Growing up, I had so few friends, my parents often begged me to create a social life for myself so they could go out and do stuff without having to bring their sad-sack pre-teen along. They’d tell me to make friends and I’d fire back with, “It’s not that easy!” Fast forward eight years and I had more friends than I could keep track of. College is a time for constant exposure to new people, and this environment enabled me to develop fast relationships with my peers. I loved having so many different people to call up at any given moment, but eventually I realized I was short-changing myself and others by corresponding with loads of classmates at once. You make tons of connections this way, but it’s also limiting since you’re giving a little bit of your time to everybody and not putting necessary time and effort into any of those relationships.
I’m all for making new friends, particularly if you’re looking for a fresh start of some sort or merely trying to have a richer social life, but don’t spread yourself thin. Here are some signs you’re doing just that (don’t worry, it happens to the best of us!).
1. You’re always texting in front of other people
I know we all do it, but seriously, this is really rude. Remember your parents’ rule not to answer the landline during dinner? Texting is similar, and just because your friends aren’t your parents doesn’t make it any less impolite. If you’re eating brunch with a couple of friends, don’t spend a good portion of the visit texting. You could joke that you’re just “so popular,” but a good friend is fully present and attentive. Wait until the end of the catch-up session to contact your other buds. Unless it’s an emergency, they can wait.
2. You’re constantly meeting with different people
It’s good to have lots of different friends, but if you’re always meeting up with new people and never putting forth any effort to maintain these relationships, you miss out on meaningful connections with any of them. It’s similar to dating around: if you do that too much for too long, you don’t get serious with anybody. Maybe serious romantic relationships aren’t your thing, but everybody needs loyal friends.
3. You repeatedly try to get everyone together at once
This is all fun and games if your crew is already acquainted but it’s not a wise idea to make everyone hang out merely because it’s easier than having one-on-one hangouts. I traveled back to my college town a few times in the year after graduation, and every time I returned, all my friends asked to see me. I thought the solution was to have them all come to a coffee shop and talk to me then and there, but everybody—myself included—ended up being shortchanged as a result. Some of them didn’t get along and left feeling like I may as well not have paid them a visit. It stunk. If you really want to engage with specific individuals, you need to set aside time for them and only them.
4. You barely have time for anyone, including yourself
Even if you do have alone time with your different friends, you’re spreading yourself too thin if you keep the hangouts really short. One of my relatives comes to Southern California a lot and always tries to pack as much into her trips as possible. She’ll have lunch in San Diego, dinner in Newport and drinks in Los Angeles in order to see everyone she loves in the general SoCal area. It’s nice when people make the effort, but really short visits could prevent you from talking about big things affecting your lives.
I’m going to Boston next month to see my grandmother, and though a bunch of my New York friends suggested I take a day to enjoy Manhattan summertime with them, my trip is short enough as is. I’d rather make a separate trip to the city another time. Yes, this is expensive, but I truly believe it’s better to have quality time with those you love rather than time with everyone that’s not really well-spent.
5. Your family members are constantly hearing new names
Relatives rarely hear you utter the same name more than once because you’re always mingling with new people. It’s great to make new friends, especially since this is much harder to do as an adult, but once again, give the relationships you care about most some TLC. Focus on growing your new and old ones by staying in touch with those folks on a regular basis. You’ll all be happier, and your relationships will be stronger too.