Recently I was asked when I’d last made a friend that wasn’t through an institution or a mutual friend. I thought about it for quite some time, then I wondered if I’d ever actually made a friend who wasn’t brought to me via a person in common or an institution (an institution being an organisation founded for a religious, educational, professional, or social purpose for those of you playing at home).
There’s social sports teams. But then they’re pretty much always made up of a mish mash of loosely connected mates all brought together under the shared mission to see who will sprain their ankle first. Or won’t sprain it first. I may have misunderstood the brief. Plus that probably counts as an institution anyway. Work is an institution. School, uni, and the residential college I went to are about as institutional as they come. Is the gym an institution? I mean, I never talk to people at the gym but, like, I could. And is the internet an institution? Don’t answer that.
A small part of me wonders if it’s a personality thing. I do have a friend (who I met while studying overseas — institution) who befriends strangers constantly. It’s like she has some kind of magnetic friendly friendship field. Although she feels to me like the exception amongst most people I know. But should she be? What do we miss out on given our social norms mean it’s pretty uncommon to make friends outside of our existing circle or organised activities (you know — work, high school, a once-off macrame course) as a starting point? My guess is loads. And I am not the first or the last person to bring this up, just the one doing it right this second.
Anyway, the whole thing got me thinking about making adult friendships in general. I have moved a lot — to a uni far away from where I grew up, overseas, to different cities, interstate for a job in a smallish city where I didn’t know a soul unless you counted the three people who interviewed me. In a glorious turn of events, one person I knew grew up in that smallish city and set me up with a group of gateway friends who took me in and made my social life there an incredible, heartwarming time. There was even a social sports team in the mix, and I think I only sprained my ankle once. But each time I’ve moved I’m reminded of the largely shared knowledge that it’s hard to make new friends as an adult.
So, in celebration of new friendships and to spark ideas for gaining potential pals if you’re in the market, I asked some of the team to tell me the last time they made a friend and how. Any friend — those met via mutual mates and institutions included. Because you don’t need another list telling you to join online groups, take a course, and strike up a conversation with that person you see every day at your public transport stop. That list already exists.
Name and job at FYA: Sarah Alexander, YLab Design Director
Tell me about the last new friend you made? A Facebook “friend” messaged me saying ‘I haven’t seen you in years, you’re someone I’d like to be actual friends with, come over for dinner’.
How did you meet them? We kept bumping into each other at after work events in the city.
What’s your favourite thing about them? The combo of having no filter + similar senses of humour. I’ve never skipped the small talk / awkward convo part of a new friendship so quickly.
Name and job at FYA: Sam Danby, Content Producer
Tell me about the last new friend you made? My new mate Chelsea. She says good things at work that are relatable to my life! She has a full, but still light, heart which brightens the room.
How did you meet them? She joined another team at work, and sometimes comes gets a nice lunch with me.
What’s your favourite thing about them? She laughs at my dumb (fantastic) jokes and then makes her own for me to laugh at.
Name and job at FYA: Edward Vong, Legal Coordinator
Tell me about the last new friend you made? I met an international student studying at the University of Melbourne that is visiting from Denmark. We bonded over our love for Eurovision and have been helping each other learn Swedish and French.
How did you meet them? Every now and again I go to this amazing thing called Mundo Lingo where you get to meet new people and exchange languages. It’s like one big social event for language learners and enthusiasts.
What’s your favourite thing about them? How can you not bond with a fellow Eurovision lover?! Aside from that, getting to learn a new language, learning from and laughing about our mistakes together.