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23 March 2014

I am just about to give up on trying to make new friends. Instead of posting a rambling AskMe for which there will be no real answers, I think I'll just post here and hope for some commiseration.[More:]

For the past year or so, I've been working really hard to make some actual friends and though I've had some limited success, I've really hit a wall lately and feel like giving up the idea all together, and get used to the idea of enjoying my own company the rest of my life.

The main catalyst for this is that last month, I decided to have a clothing swap party. I'm not a big fan of parties where 200 people are invited, so I only invited about ten chicks who I already considered friends or seemed liked good candidates. I certainly didn't expect everybody to be able to come, but maybe half? Most people didn't even bother to respond. I was especially hurt that one girl I thought I was on track to actually becoming good friends with didn't even acknowledge the invitation . I ended up canceling the party because I felt like such a loser.

I've been depressed about this for about a month now, which is probably the longest I've ever been depressed about something. I'm just finding the feeling of rejection hard to shake and am very wary of "putting myself out there" in any way again and I used to be so enthusiastic about trying to make new friends.

Just recently, one of the girls I had invited to my clothing swap party (someone I had only met once but genuinely liked and thought I clicked with) but who couldn't come, invited my to a party at her place, but then I realized it was one of those "home party" deals where they try to get you to buy something. Which makes me feel used and even more depressed.

Ugh, why are people so disappointing?

Aww. That absolutely sucks.

I have no idea how old you are. I'm in my 40s. And it's my conviction from what I've seen of life that people who need to be around people, i.e. who'd feel lonely without, should never withdraw from being social. For better or worse we're social beings. So giving up is not an option just like no longer eating is not an option.
All the same there's a natural recoil from an experience like that. So it's fine to feel fed up for now. Be a bit more reclusive for a week or two. Just keep doing activities even if you don't feel like them that much.

Another thing I've learned in life is that taking the viewpoint of people around us is good in a lot of circumstances. But not in this case. So find a way to leave mind loops like "They did X because I am so Y"
It has nothing to do with any unchanging thing that you are. So it had probably something to do with
- that you didn't invite them one on one and thus misread their interest.
- that clothing swapping wasn't the vibe
- that you like doing things with people more than 'organised events' that feel so stilted
- and that they're cunts anyway.
None of those bulleted points are true or false since I don't know anything about the situation. But that doesn't matter. The point is that it's all about perspective. And you need to become true to your own perspective again.
Just go out doing things and notice which social experiences you do enjoy and increase them.

To put it another way; people are disappointing at times. But it's nice being around people at other times.
And the latter experience wipes out the former experience.

As the towering genius Johann Wolfgang Goethe said: immer strebend sollen wir uns bemühen!!

posted by jouke 23 March | 01:08
You sound young so definitely don't resolve yourself to a life without others' company just yet!!

Maybe the party idea just didn't work for them. Try doing something outside next time or something that's anchored around an event or place that's easier to get to.

Don't think about things like what this says about you (guaranteed to be painted much worse than it actually is by your mind if you're insecure about it). You are the only "you" there is. Find what works for you organically, without worrying so much about it.
posted by Firas 23 March | 03:39
I do sympathise. It's so hard for me to make new friends too. I just joined a book club so I'll see how that goes, but it's through a neighbour, and I think most of the other members are married mums with children. Not that I've anything against that, but they're unlikely to be free at weekends.

I'm on a local Meetup group where there are regular lunch invitations at local restaurants. I've been hesitant to go, through shyness, but one day I'll pluck up the courage to attend.

I've also had the same experience as you where I thought people were friends but it turned out their perception was different. I think my radar is off for this kind of thing.
posted by Senyar 23 March | 05:00
Not responding to an invitation reflects poorly on them, not on you. Personally I think that the clothing swap sounds like a lot of fun and I would for sure have taken part AND admired you for coming up with the idea and organizing it.

Keep pursuing the things you like to do, be open to the world and as jouke says, once you've licked your wounds a bit, go out and shine on. I think if you can adopt an attitude or a belief that the universe will give you what you need and want, it will eventually come to you. And you won't have spent the days in between in a state of unhappiness.

And don't forget .. we're your friends!!! Keep us updated on how you're doing, OK?

posted by Kangaroo 23 March | 07:37
Btw JanetLand pointed out to me that using the word 'cunt' is not as socially acceptable in the US as it is in Europe.
Forgive my manners. I'm just a boorish polder dweller who's too much 'extracted from the clay' (dutch saying for backcountry yokels) to know about the ways of the world.
posted by jouke 23 March | 07:41
Not socially acceptable is a bit of an understatement. I can't imagine a situation where the c-word wouldn't elicit surprised silence.
posted by octothorpe 23 March | 09:16
Just know that in other parts of the world customs differ.
posted by jouke 23 March | 09:35
In the UK it's almost a term of endearment in some circles.
posted by Senyar 23 March | 09:55
Aw, you guys are so nice. I wish I could have invited you to my party.

jouke, no worries on the "cunt" thing. I'm an American, but also an Anglophile so I totally understand how it was meant.

I know I don't have it in me to really give up on making friends forever but I am pretty introverted so it's way too easy for me too revert back to my comfortable but lonely shell for very long periods of time. I'm actually not that young (in my 30s) and I feel like I've missed out on a lot of fun things I'd like to do because I don't have anyone to do them with.

It is really hard to mentally not go to the "nobody responded because I am inherently an unlikeable person" place, which is probably a job for therapy, which I tried last year but felt was so much mental acrobatics when all I really wanted was someone to go out karaoke-ing with. Sigh.

But seriously, don't you think if you got an invitation and you knew you were one of only a handful of people invited (it's Facebook), you might think, oh this is a rather intimate party and clearly this girl likes me as a person and even if I don't return the sentiment, I should be polite enough to respond? It just sucks that I know other people who can invite 100 people to something and get 50 to turn out. What is wrong with me that I can't get a few people to spend a Thursday evening (not even a precious weekend night!) with me?
posted by CockaHoop 23 March | 11:22
I've also had the same experience as you where I thought people were friends but it turned out their perception was different. I think my radar is off for this kind of thing.

Yeah, this is the worst. When you come home from a party or whatever and you're all excited because you just met this awesome woman who was tailor made to be your BFF and then you attempt to reach out to her and the response is so weak.
posted by CockaHoop 23 March | 11:28
CockaHoop, to the extent that you're analyzing this on a specific comparative level you're not analyzing this clearly. The person who invites 100 people to an event has experience with throwing big events and is less risk averse about inviting tons of people. You put out a 10 person event on FB (if I understand correctly) which, while seeming more modest, is a much more risky proposition because the likelihood of getting low number turnout is higher. Lots of people ignore FB events entirely and many say "yes" but don't come.

You shot really high right out the gate. Do something more "sticky" like asking a couple people to an event personally. At least you'd get a straight answer then if nothing else right?
posted by Firas 23 March | 11:39
Well, I guess I thought I had enough established rapport with most of the invitees that inviting them to a small party would be a safe bet. There were a couple friends of a friend that I had just met on the list. If I had it to do over again, I would have tried messaging them one on one first to hopefully get it across it wasn't a spam invite.

In the "getting to know you" stage it seemed like inviting people to a group event where there would be people they already knew would be less awkward than inviting someone to coffee or something one-on-one. But maybe I'm wrong?

I just feel like if the situation was reversed and one of those friends of a friend I had met and liked invited me to a small party at her house I would have jumped at the chance and felt special to be invited. (I'd also like to point out we all live within easy walking/public transit distance from each other, so I wasn't asking anyone go trek to the other side of the city on a school night). I think I just need to understand and somehow get over the fact that other people may have different priorities than me. A lot of people probably aren't actively looking to add a new friend and thus would have just viewed the party as another activity or obligation.

It's probably also partially the fault of Facebook but it seems like that's usually the only avenue of contact in the nascent stages of friendship.
posted by CockaHoop 23 March | 12:21
I cannot speak as to why these people failed to respond, but I could speak a bit about your party idea.
I participate in a clothing swap party, I do it enthusiastically, and I always look forward to it. Partly, because I only do it once a year. Any more, and I wouldn't have enough clothes to swap. We tried once, holding both a winter and summer edition of the clothing swap, but it failed to take hold. Why? People didn't feel like they had enough clothes to swap. Perhaps some of these women had already participated in a swap recently, and didn't feel like they had anything good to offer. Don't give up! I understand you are discouraged, but hopefully something positive will happen soon. Until then, mecha will be here to provide you with bunny pictures.
posted by msali 23 March | 20:08
Try again. Re-schedule the clothing swap. Even if just 1 person shows up, that builds 1 friendship. Explain what it is, and schedule it to accommodate your friends. My friends will rarely make the 25-minute drive to my house, so I have parties in summer, when the lake has swimming and boating. No response - call/email and remind them, and ask if they're coming. One of those "home party" deals - Go anyway. You don't have to buy anything.

Assume the best intention on other people's parts. Few people are outright malicious, many are busy, scattered, dense, whatever. I find it hard to make close new friends because so many people are so close to their families and maybe their high school friends, they don't have room in their schedule for new friends. They're only going to be casual friends, and that's fine.

posted by theora55 24 March | 08:22
I think there are some structural issues in going from a very light aquainatance to "clothing swap." Firas is right that the risk level to inviting just 10 people is much higher than inviting 100 people. If I'm one of only 10 people invited, I might actually feel like "whoa, this is a little TOO intimate for someone I just met. It's a small group of people, I'll have to make conversation, and I really don't know Inviter that well. Possibly awkward. I'd better avoid!"

But seriously, don't you think if you got an invitation and you knew you were one of only a handful of people invited (it's Facebook), you might think, oh this is a rather intimate party and clearly this girl likes me as a person and even if I don't return the sentiment, I should be polite enough to respond?

I really don't know. Actually, the more intimate a gathering, the more intimidating it is - why was I invited? Will I be an outsider? I would find it kind of hard to tell - and maybe even read it as potentially another sales kind of party where someone I don't know well is inviting me to something for their own personal gain?

Also, clothing swap feels very high-risk to me. I'm a bigger person, so for me, there's dealing with some inherent body-shame as part of that. What would I bring, things I can't fit anymore? What if nothing offered for swap fits me, and my evening consists of trying on unflattering stuff and then feeling bad about myself? What if my clothing is too old/cheap/shabby? Depressing for me, all around. Stressful and awkward, especially around new aquaintances who are just this side of strangers. It just sounds so high-stakes - I would probably just hit 'decline' and avoid this level of challenge in a brand new friendship.

Seriously, at the starting-a-friendship level, I think you need to think of some more inviting, casual, low-stakes events to get together with people. 1:1 invitations are by far the most flattering: you're saying to someone, "I want to spend time getting to know YOU," and ideally, that's something you have in common - whether it's an hour of hiking or beach walking, a shared yoga class, coffee, meeting up at the farmer's market, a visit to an event, whatever. Simple, short, low-stakes, but focused on spending time with a single new person and establishing a rapport.

Next best are large-group, super-casual invitations: "I'm having an open house between 3 and 6 - show up if you're around!" or "I'm having a happy hour thing at Local Bar - drop by if you're in the neighborhood!" You need a few loose-tie sorts of get-to-know-you opportunities before you go for something as potentially personal and intimate as a clothing swap. Which might not seem like a big deal for you, but sets off all of my personal alarm bells for "nah-ah, only with people I know really well, or giant anonymous groups."

I just think clothing swap is the wrong starting point. That's something for when you have an established community of people with similar taste and a high degree of trust. That's not the point you're at with the new friends. You need to scale back the commitment level and offer some things that are less intensive and less confusing as to motivation and outcome. Keep it simple.
posted by Miko 24 March | 22:30
Oh man, do I hear you. There is something invisible about some people that makes others go "nah, I'll just ignore them." My best friend will invite 50 people to a party, and all 50 will show up. I invite 50 people, only 2 will show up and it will be the 2 needy, clingy people who aren't my favorite. And I can't put my finger on it. I'm a little more introverted than her, but not much.

Not responding to an invitation reflects poorly on them, not you.

If I had a nickel for every time people said this to me, I'd be a millionaire. "Oh it's them, not you." Well, except that it happens to me every single time.

I've been not trying to make friends lately too. Except that it sucks. And I don't know what the alternative is.
posted by Melismata 25 March | 13:23
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