Adulthood and What Being a Friend Means Now

The New York Times ran an interesting article today, in which the writer of the piece talked about the difficulty of making friends if one is over the age of 30. The reasons for this vary and can include the fact that one has a family and children to worry about, time pressures, scheduling, and the fact that as one gets older one becomes pickier about the people one chooses to spend time with in any event.

I found the article interesting because while not discounting all of the above, my thirties and forties have been very good years for me in terms of the acquisition friends, both in terms of quantity and of quality of friends. I can say without reservation that a number of the people that I’ve met in the last decade have become some of the most important people in my life, friends that I can’t imagine living my life without now. I don’t disagree with the writer’s general thesis — I do think it is generally harder to make new friends the older one gets — but it does make me wonder what the mechanics of my situation have been that make the last decade different for me than for this particular author.

The answer, think, is relatively simple: I moved into a line of work with a deeply-established social structure. Which is to say that when I became a science fiction author, I plugged into a field where there were lots of conventions and social events, i.e., opportunities to socialize with people who have similar enthusiasms, and where both fans and pros in the genre generally buy into the idea of a community. All things being equal, people are friendly and supportive rather than not.

Additionally, the way that the science fiction community comes together for conventions and similar events works really well for the general impositions that adults have making and maintaining friendships. When fans and pros go to conventions, by and large they are taking a bit of time from their “real” lives to have two or three days of highly concentrated social experiences: Hanging out in hotel bars, staying up late with deep (and not so deep) conversations about work and life, and otherwise focusing on enjoying themselves with others — not worrying (as much) about life, and kids, and other parts of their existence that distract from making a connection with other adults.

There’s also the fact that people in science fiction and fantasy (and also I think in literature generally) are pretty good with the social media thing. While there’s certainly the possibility of downside in blogs/Twitter/Facebook what with complete and utter assholes trying to get your attention, which we don’t need to get into at the moment, the lovely upside to social media is that it makes it easy to stay in contact with friends even when you can’t physically be with them at any particular moment. Snarking with my pals (authors and otherwise) on Twitter or Facebook helps keep the friendship humming along, so you don’t have that start-and-stop feeling that the NYT writer mentions.

(I don’t think that any of this is unique to science fiction and fantasy, mind you. There are other communities that adults can join into and have at least some of the same dynamics in play. This is just the one I lucked into.)

Finally, I think there’s a personal aspect as well. I find it relatively easy to be friendly with people, and consequently, to make friends — and also (this is somewhat important, I think), I don’t fret if I don’t see a friend for months or even years at a stretch. Because, you know, I realize we’re all adults and have lives and kids and such, and that sometimes that’s just the deal. I mean, I can usually tell pretty quickly whether I want to be friends with someone. If I do, then the qualities that make them someone I’d want to be friends with are (generally) not likely to go away. So I don’t worry about seeing them again. When I do, I assume it’ll still be there. And in the meantime, as noted: Twitter and blogs and such.

(And also, occasionally: Email and/or phone and/or other private communication! That’s right! Not everything in the New Age has to be done in public!)

I do think friendship as an adult has to be approached with the understanding that it is different for adults than for people in their twenties or below. If you try to do friendship like you were sixteen years old, then it’s probably going to end up like anything you’d approach as if you were sixteen, i.e., kind of a hot mess. Being sixteen is fine when you’re sixteen. It’s problematic when you’re thirty-six or forty-six. So, be a grown-up about what friendship is and how it’s done in between everything else in your life, and I think you’ll be fine.

I’ve noted before here, a while back, that prior to coming into the world of science fiction, I told Krissy that I was pretty sure I had made all the friends I was ever going to make. It turns out I was entirely wrong, and it turns out that I am very happy about that. I wouldn’t trade the friendships I’ve made in the last decade for anything in the world. They were a surprise for me and I’ve been grateful for them. I continue to be grateful for every new friend I make. I hope to make at least a few more before I’m done.

(Picture above of a group of us at the Hugo afterparty, borrowed from Ramez Naam)

53 Comments on “Adulthood and What Being a Friend Means Now”

  1. If I may please reply to your having written: “I realize we’re all adults and have lives and kids and such, and that sometimes that’s just the deal.” …
    Yes. I remember the first time someone younger than I called me “a breeder.”

  2. A wise former boss/mentor/friend of mine once told me that when you become a parent your friends will be the parents of your kids’ friends and teammates. I’m finding that to be quite accurate.

  3. I agree wholeheartedly! The internet is a strange and mysterious thing, but I feel like I’ve found and made some of the best friends of my life in the last ten years. What’s especially wonderful is meeting someone in person for the first time, and just feeling like you’ve known them forever. The relationship just moves seamlessly into “meatspace.” OK, that sounds gross, but you know what I mean.

  4. Much agreement here. I felt the same way as the NYT author did because I am terrible at making friends in person. So ,uh so that I haven’t made more than a few new friends through work since my late teens. Somewhere along the way, though, through blogging and Twitter, I’ve made some incredible friendships I never would have encountered otherwise and am deeply grateful that they moved from the online world to existing both online and in meatspace. Despite the trolls that social media enables, it is astonishing how much more good has come from it in my personal life. Here’s to making cherished friendships with each decade to come.

  5. *points to the sign on the wall that says “NO Childfree Arguments or Stairway to Heaven”*

  6. Veronica:

    Yup. Sometimes there are hiccups in the meatspace transfer (speaking of gross-sounding things), but when it works it can be a seamless thing. I still do tend to believe that meatspace meeting seals the deal with friendship, but then again I know lots of people online who I can’t imagine that when we finally meet in the world it won’t be just like seeing an old and dear friend.

  7. I find social media a terrible place to make friends, but a good place to maintain them. I have a friend in Melbourne that I met on a forum, and we more or less maintain the friendship over social media.

    The other problem is that I hate Facebook and most of my RL friends don’t use social media at all, which means it only works for this one guy.

    I find with social media, it’s enough of an imposition to start talking to a stranger that you can’t get through that valuable period where you size each other up, which mostly takes about 5 minutes in peson.

  8. When I was in college, one of my supervisors during a summer research scholarship talked about how life changes after college when it comes to meeting people. He said something to the effect that you don’t realize how easy it is to meet people when you are in college, compared to when you enter the working world. In college, if you want to meet someone new, you choose a different seat in the lecture hall, or go to a different pub on Thursday night. Once you start working (and this was true for me), the people you meet are the people you end up sitting near in the office. If you want to meet new people, you often have to change jobs. Or you can go and hang out at bars after work– which rarely works (though actually, I did meet my wife at a bar, but that’s a different story and an exception to the rule).

    I’ve moved around a fair deal in my career, leaving friendships behind, and converting real friendships to Facebook friendships, which are totally different than I-need-a-ride-to-the-airport-no-problem friendships. Most of the friendships I have now, are ones based on shared-kid experiences. Same soccer team or same baseball team, or some other kid based activities. They’re not deep friendships, and they’re not ones that will likely evolve to freedom of political expression conversations.

    The best friendships I have, the I’ll-come-to-your-book-launch friends, are definitely through writers conferences like the PNWA. Even working for a very large corporation by day, I think one of the major reasons I go to conferences is to hang out with people I met there years ago, who have traveled a similar road, and to hear what sights they have seen. I never thought about that as an outcome when I started going, but it just may be the best outcome of those early conferences.

  9. The online community (Facebook especially, these days) has done wonders for my ability to make, and keep, friends as an adult. I’m disabled, which means I’m effectively housebound when my husband isn’t around. I didn’t have my own computer, or my own email address, until I was two years out of college. My inability to drive really hampered any sort of participation in meatspace social activity. I met my husband through an online dating service, and FB has allowed me to reconnect with people I haven’t seen since my school days–some as far back as elementary, some as “recently” (and we’re talking 20 yrs ago, now) as college. I’ve always thought of myself as a bit of a social nobody, so it’s a real boost to my ego when someone I haven’t seen or talked to in years sends me a friend request. I’ve accepted almost all of them, and it’s like the intervening years just melt away.

  10. My thought here was “hobbies; they are useful things!” but then I took a step back from that and realized it’s not quite so. I’ve found any number of new friends in my 30s (and now my 40s) through my hobbies, and they have become the good, solid, long-lasting kind that you call up when everything has fallen down around you. However, I’ve found them through gaming and LARPing and other activities that people are very devotedly interested in or that encourage a lot of side hang-outs in which one can make friends. I haven’t found them in, say, my choral group because it’s not something that encourages post-rehearsal hanging out.

    Really though, it’s less finding a hobby and more about finding a community of Your People. My LARP group has that community feeling; some religious organizations have it. The SciFi Con circuit may (probably) has it to some extent. College totally is a community (or many multiple ones), so it’s easy to see why one gains BFFs there. Work doesn’t feel like a community to me; it may to others.

    “A wise former boss/mentor/friend of mine once told me that when you become a parent your friends will be the parents of your kids’ friends and teammates.”

    I…haven’t found this to be true at all. Perhaps it’s because my kid isn’t old enough to have firm friends of the “comes over every week and hangs out” type? (She’s not quite to Middle Grades yet.) I’m curious to see how that changes over the next few years. Was there a time when this kicked in?

  11. Some of my closest friends are people I met online. It’s a great space for finding kindred spirits because you aren’t limitted to the people physically close to you. I treasure these friends, some of whom I’ve been fortunate enough to meet in person.

    That said, I’ve found it’s miuch harder to make local friends after one’s 30s. It was especially hard during my child-rearing years because most couples just don’t socialize with single parents. And while I love my distant friends, there are times it would be really nice to have someone in the neighborhood. I’ve just gone through 6 months of medical treatment, and having someone come sit in my living room (or even better, bring over food or take me to the grocery store) is just something my friends in Australia and Nebraska and Canada aren’t able to do for me.

  12. I think having strong hobbies is a great way to meet and maintain friends later in life. I’ve made and retained so many friends due to table top gaming. Part of my friend circle from both post college moves have been made up of friends I’ve bonded with over an RPG.

  13. My closest friends have indeed been around since childhood. My ability to meet new people and make new friends however went up as an adult. Awkward and unique (ok, weird) seem more acceptable now.

  14. I was just talking about guys with a friend of mine from college! I love your books by the way. I’ve got my coworkers hooked on the audio books too. Thank you for posting about this. It’s so great to hear positive experiences like yours. It gives me hope that I too will luck on to some new friends.

  15. Argh. Sorry it should be “I was just talking about this with a friend of mine…”. Eye strain + typing on smart phone = lots of errors. I should know better.

  16. There are some life events that work against friend making – think of the so-called ‘military brat,’ or ‘preacher’s kid’ … whose family moved about every year – I was in that category, and I attended a different elementary school every year until Middle-/High-School.
    It didn’t help to be moderately Asperger’s, although the diagnosis didn’t exist back then … I just was a’ weird kid’ then.
    Currently, the only-child of only-children, and thus having no relatives or parents (both dead), I am friendless … which, oddly, feels kinda normal.

  17. Slightly but not totally off topic: I’ve made most of my “new” female friends (post 32) through the Internet via the local running community. After online interactions, because it’s running, we’ve eventually met in person, ran together, and voila. Next thing you know, despite very different life experiences in many cases, we’re IRL post-weekend-log run brunch friends, in addition to supportive running buddies on twitter, FB, blog-friends, and whatnot. Most interestingly, many of my Internet running friends have joined my annual book exchange brunch and reading life with online and IRL participation as well.

  18. Despite the preview function and the fact that I double check verbiage professionally, I ended up with “post-weekend-log run” instead of “post-weekend long-run” in my last comment. {{Sigh}} I guess the post-weekend-log run is a fun amusement park ride?

  19. I think a lot of it is a willingness to recognize when you just hit it off with someone. Another lot of it is being willing to maintain a friendship. Which, yes, means accepting that months can go by without communication, but also trying to communicate as often as you can.

    If both parties are interested in maintaining the friendship, it will maintain.

  20. i think the job matters very much – there are some jobs that create the same sense of community you’re talking about having with the sci-fi community. I am a legal academic and I have made wonderful, good friends here at work. There is a real sense of solidarity (students or administration depending on the weather), and the same sense of geeking out over esoteric minutiae that you get in geek circles.

    I think it also helps a great deal to be the childless person in the cohort of women my age. That, and having an incredibly flexible job. Most of my friends of my age have young children. Being able to conform to their needs (as in: so, Tuesday morning works? great!) rather than needing others to conform to mine (yeah, Tuesday morning is the only possible time) means that I’m much more able to do the physical maintenance of neighbourly relationships. If you’ve got kids, you have other kids parents to hang out with. If you don’t have kids, and you’re good hanging out with other people’s kids, you’ve got a much larger range of social situations open to you.

    And yes yes yes, the internet peoples. I belong to a FB group of friends that stayed in touch after a message board we posted to blew up. Who’d have guess we’d still be keeping in touch 10 years later? The internet is amazing.

  21. Maybe people have more friends than they realise, but our obsession with compartmentalizing and labeling things blinds then to the fact. Oh this guy is not a friend he is an acquaintance, this guy is a work buddy etc. No, stop it. Do you enjoy this persons company? Do like to hang out with them and have conversations with them? Well then maybe what you have is a friend.

  22. I think that the difference between childhood friendship and adulthood friendship is merely a factor of time.

    Most people have a limited amount of it as adults, so finding them is as much a roll of the dice or a factor of luck as it is location and pastimes. Having shared hobbies is much like having shared classes or locations as a child, you’ll just interact with more people who spend happy-time in the same space as you, increasing the likelihood that they’re both willing to be there and interested in enjoying and being more open.

    Of course, this presumes that the activity has built in leisure space. Science-fiction communities are great for this – conventions are nothing but people getting together to have fun. Work is not so much – people are not generally going to their job because they love it and want to spend all their time there, and work doesn’t have recess breaks. Even if it did, adults are much more focused on how short their breaks are than kids, whose breaks last *forever* and can be enjoyed openly.

    So really, I think that the people who complain about not having any luck meeting people when they’re older need new hobbies – ones they actually enjoy.

  23. Agree with you, John, and a lot of what others have posted in the comments.

    Perhaps some of the “not making friends” thing is East coast-related. I have had several people from NY/CT tell me that it was “normal” not to make any “real” friends once they were out of grade school. These folks have been living in the Midwest for over a decade, and apparently they have not made any “real” friends nor do they feel any need to do so. I’m guessing that their image of “friendship” is limited to what they knew as kids, whereas mine is much broader. (… hey, maybe living in Ohio has affected you too, John. :-)

    I’m in my 60s now and can honestly say that I make more real friends each year: people I meet at work or through business, at professional meetings and conferences, at cultural events, at church, through my multiple hobbies, at other gatherings … the list goes on. These are people I could call on to help me, and who can call on me for help.

    It has gotten a lot easier for me to interact with strangers as I’ve gotten older, probably due to a subconscious sense that I’ve got less to lose coupled with an increasing freedom to be cheerfully eccentric (thanks for the inspiration, Captain Jack Sparrow!). Also I tend not to be intimidated or offended when others are different from me; instead, I’ve learned to delight in people’s uniqueness, as I’d like them to delight in mine.

    To younger commenters: For me, this ability has grown over time, so don’t be surprised if you too find making friends easier in your 40s-50s-60s than you do now – what a happy thought! (@ Keith Young – You gotta do what feels right for you; friendship can’t be pressured. But when an opportunity comes along, I hope you’ll give it a shot: other people will be better off for getting to know you – believe it!)

    Summary: IMO friendships make life so much richer; I’m thankful for every friend I’ve had, and those yet to come too!

  24. I, too, have made plenty of friends after college. And have made several true blue friends because of the internet and fan communities thereon.

    @lilisonna — I have made two true blue friends and lots of acquaintances through my kids. In my experience there’s one window when the kids get together for “play dates” and they are so little (or in our case, live in the exburbs and everything happens by car) that the parents come over too, at least for a while. There’s a chance to talk then. Then there’s another window when the kids get into outside activites, like sports or band. Lots of sitting around in bleachers, lots of parent volunteering, lots of opportunities to chat. I think the window of making friends with your kids’ friends closes when they learn to drive (or their kids do), although there still might be the “sitting in the bleachers” thing as a way to meet parents.

    Then there may be another window when the family starts acquiring in-laws. Although that has been a mixed bag for me. My inlaws are well-disposed to my parents, but they never socialized. My brother in law, on the other hand, has become fast friends with the parents of the guy his daughter married and they see each other alot.

    I have had workplace communities, but haven’t made as many lasting friends through work. I did acquire a husband through work once.

    And I really get the “pick up where you left off ” friendships. I have several friends like that and it’s such a relief to know we are still connected. There’s a great of trust that’s necessary for that, however.

    Thanks for the excuse to think about how many friends near and far I really do have. I take them for granted and feel lonely sometimes and I really don’t need to.

  25. Sorry; should have previewed… I meant when their FRIENDS learn to drive.

    Also I had resolved to call myself Dana Lynne to distinguish myself from the other Dana. Oops.

  26. One more thing: I have many friends who are 30-40 years younger than me. (I jokingly tell them that they are “signing up to visit me in the nursing home someday. :-) Being around these younger people brings me fresh perspectives and helps me keep better attuned to the world around me. Cultivating friends across multiple demographics is great – highly recommended!

  27. Same thing goes for theater. I auditioned for my first community theater play on my 30th birthday, and I’ve been making friends at every show ever since. Anything that surrounds a shared experience that people are passionate about can bring you some new friends, I think.

  28. I think you’re right that as you get older, social structure is a huge factor in making and maintaining friendships.

    I’m in my mid-forties, and my husband is a decade older. A couple of years ago, we thought about celebrating our anniversary with a party and realized that we had practically no one to invite. In my 20s we had friends, and in my 30s we socialized mostly our kids’ friends’ and classmates’ parents, but by the time I hit my 40s, our social circle had dwindled to a handful.

    We also had more free time, so we rejoined the Society for Creative Anachronism. We found another interest group that met once a month within driving distance. We got more active in the local small business community. Suddenly we were in touch with a lot more like-minded people. And wouldn’t you know it, we clicked with a bunch of them! They didn’t all become close friends, but if we threw an anniversary party this year, we’d have plenty of people to invite.

    I think socializing and making friends becomes more…intentional as you get older. Opportunities are still there, but you have to seek them out rather than just falling into them.

  29. @CrockOfSchmidt: through much of my 30’s that’s why I didn’t actually have any friends. My social circle largely consisted of parents of my kids, and I had zero in common with them except kids. That’s not enough for a meaningful friendship. I’ve since branched out and developed hobbies and social circle that have nothing to do with my kids and made a bunch of great friends. Some of whom also have really cool kids that my kids like to hang out with, conveniently enough.

  30. I was just recently thinking the same thing about professional conferences in my field. Lots of people who are trained to see the world like I do, similar life experiences, professional behavior. It just seems easy to make friends. Or “conference buddies” at least.

  31. Argh! Got interrupted and forgot to add:

    The online world has been awesome for meeting people and making friends. I don’t really do FB or Twitter, but have met people from all over through forums and message boards, the blog community (or various blog communities) and online writing and critique groups. And I keep in touch – a lot! – via email.

  32. The book community in general is a great community, one I encountered at the age of 30. Certainly fallible at times, but one where I have found a great enjoyment socially and intellectually. It’s almost incestuous in some ways as friends shift around either due to personal lives or professional, but the friendships remain. Being connected by this love of story-telling is key to it all, I feel. There is creativity and wonder in that mix and while personalities abound in the industry, we’re all touched by this truth.

    My time in the book business was one of the best times as an adult. I’ve yet to surpass that achievement. Like a huge gong the sound of it still resonates within earshot. And best of all, I met my wife within that community. She’s a literary nut and I’m a scifi geek, but we both know that’s just two sides to the same coin (or 2 sides to a 20 sided die!).

  33. In my and my wife’s cases, we wen through a period in our 20s and 30s where we mostly had work friends, because we were, for the most part, involved in work, then involved in the raising of young children. So in our 30s there wasn’t a hell of a lot of time between young kids and jobs to, you know, socialize, although we did. What, for us, created a lot of what I assume will be life-long friends, was, interestingly enough, band boosters. By being involved with the school system’s band boosters (me as secretary, Leanne as president), we have tripped into friends our own age in our community who had something in common then (besides, you know, margaritas, chips and salsa, a commonality that continues), but whom we connected with on other levels and found other things we were into (bicycling, some travel, etc). Also, when the kids-are-old-enough-for-you-to-leave-them-at-home thing happens, it’s a lot easier to have a social life. And with the empty-nester thing happening in about 10 months, give or take (my youngest is a senior in high school, the oldest a senior in college), I imagine we’ll have more of the same.

  34. Wow. In my teens and twenties I was pretty much an utter incompetent at making friends; if I had not learned to do better, I’d’ve died of loneliness.

    I’ve found it much, much, MUCH easier as an adult. A big part has been learning to release the blithe, arrogant judgmentalism of youth, which required experience; another big element was growing a sense of competence in life, which required experience; another key part was learning not to take everything SO SRSLY. Which required experience.

    I think I mostly feel sorry for the writer of the article.

  35. Thanks for sharing this! I have to agree that it does depend on someone’s situation (and personality/outlook) in life whether or not they would have more difficulty making friends past the age of 30. And imo, people tend to get more sucked into ‘just their lives’ after or around that age because they tend to have more responsibilities (like you said, children/family, etc).. It definitely depends on the person. I really enjoyed this article though.

  36. As someone trying to expand my social circle a bit, lately, I definitely find this subject interesting.

    Making work friends largely depends on where you work, I think. My immediate co-workers are nice girls, but I have no interest in getting to know them, or they me–we come in, we do our individual Internet-based jobs, we leave, and we were all secretly delighted, I suspect, when the people who were big on Birthday Ice Cream and Monday Bagel Chat found jobs elsewhere.* Maybe if what we did was more important, we’d have the kind of connections I saw on Sorkin dramas, or from my parents who worked at private schools, but “I hope this helps someone; at least, it doesn’t make me feel dirty” is the best any of my day-job projects do. We spend time *at* work, but emotionally I doubt that any of us are really involved *in* work.

    (My authorial work definitely hits the emotional-involvement button, but not the geographical proximity one. I’m hoping one day to have money/vacation time enough to go to one of the conferences.)

    I also live in Boston, where anyone talking to strangers in public spaces (modulo being an eighty-year-old tourist) is by default either hitting on them, trying to tell them the good news about Xenu, asking for money, or under the influence of many chemicals.** (Occasionally a woman can admire another woman’s fashion sense, or anyone can make a pointed observation about how the T is once again late and Governor Baker should have his face eaten by weevils.) And I’m fine with this: in public, I’m trying to get somewhere, or I have a book, and that book is more interesting than you.

    Basically, I’m really not interested in making friends by what I think of as the pinball method–we both happen to be in the same place at the same time, and have nothing else in common as far as we know–so things like religious events, volunteering, dancing, and other low-pressure group activities have been good for me. It’s good to have a non-talking activity, so that meeting people isn’t “and now make conversation for three hours,” and things can evolve more naturally. has been promising for that so far: like a grownup version of the college activities fair.

    I second or fifth or whatever the notion that being able to keep up remote friendships, pick up where you left off, etc. helps a lot. One of my best friends lives in Washington and I’ve got other good friends in California, New York, etc: gives me a reason for road trips. And most of my friends here have kids, and jobs, and I’m a bit of an introvert myself, so being able to think of “close friend” and “I see you every couple weeks for lunch” in the same category is useful. :)

    * Financially successful adulthood: when “buy your own damn donuts and read the Internet” becomes the better option.
    ** Recently, I ended up in blog discussion with One Of Those Guys, who was very offended that women always assumed he was hitting on them when he talked to them on the subway and wondered why we did that. And I answered: because you don’t look like you need spare change (and most of those folks are refreshingly direct and non-intrusive), you don’t have pinwheel eyes and a button-down shirt, and you don’t reek of secondhand beer. “Ugh, he wants to get in my pants,” is actually the most flattering assumption–to *you*.

  37. I’m 53 and have no friends. I’ve never had a girlfriend. At this point in my life I finally realize and accept that is not going to change. Which doesn’t mean that I don’t feel lonely. I do. I just suck it up and Deal With It.

    I’ve been going to SF conventions two or three a year for over a quarter of a century. While I get involved in panel and consuite discussions, I never seem to make any lasting acquaintances. Everyone I meet seems to already have their close circle of friends and I feel like I’m an intruder. I’m not confident enough to ask anyone if they would like to meet after the con. I don’t understand how you do that! What are the signals that someone would like to continue the interaction beyond the con? I don’t know!

    I’ve just never understood how to make friends. I could go into more details but this is not the place.

  38. I just re-read the article and noted that it cited a study of how friendships formed based on . . . (as far as I could tell) social norms of middle-class white folks in the 1950s. I suppose I should be glad it didn’t go on to ramble about cocktail hour and joining the PTA.

    It just made me come back, again, to a headshaking wonderment at the incredibly narrow definition of “friendship” that the article seems to assume is universal.

  39. I partly agree, but partly disagree. Mostly,I think the author doesn’t have a long enough view yet.

    The background facts first – I’m a 62-year old man, married almost forty years, with two kids in their early and mid-30s respectively, and two small grandchildren.

    Part of our experience is almost completely age-based. From about 30 to 50, my friendmaking fell off much like the article describes. But after 50, the trend started to reverse. In the last ten years I’ve made a number of new friends, the majority of whom are now entering their 30s. In the past four or five years I’ve made friends with people in the 50-60 range, mostly folks whose kids have also just left home. We’ve made friends of all ages who simply don’t have children, and are either firmly single or happily married. There have been a number of ‘recovered’ friends, folks who we started losing track of when our kids were born and pretty much lost completely when theirs were. Now that we’re all empty-nesters again, we’re finding that a lot of what we liked about those people are still present today – and vice-versa, apparently. (To be honest, there have also been a few cases of re-meeting some ‘lost’ friends and wondering what we ever liked about them 30 years ago.)

    Another part of the change is simply a function of available time. In spite of best efforts, you cannot be a close intimate of 30 people and still maintain your family. Family comes first, and that has a ruthless weeding process on the development and maintenance of friendships. Now we spend much less time maintaining our children, and we’ve have gotten both good at and efficient about being a couple. That last is a double win – not only is the relationship better, we also have more time for making and maintaining friendships.

    Lastly, the continued improving relationship and more time to spend means there is less urge to have matched-pair coupled friends. I have my friends (some of whom are couples), she has her friends (some of whom are couples), and we have our friends (some of whom are singletons).

    All in all, the luxury of time and the gift of trust have given us a new and returned friends. The new set is spread across a wider range of ages and relationships, and are much more real friendships than some of the ones made because we happened to attend the same college or live on the same street.

    So the piece is right – but it’s only a snapshot, not a good overall picture.

  40. As I’ve described in a Mathematical Sociology paper, previewed on my Facebook and email network, I proved that John Scalzi is right — with equations.
    John wrote: “I moved into a line of work with a deeply-established social structure. Which is to say that when I became a science fiction author, I plugged into a field where there were lots of conventions and social events, i.e., opportunities to socialize with people who have similar enthusiasms, and where both fans and pros in the genre generally buy into the idea of a community. All things being equal, people are friendly and supportive rather than not.”
    What I perfected was a derivation of a “folk theorem” in the Science of Social and Organizational Systems, i.e. — everyone knew it, but could give no citation.
    In the old words, this not being a soapbox for equations, “The Structure of an Organization Changes Due to Internal or External Pressure.”
    Then they can’t define “Structure,” the measure of “Change”, “Internal Pressure,” “External Pressure.” — in Scalzi’s example — that showed deep understanding in comments herein — “Internal Pressure” in your social network includes demographic shifts (i.e. “What’s the Golden Age of Science Fiction”, and “External Pressure” includes the crash of pulp magazine distribution, the rise of Adult Fantasy from Toliien being pirated, the surge of Trilogies” and so forth.
    A good overview is in Utopian Studies Vol. 12, No. 2, 2001
    Reviewed Work: The Time Machines: The Story of the Science-Fiction Pulp Magazines from the Beginning to 1950 by Mike Ashley
    Review by: Andy Sawyer
    Utopian Studies
    Vol. 12, No. 2 (2001), pp. 251-253
    Published by: Penn State University Press
    Stable URL:

  41. One of the best things I have ever read about friendship came from this blog, over a decade ago. It addressed how to deal with friendships which have gone dormant, but are worth reviving. Most of us have people like this in our lives — we used to be close, but life has taken us in other directions, and so we have let the friendship drift away. It’s worth reading, if you haven’t.

    It can be so hard to reboot things. But this sentence is such a nice way out: “The secret, I’ve found, is simple: Assume that the friendship has survived.” That has proven true every time I’ve been brave enough to reconnect with people who are (or, at least, were) important to me. It has made my life richer in countless ways.

  42. A wise former boss/mentor/friend of mine once told me that when you become a parent your friends will be the parents of your kids’ friends and teammates. I’m finding that to be quite accurate.

    That’s interesting: I’m not finding that at all. There are parents of friends of the spawn with whom we are friendly, but not, in a major way and with one exception, friends. We don’t socialise with parents-of.

    But then, we’re an odd bunch. I’m almost a decade older than my partner, anyway – which means our friend-group is perhaps more heterogeneous than for many couples (we went to a party at her sister’s place, and I realised that everyone there was around the same age, status, and so on- it was all a bit Stepford).

    The BestBeloved plays in a rather good amateur national orchestra, so we have a friend-group that stems from that. And I have a friend-group that has its origins in a Usenet group, and another from a climbing club where I used to be a member.

    And I believe I have at least one maintained friend from every school or college I’ve attended, and every job I’ve worked. I’m reasonably good at making friends; I’m excellent at keeping them.

    And social media has made it so much easier to keep in contact with some of the further-flung ones, and making new ones.

    I do believe that more than half of my current friends are people I’ve met after 40, and no few after 50.

    So – I’m not recognising the effect at all. Perhaps the secret is that the friends are people we’ve met doing something, rather than just hanging around in bars or clubs.

  43. @stevecsimmons – I have similar experiences to you. I think one reason is that we have friends who are not all our age plus-or-minus a couple of years: our friends range from 30 years younger than her to 20 years older than me- a range of almost 60 years.

  44. I started running in my late 30’s (am now 49) and while training with a beginner’s 5k class and a later half marathon class at YMCA found wonderful running friends. My running friends are both male and female and diverse in age, race, income, education, parental status and other ways.

    I’ve had health issues not allowing me to run and I miss my social running times immensely. We do make time to get together but it is not the same as running/talking for two hours. Sweat, effort, and pain cement those running friendships.

    I have friends from school and friends I used to work with and maintain those near and far by all the communication methods available. I love love love that my friends and I don’t fret when we don’t see or speak with each other for a while. We pick right up where we left off, and if needed and possible with time, distance, and available cash we would drop everything and help each other if needed.

    John, I haven’t commented before- love your books, blog, and Twitter-SARCASM and sincerity. I use my public library religiously but your books I buy and put in my home library.

  45. I have actually found it easier to make good friends in the last 10 years (41, now). Part of it is that I’m a bit less arogant than I used to be. Another part is that the new friends are mostly people I’ve met through the few old friends that I care to still be friends with. Quality over quantity. From a social perspective, my mid-30s and early 40s have been a golden age.

  46. I’m late to this, but I wanted to say that I’m delighted to be one of your adult-made friends, John. And indeed, to have met so many great people and to have made the friendships I have in the sci-fi community.

    It’s not so bad, being an adult. :)


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