The Natural Selection of Friendships


Human beings are such creatures of sociality that we often do not realise how easily affected we get by those around us. Our company is a great indicator of the type of person we are, as the saying goes, you are the company you keep. Why do some of us get easily influenced by those around us, while others are sternly against it? Why do we sometimes do something that we know is against our morality, only to please the crowd?

There is a saying that every seven years you change half your group of friends. I think that this notion has gotten a bad reputation for what it actually means. It tends to imply that we as people are fickle and disloyal. Yes, it is easy to feel ditched and hurt, that we feel rejected from those we have come to love. The nature of friendship is as such, it has to be two ways. All friendships are. You choose to see each other, you chose to spend time together, you choose to be friends. Anything else would be excuses to why you can’t meet up. There is no real excuse for why you can’t meet up, other than you can’t put enough effort into it to meet up. There is no shame in that.

I believe that people change groups of friends for many reasons. One of it being interest. You might really like playing rugby when you were younger, so you tend to gravitate to those who like rugby as much as you do. However, as you grow, so do your interests. You might never dislike playing rugby ever, but you might not put the same weight on playing rugby as you once did. This will affect the friendships that come along with playing rugby. It’s not that you do not like playing rugby anymore, it’s not that you don’t want to play rugby anymore, it’s that you have taken your time and dedicated it to something that you have developed a new interest in. If you were to ask yourself, why have I not seen my rugby friends in a while, you will realise it’s not that you do not like them anymore, it’s just that you have changed priorities over something you have started to like, for example, football.

There are also instances where you outgrow people in your life. Not that they are bad people, but they hold different things as important to you. This is where going out and having late night benders do not matter as much as they use to. This is where there is no longer any point in proving that you are the top dog, that you are the alpha male. This is where you no longer have to prove to your girlfriends that you are the hottest girl in the club, that you can get any guy at the wave on a hand. All of that just falls away, and in its place, build a stronger sense of self, of community, of true friendship. You and your friend no longer have to impress anyone, because you are content being just you, and happy at that.

This switch happens throughout your life, when you’re in your teens, to when you enter university, to when you enter the working world, to your 30’s, to your 40’s and so on. It takes real effort to keep relationships alive, especially in group dynamics. But one thing is quite certain, that the older you get, the pickier you get. Some things become non-negotiable, like the company you keep. Maybe when you were younger you were able to deal with all the drama that comes with having large groups of close friends, but as you age, you no longer allow this compromise.

Ageing teaches us to deal with our relationships in a more mature way. We handle those we love more delicately, and will not sacrifice our own well being and sanity for that of another person, especially when they have not reciprocated the sentiments. As you age, you deal with problems in a more mature way. You talk it out, you make sure that the other person understands why you said what you said or acted in the way that you did. You do not get angry, you get calm and patient and forgiving. You look past their minor transgressions and laugh it off as being silly. That is what it takes to hold on and foster life-long friendships. A look shall be enough to say these things, “You’ve hurt me, you know you’ve hurt me, but I forgive you”. That should be the way to deal with issues as adults. This is most apparent when one reaches 30 where forming new friendships becomes more and more difficult.

Nicholas Ng

Nicholas Ng is a restaurant critic, travelogue and opinion columnist which is curated on Food For Thought. He has been a freelance writer for 10 years and has previously worked as a lawyer. He currently is the Principal Counsultant of A Thoughtfull Consultancy.


  1. Hi Nick!

    Great read. Very well discussed ideas. But I can’t help but question the idea of maturity being solely correlated with age. Do you think age is the significant factor that differs “the more mature” from “the less mature” or is/are there more elements/traits that can speed up this process?

    • Hi Laz,

      I know it would seem like the mention of being ‘mature’ has something to do with age, and my answer to that is a very grey yes and no. What I meant specifically is the physical maturity, where when we go through puberty, our hormones kick in, and not to mention brain development. During this time we go through hormonal imbalances and we are more likely to act in counter culture, as most teenagers will say, “No one understands me.” Of course this is not (and should not) be a blanket statement, as there are many precocious kids out there, some are wise beyond their years.

      Also, experience is the mother of all education. Nothing will teach you as fast a pace as experience, especially harsh ones. You tend to mature much quicker if you had a hard time growing up. Of course, that can only be balanced by the reinforcing of your confidence levels.

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  4. Good read. Although not sure one switches from rugby to football quite so easily… Maybe haberdashery with the wife. 😉

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