I Spent a Month Trying to Make Literally One New Friend
A lonely quest for human connection.
Edición de Ben Thomson
Can trading eight hours for 20-minute polyphasic naps make you more productive? Could crystals be the secret to happiness? Read the rest of the VICE Guide to Self Improvement here.
I'm finding my mid-twenties uncomfortable, so far. I'm no longer at university, which was a pleasant whirl of day-drinking and only very occasionally sitting exams. Instead, I'm working full time and living in "the big city" that I moved to in order to find a media job. It is cold, here in Melbourne. It is lonely. I write, I sleep, and I cry. I go out approximately never, and rely on my boyfriend for all emotional support.
I realise things would be easier if I had a social life. But making friends as an adult is hard. Like, it is actually really hard and I wish people would talk about that more? Over the past year, I've met maybe ten new people. And I think I've managed to trick approximately two of them into a level of friendship that nonetheless still borders on acquaintance.
Lately, I've sincerely (although technically for the purposes of a VICE article) decided to make some changes. Below is an honest account of everything I learned trying to make a single new friend over the course of one desperate month.
- Obviously to form a Sex and the City-style gang of girlfriends to drink cocktails with, although not in a deranged way like in that episode of Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
- To befriend charming traveller types who will let me stay on their couch for free when I finally have my nervous breakdown and buy that around-the-world ticket.
- Find a friend outside of the liberal bubble who I can convert to my superior way of thinking.
- Make a brutally honest friend who will call me out on my bullshit (a lot to deal with here, they'll have to be high energy).
- To gain a friend who is an influencer or celebrity, and can get me free sneakers or entry to events, or something.
More Realistic Friendship Dreams
Just make one friend. Any friend. Someone proximate to me in age and experience who will want to hang out sometimes, maybe we can see that new Steven Soderbergh movie together? Or whatever, I'm easy!!!!
What I Can Offer in Return
I know friendship is a two-way street, which is why I wrote this extensive list of my own positive attributes that would, at least in theory, make me a pretty good and desirable friend:
- I own my own car, which although small and filled with cheeseburger wrappers would be suitable for giving airport lifts and helping people move house.
- I am pretty comfortable giving unsolicited or solicited advice.
- I am an enthusiastic Instagram story viewer.
- I don't ghost on the group chat, as a strict rule.
COMMON FRIEND-MAKING TECHNIQUE 1: Develop a hobby and meet fellow enjoyers of that hobby
You hear this one a lot, and it seems reasonable enough at first glance. Literally what is a hobby, though? Adults are meant to have hobbies so we can list them on our online dating profiles, but because most people don't do any leisure activities beyond watching HBO and going to the gym and breathing air, this is a bizarre requirement. Hobbies are basically for children who need to be entertained after school, and retirees who need a distraction from what's coming. When I think of hobbies, the first two that come to mind are stamp collecting and horse riding. Neither of those interest me, at this moment.
You know what hobby I really embrace? Drinking in a pub that does good chips. But as I learned a couple of months ago the hard way, it's not deemed acceptable to tell people this in job interviews.
COMMON FRIEND-MAKING TECHNIQUE 2: Meet people through the workplace
COMMON FRIEND-MAKING TECHNIQUE 3: Be inherently charismatic
I do not think I am an uninteresting person. I have some self esteem. However: I do not possess whatever thing it is that makes people automatically like you, and am reasonably at peace with this. Unfortunately, it became obvious early in this experiment that in order to find a friend, I would have to "put myself out there" in the manner of a recently divorced middle-aged woman with a desperation-tinged new lease on life.
Setting a Target
When I first moved to Melbourne, I did this thing that is extremely embarrassing to look back upon: message a bunch of cool strangers on Facebook who I had mutual friends with, and ask if they wanted to hang out. The friendship equivalent of sending an unsolicited dick pic. It did not work out well.
So, having been burned before, I decided to comb through my life and specifically identify people who had expressed interest in spending time with me in the recent past. That way, they'd feel like they had no choice but to engage. My chosen target was Claire, a local comedian. I had seen her around, we'd swapped banter, followed each other on all the important social media platforms. She'd recently messaged asking me if I was attending a party—I saw my opportunity, and pounced.
Claire later confessed that I was the third person she'd messaged about going to said party—and the only one who had said yes. But we had a good time, took some selfies together, talked about boys. We felt compatible, and even arranged a follow up hangout.
Playing the Field
While things were going alright with Claire, it seemed prudent to keep my options open. Play the field, a little bit. The least taxing way to do this, it appeared to me, would be to post an open Twitter call out:
I disclosed the fact I was writing an article in order to avoid a How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days situation. Honesty! That's a quality I bring to any potential friendship. This exercise had predictable consequences: a male Twitter user whose advances I'd been ignoring immediately took the opportunity to reach out. I was forced to issue a clarification:
Unfortunately, asking the internet to be your friend is really stressful, even if you have as few followers as I do.
I became too anxious about replying to everyone, and logged out. Sorry to all my potential online mates.
At this point in the process, I found myself in need of motivation and inspiration. Spiritual guidance. What religion or a premium Netflix subscription are to many people, celebrity gossip is to me. As such, I was eager to consult some A-listers on the topic of friendship, so I went to a listicle site—one of those ones where you have to click through to a new page to see each new celebrity quote.
"No matter how tired I am, I get dinner at least once a week with my girlfriends. Or have a sleepover. Otherwise my life is just all work."—Jennifer Lawrence, actor, on friendship
"Friends are the best to turn to when you're having a rough day."—Justin Bieber, singer, on friendship
"We come from homes far from perfect, so you end up almost parent and sibling to your friends – your own chosen family. There's nothing like a really loyal, dependable, good friend. Nothing."—Jennifer Aniston, actor and star of a show about friendship, on friendship
Mmmm, the advice of vapid rich people sure is soothing.
Feeling renewed, I decided to amp up my efforts with Claire. I began to consciously make an effort to like her posts on social media, comment on them every now and then—not every day or anything, just enough to keep things interesting and a little spicy.
The whole process reminded me of flirting, which I am also not very good at. But as our list of shared experiences grew longer, things became easier. The breakthrough came when we, through a series of Carlton Draught-related circumstances, ended up at a karaoke bar together. Ever sung a Mental As Anything song to a mostly-empty room in one of Fitzroy's worst pubs? No? Do try it with a new acquaintance sometime. Trauma can be bonding.
I asked for Claire for an honest assessment of how the friendship was going, and what she provided was generous:
As Claire points out, together we have reached several milestones of the contemporary female friendship:
- Binge drinking in each other's company.
- In a series of confessional DMs, swapped stories about the damaging relationships we'd engaged in with emotionally unavailable musicians from Australia's alternative scene.
- She showed me exclusive pictures of her extensive novelty snapback collection.
The time I spent desperately angling for connection with strangers for the purposes of creating internet content was not exactly super fun. Could it be that friendship…requires hard work? Very annoying. But despite the fact it made me feel very hollow and sad inside, this project was technically a success. I have gained exactly one new friend, and we are even going to hang out again soon, probably.
I might be an unusually sad case, but losing friends as you exit the shitty nightclub phase of your late teens and early twenties is a common phenomenon. About midway through writing this article I became convinced I'd identified a huge gap in the market and was planning to exploit it by inventing the friendship equivalent of Tinder, through which I would earn so much money that people would beg to be my friend in order to get invited to my infamous summer megayacht parties.
I have since been informed by my editor that this app absolutely already exists, so I guess I'd advise anyone else in my position to just go ahead and use that rather than taking inspiration from any of the events described above.
This article was clearly a cry for help, please follow Kat on Twitter to make her feel better