Losing Friends After College: Why Your Circle Tightens in Your 20s

High school and college aren’t always the best times of your life, but they do offer a lot in terms of social interaction and making friends. When you’re in your teens and early 20s, people are all around you by default. You can take classes with your friends, join sports and clubs together, go to dances, eat together and even room together. For better or worse, your high school and college years are all about being close to all your friends.

However, many people are relieved to have a break from the chaos when they strike out into the adult world and have a bit of breathing room. Although you have co-workers and friends you keep in touch with from activities and social circles, it’s not the same all-or-nothing nature of socialization from the university years.

As life moves forward and you all push further into adulthood, dynamics are bound to change. While many people dread the dry social life of post-college existence and others are ready to hibernate for a solid year to get some quiet, many people find that the natural drifting apart is actually perfect for this stage of life.

You’re Not Living Together

While dorm rooms and creaky, cramped off-campus apartments offer a lot to complain about, they also provide people to complain about them with. There’s a sense of camaraderie in stumbling back to the residence hall or apartment late at night with your buddies or going to the dining hall to get breakfast together every morning when you roll out of bed. You’re sharing your space with everyone in college, which isn’t too different from high school — with its locker rooms, school buses and tiny desks.

Exiting college means entering a whole new world of social and physical space, which can be disorienting. You and your friends will be much less on top of one another than you were before, because you have the opportunity to find your own space that works for you and the lifestyle you truly want. While it might be easy to miss the college days, living a bit more separate from your friends is a step toward being your own person and discovering more about yourself as an adult.

People Get Busy

Although you were busy in college, you were probably busy with your friends and peers. You worked away at papers, crammed for finals and spent your free time together. Your schedules synched up like magic. Now, your jobs pay no mind to your social calendar. From family to work, your time is completely your own, because you’re all your own people. It can be hard to feel like everyone else is getting busy around you, but sometimes the drifting is all because your lives are growing and developing individually.

Relationships and Families

Ah, the sound of wedding bells and little feet — or paws, as fur babies take a ton of love and care, too. One more inevitability of getting older is that relationships and families will grow into more significant roles for you and many of your friends, even if that comes in unexpected ways.

This could work on many levels. Maybe you just got engaged and you’re spending more time than ever with your honey — which naturally means less time with your pals. Perhaps you’re living the single life, but you wake up every morning and stare at the proverbial — or physical — stack of wedding invitations in the mail. You could also be getting closer than ever with your parents and siblings, exploring all that this new stage of life has to offer with those you love the most.

While it can seem like a bit of a shocking change, familial relationships and significant others coming to a more central role for the people in your social circle is a good thing. You, your friends and their partners are happy. You’re living life to the fullest and spending it with those you care about.

Quality Over Quantity

One of the reasons you might find your circle tightening in your 20s is because people tend to gravitate toward a smaller, closer-knit group of great friends instead of aiming to collect as many as possible. Although those college days of going out with all your pals and partying it up were a blast, as you get older, you may find it much more important to surround yourself with people who truly love and care about you. You want people who light up your life with great conversations, mutual love and friendship for one another. 

In your 20s, you’ll discover that friendship is about quality over quantity. The friends who stick it out with you are the ones worth keeping close. 

Figuring Out Who You Are

You may be surprised to find that those post-college years are packed with just as much self-discovery as those you spend on campus. You’ll spend your 20s learning more about yourself, which often means figuring out who your real friends are and doing the work to keep them close for years to come.