Men and their friends {or lack thereof}

April 27, 2024
Men have suffered a steep decline in friendships, and social circles are also reducing. A 2021 Survey Center of American Life survey shows that 15% of American men have no close friends. That percentage was 3% in the 90s! What has happened? Why are men experiencing a lack of meaningful friendships?

Men have always sucked at creating and maintaining friendships. Men are hesitant to open up or have preconceived notions of success & power that they can’t overcome, which interfere with forming and maintaining meaningful friendships. Friendships between men are rarely vulnerable. We may have another guy to ask for a ride to work or help move heavy furniture, but we don’t discuss feelings. Maybe we complain about a boss or coworker, but that’s about as deep as it gets. Men are expected to be tough, independent, stoic, rational, and dominant. Where does that leave men when it comes to friendships?

And think about this: men stopped doing things together. Male friendships and female friendships are super different. Women maintain their friendships by conversing and interacting, while men maintain them by doing things together. An episode of the Modern Wisdom podcast breaks this topic down from an evolutionary perspective, describing how men’s friendships were built on the hunt or building things.

As little as twenty years ago, men would engage in sports together or go fishing for the weekend. Currently, so much of ‘friendship’ shifted online, so playing video games and online activities have replaced active and ‘doing’ activities.

Due to this decline in traditional friendships, a pressing issue is emerging. The most crucial factor in predicting long-term men’s health is successful relationships in their 50s. Harvard’s 80-year study has consistently shown this to be true. If the current trend persists, it could lead to a significant decline in life expectancy.

So, let’s get to the bottom of what is causing the decline in men’s friendships. The factors are marrying later in life, spending more time with their kids, working longer hours, changing jobs, and being plugged into technology. Given all of these barriers, meaningful friendships should be nurtured and cherished. Take an inventory of the friends who have remained in contact with over the years. Maintaining friendships now, more than ever, can be difficult.

The truth is that I’ve only actually remained friends with one person from high school and about two people in college. When I define ‘friendship’ regarding these people, I’m talking about being ‘good’ friends who connect & talk at least once a month. Social media has taken away the reason to actually call people because you can scroll to see what they’re doing, which can give you a false sense of being friends with many people. I have many of those ‘Facebook type’ friends, but I’m talking about really good, true friends. So, why have I stopped being friends with so many of these high school and college friends?

When I honestly assess these situations, we don’t have as much (if anything) in common anymore, and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you’re not ‘friends’; it simply means you’re no longer ‘good’ friends. The people I surround myself with now represent my morals, values, and ethics.

I genuinely feel that the people with whom you surround yourself are a direct reflection of who you are. Nowadays, my buddies tend to be older than me, and perhaps I get along with them so well because I’m an old soul. I’m not quite sure, but I am positive they are super solid individuals. They would do anything for me, and reciprocally, I would do anything for them. They’re not jerks, and they’re just honest-to-goodness quality men. That is who I choose to surround myself with.

So many times, I see really nice people with friends that are jerks and assholes. You know how the old saying goes about the company you keep: “Tell me about the company you keep, and I will tell you what you are.” An important point here is that you’re not elevating their presence; they’re bringing you down to their level.

Even if you’re the greatest guy in the world, if you’re surrounded by a bunch of morons, criminals, crooks, or jerks, you’re not bringing them up. They’re bringing you down to their level, outsiders will associate you with them, and you will be considered equal caliber to them. They obviously think that you share beliefs and have similar feelings.

Obviously, you shouldn’t just abruptly stop associating with friends full-stop. Still, you need to choose because friends are ultimately your choice. The people you associate with and the people you consider your friends are your choices. And as men, we need to be acutely aware of the people we surround ourselves with. Take stock, and after you do, remember that people view you the way they view your friends. If your friends are not living a life that aligns with how you think and feel, it might be time to break ties.

Recognizing that mutually beneficial and meaningful friendships are demanding but essential to cultivate and nurture is crucial. Men need friends to depend on, share with, help out, and experience life. In today’s climate, the quest to add friends to your life may be more challenging, but the effort will be worth it when you find a meaningful friendship or two.

Get out of your house, get out of your head, join an event or group, reconnect with old friends, find others with similar interests, say ‘yes’ more, open up to new experiences, and be consistent. Those powerful moments happen when we interact often, become more familiar, and grow more comfortable. And you just may add some years to your life.

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