Updated Jul 3, 2022 - Economy

Axios Finish Line: Making friends

Animated illustration of two halves of a sad face pendant on necklace chains gravitating towards each other and turning into a united smiley face

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

This originally appeared in Axios Finish Line, our evening newsletter focusing on life lessons, leadership, and health and fitness. Sign up here.

In America, we value family and work — but friendship often falls behind. Many of us have few or no close confidants, the data shows.

Why it matters: Friends help us get through the tough times and sweeten the good times. And a thriving society is filled with strong friendships.

But 27% of millennials say they have no close friends, and 22% say they have no friends at all, according to a recent YouGov survey.

  • Americans also lost touch with many of their friends when COVID hit, an American Enterprise Institute study found.

Friendship is a huge investment, says Jeffrey Hall, a professor at the University of Kansas. It takes around 50 hours of time spent together to go from being acquainted to being casual friends, per his research.

  • It takes about 90 hours to advance from casual pals to good friends.
  • And it takes more than 200 hours to become confidants.

Spending that time together became even harder when the pandemic isolated us and remote work and school kept us at home.

So if you're looking for friendship, here are some tips — gleaned from sociologists and psychologists — on how to make those connections.

  1. Put in the hours. Cultivating a close friend takes time — and pays off.
  2. Put in the face time. It can feel forced to try to build friendships virtually, Hall says. If you're looking for a friend, go to the office a few times a week if you're remote, or try an in-person workout class instead of a YouTube video.
  3. Remember old friends. It can be easier to revive dormant ties than forge new ones. Many of us saw the value of reconnecting with old friends during the pandemic. Don't be afraid to reach back out to a buddy you've lost touch with.
  4. Diversify. The ideal number of close friends to have is between three and five. Don't underestimate the value of casual friends or work buddies. Those in our larger circle can bring fresh perspectives, says Hall.

The bottom line: Life's short. Let's lean on friends!

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