Making new friends as a kid can be hard enough, but trying as an adult is a whole different challenge.
Just ask the tens of thousands of people who liked an Instagram post that began with the message, “DOUBLE TAP IF YOU’RE LONELY.”
The honest and raw message was posted by Jenna Kutcher, host of the podcast "Goal Digger" and a social media influencer with more than 650,000 Instagram followers.
- 3September 25, 2018
“I’ll be honest, I don’t have a lot of friends... wait, what? You thought I had circles upon circles of women showing up for me in my life? Yeah, no,” she wrote. “I actually really struggle with trusting people these days and making friends is awkward.”
Kutcher’s post was accompanied by a photo of her with two other podcast hosts and female entrepreneurs, Rachel Hollis and Amy Porterfield. The trio had only met as guests on each other's podcasts but decided to take a weekend vacation together.
"I feel like I wouldn’t have talked about it [publicly] if I hadn't talked about it with Rachel and Amy and saw they were going through the same thing," Kutcher, 30, told "GMA." "It would have been so easy to just caption that photo, 'Time with my girls,' but it’s so important to be real."
Kutcher, Hollis and Porterfield realized they all struggled with forming deep friendships when they couldn't name a person they texted with daily besides their husbands and colleagues.
"We knew that if this was something we were going through, then it was something that other woman had to be going through too," Kutcher said. "I wanted people to know that this [weekend with friends] didn’t just happen and this isn’t normal for me."
Kutcher, Hollis and Porterfield made a commitment to their friendship by booking two more getaways while they were together last weekend. They also set "friendship rules:" "No BS, come as you are and reach out to one another without needing a response or reply," according to Kutcher.
"The older you get the more you realize that friendships take a lot of work and even just finding new friends is hard," she said. "We feel isolated and like we’re the only without a close circle, but in reality we’re all alone."
Kutcher said she's noticed that now even in real-life conversations, people show up with the Instagram versions of their lives.
"It’s almost the highlight reel of what’s going on in your life, but it’s not what you’re really going through and how you can be supported," she said. "Showing up with your challenges and what you’re going through can totally take your friendship to the other level."
Women took Kutcher’s call to talk about friendships, or the lack of, more by commenting on her Instagram post in hopes of connecting with other people.
“I’m south of Denver," wrote one commenter. "I own my own business. My kids are college-age and middle school. I’d love to meet other women who want to help other women get thru this crazy life & build businesses and have fun doing it! Message me.”
“This is so great," wrote another. “Just moved to Tulsa, OK with my husband and literally just prayed for friends and community this morning.”
Why adults need friendships too
Being lonely or socially isolated may result in health risks "equivalent to those of obesity or smoking up to 15 cigarettes per day," the president of the AARP Foundation told ABC News last month, after a survey found one in three Americans age 45 and over are lonely.
Loneliness is, in fact, increasing across all age categories, noted Bea Arthur, a New York City-based licensed therapist.
In Arthur's practice, she talks not just about mental health but social health.
"It is an actual natural need coded in our DNA, to need other people," she said. "So it’s literally like how do we ask for this thing that our body needs but our society isn’t designed to accommodate anymore."
Social media has made it easy for people to interact with each other but hard to develop the deep relationships that are the most helpful mentally and physically, noted Arthur, also founder and CEO of The Difference.
To achieve the benefits of friendships, the quality of friendships matters more than the quantity, she explained.
"In friendships, you look for someone who understands you, makes you feel heard, makes you feel safe, and it can be any relationship that has that," Arthur said. "It's different for different personalities, just as long as you feel part of something and feel heard and feel protected."
In addition to social media, time and social anxiety are other main factors that keep people from developing friendships later in life, according to Arthur.
"Everyone is so busy," she said. "And we all revert to being these awkward teenagers who don’t know how to be like, ‘Do you like cheese?’ ‘I like cheese.'"
To make it easier to make new friendships and deepen current friendships, Arthur shared these three tips.
1. Make friendships a priority
Like anything else, friendships take time and energy in order to succeed.
Arthur recommends starting new friendships with group outings that are less pressure and easier. Then, make spending time with friends part of your routine.
"Where you put your time and energy is where your life is going to go," Arthur said. "If you don’t have them on your calendar, it’s your deficit and you’re losing out."
2. Keep a list
Arthur keeps a list of friends she wants to catch up with, whether by phone or in-person. She keeps the list in a place that is always in her sight so it's a constant reminder.
She views scheduling times with them to talk or meet as like scheduling a vacation.
"There's the anticipation of, 'Oh, I’m going to see her. We’re going to have so much fun,'" she said. "I like looking forward to it."
3. Do a friend audit
Dates with friends should be things you want to do, not need that you feel to do.
Arthur recommends doing an occasional friend audit to make sure you are surrounded by people who lift you up and have your best interests at hear.
"If a friendship doesn’t make you feel the way you want to feel, it sets you back," she said.