Back in the 70’s, when I was a child, making friends was easy. I grew up with two younger brothers, we were always out on our bikes or at the park playing. In fact….back then, mothers insisted kids get out of the house and get some fresh air. Constant words out of my mothers mouth were “Go outside and play, you kids aren’t going to sit around the house all day“.
So long as we were back in time for dinner….we were left to our own devices. We’d grab our bikes and off we’d go. We’d meet up with another pack of kids in the park and build a fort, or go play in someone’s cubby house, we’d climb and fall out of trees, ride our skateboards down steep streets, kick the football around or have competitions….who can run faster, jump higher or hold their breath the longest.
Life was simple.
Then the teenage years set in and things became more complex, more competitive. We formed clique’s. You were either part of the “in” crowd….or not. Teenagers want to be popular, they want to fit in….it’s very, very important to have the right clothes, have the right haircut, live in the right neighbourhood, play the right sports, take the right subjects at school and basically be everything everyone wants you to be…..instead of who you really are. No one is interested in who you really are….that’s not important at all. Being popular is far more important.
Fitting in as a teenager shouldn’t have been easy for me. We lived in government housing in the poor part of town and my parents didn’t have the money for the cool clothes required by teenagers, so I needed a trick up my sleeve….and I had one….I could talk….a lot!
Blag, blag, blag….I quickly figured out if you can make people laugh with a good bullshit story, you can stay on the “in“. Given my resources of a financial nature were non existent….I had to tap into my “gift of the gab”, as we like to say in Australia. I was told on more than one occasion that I could sell ice to the Eskimo’s. My teen years were great, some of the best years of my life. I was popular and grew up laughing and having a great time wagging school, experimenting with alcohol, learning to drive and getting into trouble.
Then comes the 20’s and 30’s. Those childhood and teen friendships become harder to maintain. Everyone is busy working, travelling, getting married and/or having babies. People move to different parts of the country….or the world. Only the heartiest of those “Wonder Years” friendships survive.
We now tend to be attracted to forming friendships with people who have adopted the same lifestyle choices as we have. Friends who have babies start spending more time with other parents out there, they can talk about baby shit all day long and be very happy. They take their kids to the same school, work in the school canteen with other mums, join the PTA and spend weekends together with other families watching the kids play sports.
Single friends tend to make friends with other single, outgoing party animals and spend every Sunday suffering hangovers together. They plan Friday night’s out, buy all the cool clothes and spend their wages on taxi’s, club cover charges….and booze.
The explorers amongst us meet up with other explorers and travel the world seeking out new adventures. They spend all their money on airline tickets and hotel rooms, their jobs are just a means to an end, something to provide the funding for travelling.
The workaholics team up with other workaholics and spend Friday nights at the pub, having a few drinks….talking about work. They put in 16 hour days and live life for work. Marriage, kids, partying and travelling aren’t on the radar….it’s all about climbing the corporate ladder.
In our 40’s and beyond….it’s harder to make new friends yet again. With everyone so busy all the time, no one has the time, nor the inclination to play the “getting to know you” game. It’s like the dating scene, isn’t it? Finding new people to share your life with who have similar interests….but how do we effectively and efficiently “weed out” the people who are just going to be too hard work to be friends with, or the ones you can’t be bothered to really get to know…..I want to met new people and form new friendships….but I’d rather just get right to the point? I really can’t be bothered with small talk….I’d rather meet someone and just hit it off right away. Laugh!
How do I do increase my social circle? For me, that has been the internet. Some of the nicest people I know, the people I feel a connection with, the people I care about, the people who make me laugh and the people I take an interest in…..are people I have never actually met.
That sounds weird doesn’t it.
Early on, I made friends online playing silly games on Facebook, Farmville, Petville, Cityville etc, etc. They were great “neighbours” and always sent me the required bits and bobs needed to keep the game running smoothly. I’ve long since given up on those games but I have kept some of my favourite neighbours as friends. I enjoy seeing what they post each day, hearing about family milestones and where they are going on holidays. We share emails and PM’s….and send gifts to each other across oceans. We have become friends….real friends.
I also met people on travel forums, in particular the Vegas forum. We’d chat about Vegas, all things Vegas. When we’d plan a trip….others we chat to on the forums would come and meet us in Vegas, in person. It’s fabulous to connect a name to a face and get to know that person in real life. I’ve since moved on from those forums, but the friendships have been maintained.
I recently had some friends come to my home for dinner, all three of whom I met on the Tripadvisor Vegas forum. Three nicer, funnier, intelligent or more interesting people on the planet you would struggle to find….and if it weren’t for the internet, I probably wouldn’t have ever met them.
Most of the people I have met since living in London, I have met while walking my dog. There’s a real network of “doggy” people out there and I have made some fabulous new friends that way. We have lunch and catch up for coffee, we talk about the dogs….and everything else that is going on in our lives.
I’ve made friends with neighbours….and when I have moved house, those friendships have been maintained also with the odd coffee here or a pop around for a chat, there.
My dearest, best friends live in Australia. I have known most of them for 10, 15 or 20 years. My BESTEST friend in the world and the mother of my gorgeous God Daughter, I have known for 30 years. I don’t get to see them often, living on the other side of the world and I miss them all very much. We talk on the phone and stay connected via Facebook these days….and I wish I could get back to Oz more often and see them.
So, this got me to thinking….even though I have made friends and developed friendships in a variety of ways, many of those friendships are now maintained online via email, Facebook and Skype. So, is a friendship that formed it’s foundations online any less of a real friendship? I think not.
Here’s a two big thumbs up for internet friends….making friends the new way, in a new modern world. As it should be.