Why keeping friends after college is important—and how to keep them!
Making friends in college is freaking easy. We’re around people our age with a lot of similar interests (like your entire major and all the nerdy stuff people in your major do). All your friends are generally within walking distance. Everyone loves hanging out in groups and having events and going to dining halls. You have at least one de facto thing in common no matter what: griping about professors. It’s difficult not to make friends. The hard part comes after you graduate.
It’s easy to lose contact with people. You’re working (or looking for work) full time, your significant other has been bugging you to move in with them, and suddenly going to sleep early seems like a good idea. Falling into the sleep-work-home-sleep routine makes it hard to find time to socialize. As times goes on it seems all that much harder to call your friend who you’ve been Facebook stalking and wish you could catch up with—it’s been so long, after all, and what do you have to talk about that’s interesting? Your social anxiety kicks up butterflies in your stomach just thinking about it.
Then, just like that, six months or a year or two years has gone by and you realize you’re isolated. It’s depressing. It’s lonely. It seems hard to break out of. There are literally millions of articles about why staying social is important to your health. Socializing promotes happiness even in introverted people. Not socializing can lead or help cause social anxiety disorders. It shouldn’t be a big surprise that this is an unhealthy behavior that can lead to mental and physical problems in the long term, but how do you do it?
1) Suck it up and send that friend a text message. You know, the one that you’ve been wishing you could talk with for the last four months. Just pull out your phone and text them—better yet, what about a phone call? Or an e-mail? If you’re feeling adventurous, write them an honest-to-goodness letter (but make sure you have their address or a stamp handy or else that thing will live on your coffee table for the rest of your life).
2) Track down the other friend you’ve been saying “let’s get a drink sometime” to for a year and make them hang out with you for an afternoon. Let’s jump start this whole “keeping friends” thing right now.
3) Hang out with a coworker other than at your company events. What if none of your friends from before live around you anymore? Chances are there’s at least one person you like at work. Hang out with them outside of work for an evening. Everyone likes making friends, so what’s the risk? Netflix will still be there when you get back home.
4) Use the Internet and find some new friends. “Come on, Chris!” you lament, “I don’t have a job and all of my friends moved to Bangladesh!” No excuses. Through the magic of the Internet you can meet up with people who want to hang out with you. Try meetup.com, meetin.org, bigtent.com, or groupspaces.com just to get started.
Go be social. Rekindle a few relationships. Get dinner with someone. Make lunch with someone else. Even just talk to someone on the phone. Just don’t become isolated and let yourself fall into the trap of being lonely, being sad, and then staying lonely because you’re too sad to hang out with people. It’s not an attractive color on anyone and only becomes harder to break from over time.
-Chris McGrath, guest blogger, ifiknew.org