Friends are hard to keep. And all those friends you made throughout primary school and eventually graduated with always seem to be the first to go.
As everyone gears up to take on the next phase of their lives, whether that be going to college, starting their career, or taking a gap year; all the old friends that roamed their high school halls together seem to fade apart. And, interestingly enough, this eerie little situation is expected. Why?
In my research and personal experience, it seems that there are three main reasons:
- Opportunity, Not Preference
People often choose their friends based on who is the easiest to connect with the most often rather than who we like the most. Sociologist, Gerald Mollenhorst, surveyed men and women between the ages of 18 and 65 about their friendships and then re-interviewed them seven years later to find that only 30 percent of original friendships remained. The main reason for this a disruption in social context. And this change in social context tore friends apart regardless of the closeness of the relationship.
Basically, almost all of us feel this change in social context after high school graduation. We are no longer forced to attend the same school every weekday, thus our opportunity to be friends with people from primary school is hindered. And research shows that, even if this person is our soul mate, there is about a 70% chance we will dump them because it’s harder to connect with them as often as we need.
- Personal Growth
But let’s say your social context hasn’t been so disrupted. Maybe you go to the same college as a friend, or your breaks happen to fall on the same weeks, or you both still live and work in your hometown. Why does it still feel like your drifting apart?
Many people account this to one’s growth as a person. Interests, passions, and hobbies change, and at a rapid pace in 18-22 year olds. As this happens, old friends can find they have fewer connections to each other.
For example, one blogger references mocking feminism with one of her friends, but now is a feminist herself. Or how she used to bond over sports with another friend, but now they don’t live in the same area so getting together to play can be difficult.
Lots of people experience this. The well of shared interests and activities slowly dries up between people until, eventually, there’s not a whole lot left. It can be saddening, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Growth in yourself means your progressing more to who you’re meant to be, and your good high school friends helped lead you on this path.
- Titles Change
I go to college in a different state with no one from my high school. But, naturally, I’ll tell stories from back home and reference people from my hometown. Often, I give them the new subtitle: “Friend from High School,” when they used to just be “Friend.”
It’s a small change, but these words work furiously behind the scenes.
Because I’ve given them this new moniker, they have become someone from my past rather than a present friend who is actively a part of my life. I feel less inclined to talk to them every day and have come to expect not see them very often at all. Soon, when I used to see this person a certain amount of times per week or month in order to maintain them as a “Friend,” I feel that the occasional message on Facebook does the job for the “Friend from High School” relationship we have now.
A change in someone’s title, even without a disruption in social context, affects how one treats them. I mean, why do you think some people are so opposed to being called a “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”? There are certain expectations and behaviors that come with the monikers we give to people. These social pressures work on us whether or not we’re aware.
Humans, man. We’re social creatures.
All in all, high school friends are extremely important. They give you some of your first adult memories. They lead you onto the path your on today. Some can be people you cling to for the rest of your life for guidance, confidence, and company. And there are tons of articles out there dedicated to giving tips to those trying to maintain their high school relationships.
But it’s also imperative to know that it’s OKAY to lose your friends from high school. Lots of people do. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you, it just means your social context and personality are changing which is a good thing. Life wouldn’t be fun if you weren’t progressing through it, going on to bigger and better things, and meeting new people.