anyhow, good luck!
posted by Smegoid at 10:32 AM on December 5, 2007

I suggest you take up drinking with college students. They have a zest for life that will quickly get crushed out of the people in your own age bracket who are submitting themselves to breeding programs and wage slavery. The college kids will respect your experience, and you'll enjoy their youthful excitement about the world.
posted by mullingitover at 11:45 AM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

I just wanted to chime in and thank you for asking this question. My (late) advice: If you play any online games such as WoW, I highly recommend limiting your play time or quitting altogether. I am suffering from the same isolationism you express and I'm only 23. I just graduated from college and moved into a new city, and my online gaming hobby turned into a full time addiction pretty quick. I think it was easier to continue socializing with the familiar voices on Ventrilo rather than go out and meet new people.

I've found that the single best thing I've done to break out of the isolationism is to get back into a 4-5 day/week gym (or random exercise) habit. Even if you don't meet people at the gym, it'll boost your total energy to be able to do more of all the other cool ideas everyone else has suggested.
posted by Zaximus at 3:38 PM on December 5, 2007

Clubs are not a solution in many places, as if you go to the book clubs, art clubs, and stuff round here.. it's all people 40+ who, sure, can be cool, but they're not people you can go speeding around knocking over mailboxes with ;-)

That's not a bad point, and perhaps I should probably qualify one of my earlier suggestions along similar lines. I mentioned adult education courses, and people here often recommend those as a way of meeting people, but in my experience there's never been any socialising outside of class with those things.

It might depend on what you're studying, but I did introductory Arabic & Mandarin classes, and people were basically showing up for 2-3 hours after work, and heading straight home afterwards. Most were studying just to get some language basics for travel. Other courses might be different, but I found that there wasn't enough social interaction within class for anybody to feel the desire to kick on afterwards.*

Still, these are good things to do for their own sake, and they get you out of your living room. Probably more quasi-social than social, because at least you are doing things that involve other people, even if it goes no further than the classroom.

* maybe it would have taken little more than somebody saying "hey, who wants to go out for a bite to eat after class?"
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:04 PM on December 5, 2007

At 26, I went to business school A professional degree can do wonders for both your social life and your professional life. And at B-school there was lots of socializing and a second rash of marriages/hook-ups.
posted by zia at 5:32 AM on December 6, 2007

I'm a girl, but essentially in the exact same position. I think it is indeed common at our age. If you're not in a couple, it's easy to isolate.

I don't know how comfortable you'd feel buying this book b/c of the title, but you could get it from the library. A lot of the advice in there about how to deal with friends having significant others, making friends outside of college, and finding people to date once you're no longer living in dorms with a bunch of potential boy/girlfriends was helpful for me.

You're not alone.
posted by annabellee at 9:23 AM on December 6, 2007

In addition, if your problem stems mostly from the fact that all your friends are getting married, and you're not, there are plenty of books on Amazon about being single and happy. Just search books for the word "single." If you don't want to buy them, check them out from the library.
posted by IndigoRain at 10:43 AM on December 6, 2007

Yes, I'd say it is common, or at least I've been thru that: Late 20s/early 30s moving to new locations, away from friends, friends move away, get married, you get tired of some friends. I remember going thru horribly lonely periods and I just felt alien. But eventually I met new friends, who I shared a lot in common with and that really reconnected me. So, maybe the lesson is that relationships and people come and go. I've found that isn't the worst thing in the world as meeting new people always helps you grow as an individual. I still love and am crazily loyal to my old friends but meeting new people and staying energized and interested in that process can help to limit the suckiness of getting old.
posted by PHINC at 5:58 PM on December 6, 2007

So, maybe the lesson is that relationships and people come and go. I've found that isn't the worst thing in the world as meeting new people always helps you grow as an individual.

Another aspect is that I think this phenomenon is one of two big changes that you most likely go through immediately post-college:

Up until then, your socialising has probably only ever involved people of your own age, give or take maybe a couple of years. It's actually ridiculously easy to hang in your college circles, because you're all at pretty much the same stage in life, doing more or less the same thing. The first shock to this system (which has been with you since the first days of school) is when you hit the permanent workforce, and are exposed a lot more to people of all ages & stages in life.

The second is the one described: you drift apart from the school & college era buddies. Either you or they partner up & move to a more remote orbit, most likely in some kind of suburban wasteland, and some move interstate or overseas. Simultaneously, you lose a lot of that secluded, club-like mentality of school years, and find yourself exposed to a much more varied kind of social scene, as long as you are willing to get over the mentality of only ever doing things with your age-peers. The difference is that you need to work out how to go out of your way to find these people, because they're not just sitting around waiting for you in the campus bar or coffee shop.

I kinda wish they'd cover some of these life stages in the "personal development" style classes they hold in schools. I'm sure there are books on the subject - "the seven phases of life" or something.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:25 PM on December 6, 2007

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