In 2019, a YouGov poll revealed that 30 percent of Millennials felt lonely – the highest percentage of any group – and 22 percent of Millennials said they had no friends. Of course, loneliness and no friends doesn’t always go hand-in-hand but it’s apparent that my generation are struggling with companionship and have experienced having no friends in your 20s.
I was keen to write this post and delve into this topic because it’s something that’s fairly close to my heart and one that I have my own experience with. I turned 30 last year and if you’re familiar with my story, you’ll know I spent the vast majority of my 20s with a highly debilitating and life-changing anxiety disorder.
My mental illness gradually caused me to lose all my friends, in a variety of ways and by 24/25, I basically had no friends left.
I had loads of friends in school and throughout college. I was surrounded by people, all the time. In that regard, I was very fortunate. But it definitely made me realize just how much I took friendship for granted during that time – which I think a lot of us do.
Whatever the reason that you’re dealing with having no friends in your 20s, perhaps you find it hard to talk to people or like me, have suffered a life-event that changed the course of your life and therefore your friendships, we can all agree on one thing:
Having no friends in your 20s is hard.
It’s really hard going through life without any friends – especially in your 20s, which can be such a difficult period where so many people need support systems to help manage the changes and challenges that come with navigating your 20s.
And it is quite shocking how many people you’ll find are in a similar situation. Is the internet and social media to blame? Who knows. But it’s likely, considering Millennials are seemingly the ones suffering the most.
I have friends now. Albeit not many but a few really good ones and I’m working on letting go of those old friendships that have long since forgotten me. This is something I struggle with – seeing those I used to be friends with, still friends with each other.
If you’ve found yourself in the same boat, then here are some tips for navigating having no friends in your 20s (or even 30s!) and what you can do to make some new ones:
How to deal with having no friends in your 20s:
Limit and curate what/who you follow on social media
If seeing certain people – particularly old friends or perhaps groups of people you know – on social media makes you feel bad or upset, then I implore you to mute, block, delete or unfollow. Please.
Social media can have such a detrimental effect on our mental health if we’re not careful. We always need to remind ourselves that what people are posting is what they want everyone to see. That girl with the large group of friends might be suffering with depression or going through something in her personal life.
Change your perception of friendship
We often have quite a limited view on what constitutes a friendship. Typically, someone around our own age, perhaps someone we’ve known since college or University or a work colleague that we spend more time with that just work and after-work drinks. But really, friendship can come in all forms, shapes and sizes.
If you feel like you have no friends, look at the relationships in your life and consider them in another light. Do you have a next-door neighbor that you speak to often or perhaps go round for a cuppa with every now and again? They could be considered a friend.
Are you super close with your Mum and love doing stuff together with her? She’s also a friend. What about cousins, aunts or uncles? Broaden your idea of what makes a friendship. Don’t forget, labels can overlap.
Learn to love and enjoy your own time and company
This one has absolutely changed my life and I absolutely love my alone time. I love going for walks by myself, taking myself to Starbucks to just sit and read with a coffee for an hour or even a solo spa break (at the time of writing, I’m actually heading to one tomorrow and I’m very excited!)
If you’re under the impression that you need friends in order to do the things you want to do, you’re 10000% wrong. You can do anything you want to do by yourself and learning to love and enjoy your own company is one of the best things you can do in my opinion – whether you have friends or not!
Try to understand why you have no friends
By this I mean, is it something you can change? Is this something you WANT to change? Get clear on this beforehand then you can get a better understanding of why you have no friends, if it’s something you can actively seek out to change or whether it’s something you don’t actually need to change.
Some people are quite happy in their own company, only having a handful of acquaintances and family around them and if that’s you, then that’s great. This level of understanding we’re trying to decipher is more for those that crave those friendships but don’t have them.
Lean into your online friendships
Online friendships ARE real friendships – there’s absolutely no doubt about that. If you’re online in any capacity, perhaps a blogger or active on social media, then chances are you’ve established some online friendships along the way. These are great to lean into in your 20s as you can have some real honest conversations with your online pals.
If you’ve built up a really good relationship with someone online, then perhaps you can arrange to meet up. I’ve met a few of my online friends in real life and it’s always been such a lovely time!
Focus heavily on what makes you happy as an individual
Similarly, to the point about enjoying your own company, you need to really learn about what makes you tick by yourself. If you love music, focus on learning the instrument you love and writing songs. Perhaps you want to write a book, or you love crafts and want to open an online shop.
There’s always something that makes us happy as individuals, something that doesn’t require anyone else to be involved. Lean in to those things and you never know where they might take you in the future.
How to make friends as an adult:
Making friends as an adult is hard. We just don’t have that carefree nature about us anymore and it’s not as easy as just going up to someone in the playground and saying, “will you be my friend?”
We’re all so worried about what people think of us or whether we’re going to make a fool of ourselves if we go and speak to someone that we retreat more and more into ourselves and the less we put ourselves out there, the harder it becomes.
Here are some quick tips for making friends as an adult:
- Use your online friendships: Especially if you’re a blogger or influencer in some way. There are SO MANY people in the same industry as you, so you’ll already have stuff in common. Strike up some conversations with likeminded people online.
- Grow your acquaintances: You might feel like you have a ton of acquaintances but no actual friends, so why don’t you start there? Get chatting to these acquaintances more and you might find you have loads in common.
- Join a group or a class: There are plenty of classes around, such as dance classes, Yoga classes, book clubs and more. These are all great places to meet new people who obviously have a shared interest as you.
- Reach out to old friends: if appropriate. They were your friends for a reason and if you find that actually, you don’t think you’d get along as adults after all, that’s absolutely fine. Move on.
- Say yes to opportunities: Perhaps it’s an invite through work or a family function, try saying yes to more events, social gatherings and opportunities because the best way to meet new people is by getting out there and doing it!
I think this is a topic that definitely needs to be spoken about more. I think a lot of people may think it’s embarrassing to talk about or admit that they don’t have friends in their 20s or 30s but when you consider the climate we currently live in, it’s not so surprising after all.
If this sounds like you, please know that you’re not alone by any means and I hope this post can help you gain some clarity, comfort and tips.
What would be your biggest piece of advice to anyone who’s going through their 20s with no friends?
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I really enjoyed reading this and it’s important to talk about it. In terms of tips, I’ve moved around a lot over the last 25 years and I would have to say activities and hobbies are how I met most of my friends outside of work. So, I am in all sorts of things on Meetup.com and internations for example and there are so many FB groups as well. I like that you suggested classes because hobbies are another way that are great, like salsa classes for example often they have socials and it’s easy to meet people who like the same things. One important thing I also have learned over the years friendships also take effort to maintain more than people realize and also some people aren’t meant to be in your life forever..
Totally agree about the effort part and people not meaning to be in your life forever. I always find that I seem to be putting in more effort that the other party. I might try meet up!
This resonated so much with me! I had a large group of friends when I was younger until I reached high school age. After a few very bad experiences, it was very difficult to get to know knew people as well as trusting them. Also moving to the UK, I thought it would help, but it’s always been on the ‘surface’ friendship like at work. But i realised that I am content in having few and trusted ones. The kind of person that even if you don’t communicate everyday can still find the same comfort when you pick up again x
Ah I’m so sorry to hear you had some bad experienced but glad you’ve learned the value of quality over quantity. I always feel like the surface friend too x
This is such a raw and relatable post. It’s a difficult topic to bring about for some of us. I think there are a lot of factors influencing millennials and their friendships. We grew up in a time in which technology was put on speeds and we haven’t found a healthy way to balance everything. Identity issues are also complex for millennials. I liked your suggestions a lot, especially the one inviting us to seek understanding and the root-cause of the “problem”. Thank you for sharing!
Thank you 🙂 Yes, our generation didn’t have the internet growing up really so that’s bound to have had an impact on it
It can be very challenging making friends as an adult. No longer being in school or working at a consistent job can make it hard to meet new people. Saying yes to more opportunities is important, we need to push ourselves to get out there and try!
Hey, It’s hard to make friends specially after covid. It is like covid took away all of our socializing skills. Over the years, I have appreciated the gift of being happy with my own company. It’s truly wonderful! Great post!
It was long before covid that I lost all my friends, so for me covid made no difference really! But thank you 🙂 I can imagine that covid impacted a lot of friendships
Such an interesting post, relatable and honest.
Me and my best friend have often wondered how you go about making my friends as an adult aside from work and are often at a loss.
As I’ve got older, it’s definitely quality over quantity, and time to myself is so precious. I’ve been quite lucky I’ve picked up some good friends through my adulthood, mostly through work. I have lost a few too, life takes us different directions and people change, sometimes it’s sad, other times a relief tbh
Glad you still have a few quality friends – quality over quantity is definitely something to think about when it comes to friendships as an adult.
Okay wow, because I’m currently going on 22 and am in this EXACT stage of my life right now. It’s crazy how you graduate highschool and everyone just goes their separate ways. GREAT POST!!!
Thank you, although I’m not glad you can relate to this, I am glad you found you’re not alone in it!
I love my own company so much haha, being self employed it is easy to feel lonely tho. Most of my friends are people I’ve met in the pub!
Yes same! I’m SE too and work from home so I’m alone a LOT!
Great tips, definitely you need to join some activities you prefer. Friendships
will surely come..
Great post and is something we should speak about more! I agree that friendships come in all sizes as I have friends that are moms/ late 40s and then I am 27 but we get on well.
However, one thing I will say is I have friends but I do still feel incredibly lonely. Like I have always felt no matter who I become friends with I am not the “go to” person I am more like a filler friend. Someone that people like hanging out with but I wouldn’t be their number 1. I don’t know if that makes sense but yeah, it has meant that I love my alone time and am happy hanging out alone whether that be taking myself to a concert, musical or to a cafe I can do that 🙂 thanks for sharing! X
Girl, that makes 100000% sense because I feel exactly the same. Even with the friends I do have, I’ve never felt like I’m “the one” (not in the romantic sense) that they’d love to hang out with. I think that really contributed towards feelings of loneliness when you’re not necessarily alone.
It definitely can be hard, or even just a bit strange, seeing old friends online. I’ve gone down the muting and unfollowing route like you said. Learning quality over quantity is so important!
Kathleen / http://www.madeinthe1990s.com
Don’t blame you – I have to mute and unfollow sometimes because it’s too painful to see.
I think it can be so hard making / maintaining friendships as you get older but it’s so important to try and give a little time to the good ones
Beautiful post Jenny. The reminder you shared about broadening our idea of what friendships are is so helpful. Also reassuring that if a friendship isn’t right for you, it’s okay to move on. Thanks for sharing!
What a fantastic post!
This is such a hard subject to discuss. No one want wants to admit they don’t have friends, most people tend think something is wrong with you if you don’t. But even with social media giving us access to.. everyone.. the simple fact is that it’s not just making friends that’s difficult—it’s keeping them.
Thanks for sharing!
Yes totally agree. And whilst social media gives us access to everyone, it doesn’t always make it easier to make friends, keep friends and find people who we genuinely get along with.
True. But the internet does give us more opportunities to make friends and meet people that we wouldn’t normally be able to.
Such a good article! I am autistic so I have trouble identifying social cues and don’t really know how to socialize properly, which I strongly believe is a contributing factor as to why I have no real life friends. However, when it comes to my online life, I have a lot of friends I met through playing a certain online game. Although it’s not the same thing, I find that online friends care more and I don’t have to make small talk with them. I also have anxiety which makes it very difficult for me to socialize so I prefer socializing online as I feel less judged. If you don’t like someone online, you can simply hit the block button. In real life, you can’t do that.
Very true. I think being online and socialising online is a great way to boost your social skills in general. Perhaps arranging to meet some online friends in person would be a good place to start if you’re able to!
When I graduated university five years ago, I didn’t have a ton of friends. A few, but most of my social life was hanging with friends of friends and feeling very out of place and even disrespected at points, but I stuck with it because any social life is better than no social life, right? No. When the pandemic hit, things changed. I happened to get involved with more online games and got connected/back in touch with people I went to school with but weren’t ever really friends with. With the pandemic in full effect, we kind of leaned a lot on each other. I developed new bonds with old acquaintances and through that, made new friends. I even got closer to one friend who is currently my boyfriend. It’s sad that a global travesty is what caused this for me, but I think it speaks to the power of the internet and the potential that even people you barely know could become a close friend down the line. Now, is my current situation a forever one? In 10 years, will these new friends still be a friend? I don’t know. But for now, I’m in a better place socially than I was five years ago and I think I’m doing alright in my 20’s, all things considered. That’s how fast things can change.
That’s amazing that the pandemic brought you closer to all of those people. Sad yes but it’s important to find a positive in it!
Loved this post, I really found it hard to transition once I left my group of school friends behind. Now I’m a Mum, I have more, amazing, friends than ever before!
That’s amazing! You all definitely have something in common!
I totally relate to this – I used to have loads of friends back in school and college but the numbers have declined quite considerably over the years. I’m doing what you have suggested and leaning into my online friendships, and some of my closest friends are now people that I communicate with mostly online. Reframing our relationships to see them as proper friends has helped curbed some of that loneliness, interestingly!
Yes absolutely! That’s that perspective change coming into action as well 🙂
Very well said and explained. I agree with you however I think the quality is more important than quantity of friends. Really loves this post.
Yes for sure!
I totally agree with you. I think we should learn to enjoy our company most time. Because we are all we’ve got.
Yes I think if we all learn to enjoy our own company more then friendship will come easier down the line.
Sadly this is way more common than people even realise. I see a lot of Tik toks about women realising they’re alone and how to make friends as an adult bc Woah all of a sudden I grew up & my childhood friends aren’t there anymore!
Even being in my 30s and moving to a new town has made me reach out to people if we have shared interests. Sadly this hasn’t always worked out but I’m starting to realise its more about them than it ever was about something being wrong with me! I’m happy with the friends I do have but am *trying* to be more open to meeting new people.
Sometimes new friends come in the strangest of places – I’ve recently become friends with my tattoo artist as we found out we have loads in common, besides the obvious ofc! 😂
I still get lonely, but am pushing myself to go out and run in groups to find like minded people to talk to! 🏃♀️
Yes definitely agree with you on all of this. I’ll be moving to a new place this year and I’m a bit worried about the friend aspect of it but being open minded is so important. Love that you’ve made friends with your tattoo artist!
Loved reading this! I had a lot of friends throughout high school and college. I was so involved with organization and being surrounded by people that I had little time at home. But that changes once I start working at the office. My life revolves entirely on work-home-work-home. I enjoy spending time alone and visiting places by myself. I enjoy working in a café, shopping, and going to the movies by myself. I’m an introvert who can’t keep up with my extrovert friends’ lifestyles, but I still have one friend (an introvert) who I’ve known for ten years and who has become my best friend. As I grew older, I realized that quality is better than quantity. 🙂
I think that proves that people change as they grow older and move apart and it’s not always a bad thing, either. Especially as you’ve learned that quality is more important and you know where your limits are, in regards to being an introvert and liking spending time alone xxx
Loved this discussion and the tips, Jenny! Although I am fortunate to have a few close friends to not feel lonely, I’ve seen another friend in my group talk about feeling lonely and as if he has lost touch of friends. It took me aback to see such a different perspective since we have the same set of friends and it forced me to understand that everyone’s relationships and especially their outlook on relationships is different. The same people I consider friends even with limited contact aren’t considered friends by him ~because~ of the limited contact. It took a long time for him to change and put in effort to feel a part of the group again.
With the statistic that you mentioned, this post is really required! Retaining friends and making new friends when we’re out of academia is a struggle and we do need to actively put ourselves out there to keep & make friends.
Wow, that’s really interesting to hear that vastly different perspective from both of you! I’m glad he managed to change his perspective so he feels part of the group more.
For me I’ve just always been careful in high-school with people as I see what friends bring and they have always betrayed me or hurt me in some way however I found 1 or 2 people who were amazing and then in 2021 I lost my BFF over something petty to be honest it wasn’t the first something like this had happened and I just decided to let go, I still had friends who were close and I thank God for them as they got me through a tough time as the situation triggered my anxiety and depression. I thank God I still have those amazing people in my life and trust me you will be bale to have friends with going through your anxiety. It’s just finding the right people who will understand you and work with you through each stage and phase in your life. It’s not too late to have that, you just have to be open and receptive
I’m sorry to hear you’ve had some bad experiences with friends in the past but have those few close ones that understand you!
I loved reading this Jenny, I have found I have gained better friends and friendships now in my adult years than I did in my childhood/teen years. Social media is a great way to speak to new people, I’ve made some lovely online friends through blogging and my illness x
Lucy | http://www.lucymary.co.uk
Ah really? That’s amazing! I’ve made 3 really great friends as an adult although I don’t see them as much as I’d like because we’re all so busy because we’re “adults” haha!
Definitely relatable. Have very few friends that I talk to and even though I’m 30 now (as of a couple weeks ago), I feel like this is very relatable to me especially since I’m not always a sociable person. Thank you for putting this into words and making me feel seen.
I’m so glad this post made you feel seen and realise you’re definitely not the only one in this situation.
I have a best friend for a decade and we met online. So, I agree that online friendships are online.
Amazing – proof that online friendships are the real deal!
Jenny, I would say just do your best trying out different things, Meetup.com really helped me out here. Also, art making is a huge support when it comes to self-expression and recognition. By the way, the photos you used are wonderful. The research you’ve done on the topic is very thorough. When I turned 30 I felt like I had no friends but it was not objectively speaking the truth. This is how I felt at the time, I was disappointed by my existing group of friends at the time, so I chose to move on, looking for a place where the grass is greener. And I found it! You just never give up, it’s not about the age but rather about your readiness for something new. Good luck!
Amazing that you found new friends and made the choice to find happiness elsewhere when you were 30!
Awk Jenny. This really struck a cord with me. It wasn’t until my late 20’s that my friend’s became closer to me, and that’s more because I pushed mental illness to the side (with much difficulty, as you know), and allowed them in. But they were there all along, I just didn’t see it. I couldn’t imagine trying to make new friends now at this silly age (30!? Who allowed me to be 30!?). Sending you much love and reminding you that online friends are real friends, and when I talk about you to my husband I refer to you as my blogging friend, Jenny.
Haha, I know how you feel about being 30. I’m definitely still 16 just pretending to be 30. I’m so glad to hear you’ve got closer to your existing friends recently.
A really good read. I’m now in my 50s and for various reasons, have barely any real friends left. A complete change from my 20s. As you point out though, there are ways to remedy it.
Thanks for sharing.
There certainly is. I think it’s important to remember that each decade of life brings so many different things for different people.
From my life experience, our circle changed every decades of our lives. Not many people I known in my 20s and teenhood are close to me now.
Definitely an important point to remember that we all change throughout the decades and years!
Yes yes yes! This post is exactly what I needed to read. I have a few friends but I do look at others who have huge groups of friends and wish I had more friends. I am hoping to get into university for September so hopefully I can make some friends there. Thank you for sharing this post!!
Yes it’s seeing the photos of the groups of friends – mostly girls I went to school with who are all still friends with each other – that’s what’s painful for me. I’m sure you’ll have an amazing time at University and I can’t imagine a better place to make friends!
I feel so much of this! Growing up and even in my early twenties I had quite a large friendship group. It was the same group of friends I’d had since school, so maybe since I was 13 / 14 – But we moved to Leeds when I was 24 and it was almost as if me moving away meant I was moving away from my friendship group – I wasn’t, but I stopped getting invited to things and stopped getting messages as often. Where we grew up it’s like a little local village – Not many people leave. Haha. But I can see the positives in it now. I’m more than happy with my own company, and the group of friends I have now, which isn’t that many, is quality. I’ve learnt quality over quantity is the most important. I read a blog post recently about now having a ‘bride tribe’ which was me too. I really should write something about it, because I think I have a lot to say. Haha. Loved reading this! I felt like so much of it was me.
Oh my gosh yes, Lauren’s post from The Thrifty Bride. I loved that post and really resonated with that too because seeing all the “girl gangs” of friends of people I went to school with really pains me, when they’re all at each others weddings and hen parties etc. Knowing that’s something I won’t have! I’m so glad you’ve learned the value of quality over quantity!