Everything’s skewed nowadays. The lens we use to look at things is permanently on zoom because when you’re constantly checking life’s rearview, objects may appear closer than they are.

And nowhere is that funhouse mirror effect more obvious than other people’s Friends Lists. According to Facebook inflation, I’ve got hundreds upon hundreds of friends. People who allegedly “know” me and like me. According to me, and the actual calls (not wall posts) I got on my birthday, I have maybe 20 friends — give or take. When you subtract the ones I haven’t seen for years, that number gets sliced in half like a magician’s assistant. Is that sad?

 There’s this thread (is that what they call ‘em?) on Reddit – Let’s talk friends: How many do you have, and how often do you see them? – in which a twenty-something analyzes the loneliness she’s been feeling upon realizing that her crew isn’t as big as she thought it should be.

“Maybe I just have unrealistic ideas of how many friends everyone else has, in my mind everyone has dozens of best girlfriends or something that all meet up weekly for lunch and shopping. I guess I’d just love to see what other people’s lives are like in hopes that maybe this is a normal part of growing up.”

Girl, yes. Everyone’s idea about the number of friends you should have is “unrealistic” and realizing this is a “normal part of growing up” that unfortunately doesn’t get a ton of airtime. I blame chick lit (a genre into which I am attempting to delve with a story about losing friends) and “Sex and the City” and the preschool buddy system and those Kid Sister commercials.

Who among us hasn’t gotten the wakeup call that nobody’s really calling you like that anymore? And it’s not just a quarter life thing, it’s a guaranteed slap of reality for anyone who dares get older. A passage that sometime gets quoted from my book by the privileged few that read it speaks to this same secret epidemic.

“Gone are the [college] days when friends are an elevator ride away, dinner plans are made on the way to somebody’s hall, and Thursday is Friday or Friday is Thursday (who cares, you’ll figure it out in Philosophy C203).

Soon enough, the little old lady living in a shoe is you — and the rent is effin’ unbelievable, and nobody comes to visit because you’re too far from the Metro. Adulthood comes in little jigsaw pieces. Once the painstaking work of fitting them all together is done, the picture doesn’t look nearly as cool as it did on the box.”

What’s most interesting to me about the reverse shame of “your number” when it comes to compadres, is that much like that other number, women seem to be the only people really worried about it. How many guys do you know wringing their hands over whether or not they’ve got enough boys to kick it with? Granted men don’t do friendships like women do.

There’s like a pause button they can push that keeps decades-long friendships fresh in the emotional DVRs. When my boyfriend gets calls from homies from back home, people he hasn’t talked to since high tops and fades, it’s like no time has passed. And when I prod him every other lazy Sunday to “go hang out” with the handful of names I know there’s a 50/50 chance he’ll just shrug, “Nah, I’m good.”

And that’s the thing you realize about your friendships as you age — you’re good. It isn’t that you’ve got fewer friends, a bunch of fake friends or none at all. It’s that you no longer need the constant white noise of friends, Romans and countrymen to feel confident, to feel like yourself. Because in the end, during the quiet time when the computer’s off and the phone is somewhere charging, it’s just you and you’re good.


This post originally appeared on XOJane. Republished with permission. Click here for more Helena Andrews on XOJane! 

  • http://gravatar.com/bornliberian bornliberian

    as with love we must frist learn how to be a friend to our own self before we can befriend anyone. besides, it’s not the quantity but “QUALITY”

  • kylieky

    This makes me sad because i don’t have any friends at all.

  • Yb

    When I graduated high school and started college, it become difficult to see my High School group of friends due to relocation, and I learned who my real friends where.

    The group a guys and girls I cared for the most become clear when I decided who I going to try the harder to see, and drive miles upon miles to visit and those who did the same for me. I can happily say that I have three close friends.

  • http://www.myblackfriendsays.com myblackfriendsays

    If you want good friends, you have to be a good friend.

    I have said many times that trying to make friends as an adult is a lot like dating, with the anxiety of ” should I ask this person to hang out?/does this person really like me?/did I just do something stupid?/etc.” But just like romantic relationships, if you want friends you just have to put yourself out there and make it happen.

  • Cindy

    I totally understand. I honestly say that 5 individuals are my friends but all except for one live outside of my home state; 4 in NYC and 1 in Dallas. Out of the 5, I only talk to 1 on a daily basis and she can be a vampire at times (another story). Despite having “friends” I don’t have quality of friends that I feel makes a good friend.

  • dirtychai

    This is so very true.

  • KE

    The biggest barrier to friendships for me as I’ve grown older has been the differences in lifestyles, responsibilities and obligations. Here I am, now in my early 30s, having been married for years and having had my kids before I was 30 … but some of those i “kicked it” with most often in my 20s are still pretty much where they were then, only with jobs. They don’t know what it’s like to be married or raise kids, which accounts for a great degree of the lapse in communication.

  • Cindy

    I totally understand how you feel.

  • Bosslady

    Perfect analogy. So very true.

  • The Patient One

    I don’t have any. I seem to attract those with an extroverted personality and the friendships never last because they never learn to respect the differences in personality. Also, my life experiences don’t allow for me to relate to other people.

  • The Patient One

    I have acquaintances though.

  • Since1989

    The best friendships happen organically. Yeah you can try and put yourself out there but you should not have to force anyone’s friendship. Sometimes friendships forged are genuine and close but end up not being close enough to withstand the test of time, or experiences or transitions into and out of certain phases of each person’s life.

  • justanotheropinion

    As you get older, you realize there is a difference between friends and acquaintance’s. When you are younger, you tend to have a wide circle of ‘friends’. As you get older, you realize that FRIENDS number in the low single digits – acquaintance’s is a totally different number. Think about it, when you have to call someone at 3am because of a REAL emergency or a mental breakdown, your ‘possible’ list dwindles from 20 to 1 or 2 names. The one’s you end up calling are really your friends.

  • RenJennM

    In elementary school and middle school, I struggled with finding friends. So, I think that when I got to high school, I overcompensated and end having a couple of friends and tons of acquaintances.

    Unfortunately, when it was time to graduate and go to college, and my family realized that not only weren’t my grants and scholarships enough to pay for college, but our credit wasn’t even good enough to get loans to cover the rest of the bill, I had to sadly watch all my homies go off to college without me. That time period bridged a HUGE gap between me and most of the people I was cool with. I was left with only my two best friends and my close friend. When I went off to the military, I lost one of my best friends (she chose a guy over us and then stopped talking to us entirely) and most of my high school “friends” became just Facebook “friends”. I ended up making new friends at various military bases, which you always end up leaving behind eventually. Only three solid friendships from the military stuck, but then two of those fell off.

    Now, I have only three non-blood-related friends: my best female friend since 7th grade (consistent all through middle school, high school, and adulthood — like a sister to me), my best male friend (who I met in the military), and my close friend (consistent since 8th grade). Unfortunately, I can feel me and my close friend, whom I’ve known all these years, beginning to drift apart. She’s changed so much, I can’t relate to her anymore. I’m trying to hold on, but I’m thinking it may be time to let go and move on.

    It’s sad, but I guess that’s life.

  • http://rocksattiffanys.blogspot.com/ chrissy

    i love this article.

    so real.

    and the way social media makes it seem as though having hundreds of friends is a reality, when really, you don’t even talk to a quarter of those folks.


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