A recent conversation with a friend on the topic of friendship has got me thinking about how our circle of friends have gradually shrunk over time. Is this part of a growing old? Or perhaps there’s more to it than just being older. Could it be due to societal norms or perceptions? Maybe ‘Science’ can shed some light on this.
According to a study done in 2016 by scientists from Aalto University in Finland and the University of Oxford in England, it was observed that your social circle starts to shrink soon after you turn 25. Based on their data analysis of 3 million mobile phone users, starting from our mid-twenties, we start losing social contacts rapidly, with women losing them at a faster rate than men.
Why are we losing friends as we grow older? Is this something you should be worried about?
We have learnt how to be more selective as we mature.
Do remember when we were kids back then? Making friends seem like a natural and easy thing to do. Friends equate playmates. The more friends you have, the more people you can play and have fun with.
However, as we enter adulthood, our perception of friendship changes. Others become more judgemental and would choose to select certain friends to hang out with. And we had all came across those friends who only chose to hang out with the ‘cool’ people. If you are deemed as uncool, you are out of their league. And some choose to maintain friendships with an ulterior motive – knowing that it would be worth investing it in the long run.
Others just prefer to invest in more meaningful relationships. Introverts, like myself, only have sufficient time and energy for a small group of close and trusted friends. Innately, we hang out with those who can potentially be friends for a lifetime.
Dating, Marriage and Children
Adulthood can be exciting. As you moved on from one life stage to another, you tend to find yourself getting occupied with the lifestyle changes you have to make – whether as a new wife and husband or new mom and dad. Instead of having drinks with friends, you would rather stay at home with your loved ones and spend time with them. Over time, your family members matter more than your friends and colleagues. As the saying goes, blood is indeed thicker than water.
Changes in environment and people
Once you turn 19, you will find that there are full opportunities waiting for you out there. Some of my ex-classmates and family relatives studies overseas and after they came back to Singapore, they became a changed person. They spoke with an accent and had developed a different taste in food, people, places and other things in general.
Some of them have even migrated elsewhere. Even with the internet and communication platforms, it was difficult maintaining and developing close human relationships. No matter how advanced technology is, it can never replace that intimate connection we have with friends when we meet them face-to-face. Or are social media platforms a stumbling block to friendships?
Ending one-sided friendship
As we grow older, we have less patience and tolerances for friends who don’t show up or seemed callous. Misundertstandings and disagreements are more difficult to resolve too. Why should I waste my time and effort to mend relationships when I still have a bunch of trusted friends to lean and depend on?
Friendships are a two-way street. It requires people from both ends to invest time and effort in maintaining a friendship. And people change over time. They may start to value only a small group of people in their life. Over time,
It’s not getting smaller. It’s going back to normal.
Maybe it’s only normal to experience a shrinking social circle. When we enter our twenties, both men and women tend to be more socially promiscuous. Making friends to increase the chances of finding a suitable life partner. And once we found a life partner, we do not see the need to widen our social circle. Or would an expanding social circle affect your relationship with your partner?
All in all, this begs an important question: is having a smaller circle of friends a good or bad thing? I do see value in having a smaller circle of friends whom I can be really comfortable with. I have sufficient time for family, boyfriend and friends. And my current circle of friends are the ones whom I can trust and have deep conversations with.
However, looking back, I also wished I had made the effort to maintain the beautiful friendships I once had with my ex-schoolmates, colleagues and even cousins. Like many others, I was once part of a large group of friends. Together, we forged great memorable friendships with each other.
The only regret I had was not investing enough time and effort to maintain some of the beautiful friendships. To be honest, I didn’t value friendships back then. Instead of spending time with my friends, I chose to wallow in my loneliness at home for a myriad of reasons which also stemmed from low self-esteem. But all that has changed as I grew older and start to appreciate the people around me.
Even if the friendship must end, I feel that it should at least end on a good note. I had friendships which ended on a sour and negative note. Sometimes, I wonder if they still have a negative impression of me and if my selfish personality had turned them away. Nonetheless, friendships are beautiful and valuable indeed. Whether your social circle is small or big, it is important never to take your friendship for granted. The size of your social circle doesn’t matter. How we value friendship matters.
If you would like to read more about my other thought-provoking articles regarding the soul, you may click here.