Friendship Reinvented: Rethinking Adult Connections in a Digital Age

Friendship Reinvented: Rethinking Adult Connections in a Digital Age

Adult friendships often take a backseat in the hustle and bustle of living life in 2024. But how can we prioritize and deepen these essential bonds in an age where digital connections flourish? 

Research shows that making friends as an adult is more challenging due to several factors, including limited time and increased responsibilities. According to a study by the University of Kansas, adults need to spend about 90 hours together to go from acquaintances to friends and more than 200 hours to become close friends. While childhood friendships often form naturally and out of convenience, adult friendships require more deliberate effort, time, and attention due to the demands of our everyday routines.

This makes friendships easily neglected in the whirlwind of careers, families, and personal growth. While social media is a great tool for facilitating new connections and staying in touch with friends, it can sometimes create a false sense of closeness. In a society where much of our interactions are online, nurturing friendships offline and IRL can feel refreshing and provide a break from the recent norm. Balancing digital connections with meaningful face-to-face interactions is essential, as these can often feel more authentic and fulfilling.

This is exactly why intentionality is crucial. It means actively reaching out, making plans, and following through, even when life gets busy. Finding time for friends can be challenging with demanding jobs, familial duties, and personal goals. However, understanding that friendships are vital to our well-being can help prioritize them.

So, how do we actively find ways to be more intentional about friendships? Psychiatrist Dr. Kelly Akah says expanding your social circle often means stepping out of your comfort zone. This could mean joining new groups, attending events, or striking up conversations with new people. As a millennial who does not have social media like Instagram and TikTok and has a busy work schedule, she has prioritized keeping older friendships healthy while actively meeting new people and building new connections. We spoke with Dr. Akah, who provided invaluable advice on cultivating offline friendships.


Practical Advice from Dr. Kelly Akah:

  • Group Outings vs. 1-on-1 Time: Group outings are nice, but prioritize 1-on-1 time to foster deeper connections.
  • Expand Your Horizons: Seek friendships beyond the confines of your career or profession to gain diverse perspectives and enrich your social life.
  • Networking Events: Attend events that cater to like-minded individuals but avoid confining yourself to a single niche. Although I enjoy attending events for young Black physicians, I also like attending events catered to other professions and interests, like a local running club.
  • Sharing Contact Information: Consider giving your phone number instead of just your social media handles to facilitate more personal communication.
  • Delayed Responses: Understand that delayed responses are normal; communicate upfront about your availability to set realistic expectations.
  • Embrace Ebbs and Flows: Recognize that friendships naturally have ups and downs. At times, it's beneficial to push yourself out of your comfort zone by saying yes to plans even when you feel like saying no, but always prioritize maintaining healthy boundaries.
  • Convenient Outings: Schedule friend outings that seamlessly fit into your daily life, such as grocery shopping or workout dates. It’s a win-win: You check something off your to-do list, and you get quality time with a friend
  • Spontaneous Invitations: If you already planned to do something solo, like attend an art show or get a pedicure, consider inviting a friend along. There’s no pressure because you already planned on going, but if they say yes, now you have some great company. 
  • Varied Activities: Not all social activities should revolve around alcohol or expensive dinners. Explore diverse, budget-friendly options like a coffee & chill date at your favorite local cafe. 

Reimagining adult friendships requires effort and intentionality. We can cultivate enriching and lasting friendships by dedicating time, stepping out of our comfort zones, and normalizing scheduled connections. It’s never too late to strengthen your social bonds and enjoy the profound benefits they bring to your life.

Reflect on your current friendships and consider ways to nurture them more intentionally. Share your experiences and these tips with others to inspire a collective movement towards more profound, more meaningful connections.