Telling People Or Lying About Having No Friends
People who have no friends at all are often ashamed of their situation and worry about what everyone will think of them if they found out. They sometimes get trapped because they want to get past their loneliness, but are so afraid of their secret getting out that they don't try to meet or hang out with anyone.
If you don't have any friends should you tell people, or lie and try to hide it? If so, how? This article will look at the practicalities around letting people know you don't currently have a social life.
(Of course, the best way to deal with the issue of how to let people know you don't have friends is to... make some friends and turn it all into a moot point. There are a lots of articles on this site about how to do that. But for now let's assume you want to work on it, but aren't going to rustle up a group of buddies tomorrow.)
(Also, I think informing people you have no friends, and telling them you're feeling socially lonely are similar, but not quite the same thing. Having no friends is an objective fact about the state of your social life. Loneliness is an unhappy emotional response to a sense that the quantity or quality of your friendships isn't meeting your needs. That emotional component changes things, so I go into that in another article.)
Have a constructive, realistic view of not having friends
The question of telling people will be easier if you don't think being friendless is a radioactive flaw you need to keep hidden at all costs. This article goes into some of the particular worries held by people with no friends. I'll repeat some of the relevant ones here, but won't cover them in as much detail as the source.
Know you're not inherently defective just because you don't have friends
A lot of believing you must hide your lack of friends comes from this core assumption. It's not fun to be isolated, but it doesn't mean everything about you is rotten. Some otherwise amazing people have gone through a social dry spell. There are awful jerks who have plans every Friday night. When someone has no friends there are usually more benign explanations, like they never learned how to actively put together a social life.
Know you're not automatically going to get a bad reaction if people find out you don't have friends
This is the second big reason people want to hide their loneliness. You may fear people will look down on you for it, or at the very least be less interested in you, because you have fewer things to offer socially (e.g., you can't exactly invite anyone to a big party your buddies are throwing).
Not everyone will react poorly to the fact that you don't have a social network. For one, most people aren't mean and judgemental. Many are kind and accepting. Even if they're a bit surprised by the news, they probably won't instantly mock you. They'll just want an explanation.
A key factor in the reaction you'll get is why you don't have friends. Many explanations are perfectly understandable, like you just moved to town, or you peacefully drifted apart from your old social circle. Other reasons, such as that you've always been shy, won't be understood by as many people, but some will still be okay with it.
Another important factor is how people see you. If someone clicks with you moment-to-moment they won't care as much about the "on paper" fact that you don't have friends. They'll give you the benefit of the doubt.
Realize the topic of your social life may not come up at all
This article is about the ins and outs of telling people you don't have friends, but the issue may never even come up in conversation. Some friendless people worry so much about their secret being revealed that they avoid anything more than superficial exchanges. It differs from individual to individual, but I find a lot of people don't routinely ask each other about their social lives. There are plenty of other things to talk about, and we generally assume other people have friends and often don't think to ask about it. Of course, sometimes you will be casually asked what you're doing with your friends over the long weekend, and you'll have to give an answer. I'll get into how to handle that.
So should you admit to people you have no friends?
First, if the topic of your social life doesn't come up, you don't need to go into it yourself. However, taking charge of the situation and unburdening yourself of your secret can be an empowering relief.
In general, I think if you've got an "understandable" reason for being friendless, it's fine to tell everyone. Like if you've moved to a new city, it's not your fault you don't know anyone yet, so why not be upfront about it? If someone judges you for not instantly having a social life after moving, they're the one who's clueless. Here's an example:
Co-worker: "So who do you hang around with outside of work?"
You: "No one really at the moment. The last of my old friends moved away the other month. I'm looking to meet some new people. "
If your reason is less likely to be understood you could tell them anyway, or you could try to hide it (more on that soon). If they seem like the kind of person who'd be sympathetic, I'd lean towards being truthful. For example, if you haven't made any friends because you get nervous around people, your classmate who's a bit shy herself is probably going to get where you're coming from.
However you tell people about your friendlessness, use the right tone
I say this all over the site. When you reveal supposedly sensitive facts about yourself, do it in a casual, confident, this-is-no-big-deal tone. Don't dwell on the subject. Answer the question or explain your circumstances, then move on. If you act embarrassed or cornered you'll communicate that there might in fact be something fishy about your not having friends. If you talk about it offhandedly, then let the conversation continue, people will usually follow your lead.
If you tell people, you can add a positive twist to it
Some ways you can frame the situation in a positive way are:
- Explain why your social life is quiet at the moment, but emphasize that you're actively looking for new friends. That paints you as a sociable, proactive person who's in a temporary slump.
- Talk of wanting to freshen up or get some new blood into your social life. Again, this makes you seem like a sociable person who's looking to make things even better for themselves.
- Portray your lack of friends as your own choice (e.g., "Haha, I've been such a reclusive homebody all winter. I need to get out more now that it's nicer.") People may mildly chide you, but will also be happy that you now want to change your behavior.
- If you've been shy in the past, talk of finally coming out of your shell. People root for the quiet, unconfident type who's finally starting to find their footing.
Lying to cover up your lack of a social life
As I said, if you've got an understandable reason for not having friends you may as well be upfront about it. If not, lying is an option. It's not necessarily the best move, but it's an option anyway.
The main case for lying is that it's pragmatic: Some people may unfairly judge you for not having friends, so it's easier and more sensible to keep it under wraps. The pro-lying camp will also claim that everyone sometimes fudges the details of their social life to make it look better, so why can't you do the same?
Lying is also the lesser of two evils if the alternative is avoiding people and hiding from the world because you don't want your secret to get out. That's a counterproductive behavior that will keep you stuck in your isolation. If fibbing about your social life helps you to get out and meet people then it's worth it.
Obviously there are also downsides to lying:
- It can reinforce your feelings of shame and inadequacy about not having friends.
- It can reinforce the sense that you must hide this part of yourself from everyone, even if you aim to only selectively, strategically hiding it from certain people.
- It can be stressful in the moment - You have to come up with a believable fib and deliver it in a convincing way.
- It can be stressful in the longer term, as you have to keep your stories straight, and possibly lie to the same person over many months (e.g., your classmate who asks you what you did on the weekend every Monday).
- You might get caught, either at the time, or after a while when someone realizes what you've been saying doesn't add up.
- It can interfere with your ability to make friends. If you've already told someone a bunch of lies, you may not want to get closer to them because you're worried they may put it together that you haven't been honest.
All in all, lying can be a giant nerve-racking waste of mental energy, and I think you can save yourself a lot of hassle by being straightforward about your social life. However, if you've decided lying is practical in some circumstances or around certain people, read on for more thoughts about it.
One way to split the difference is to be upfront about not having friends, but fib about why
If you've got a less-understandable reason for not having friends you could pretend you've got a more palatable one (for example, saying your friends moved out of town, when you've really been too anxious to try to meet anyone). You could also change the details about how long you haven't had a social life. Like you could say you lost touch with your old friends a few months ago, when it was actually closer to two years.
The bigger, more stressful way to lie is to pretend you have a social life
If you do this you don't want to come up with any elaborate fabrications, like inventing a fake group of friends and all the things you do with them. It's too difficult and draining to come up with convincing details, then keep them all consistent. It's better to massage the truth, lie by omission, and let people assume things. Use your best judgment when deciding which lies to use. Some won't work in every situation (e.g., if you live in a tiny town or are trying to fool your roommates):
- Pretend you've got one or two busy or less-social friends who you only occasionally see one-on-one - I'd say this is the second-best way to be deceptive, after fibbing about why you don't have friends. You're saying you do have a social life, just a sparse one.
- Pretend you've still got friends back in your old city, who you only see when you visit - Again, you're saying you have a life, just not in your current location.
- Imply a group you only see through your hobby is your social circle (e.g., if you train at a martial arts gym, but are only acquaintances at best with the other students, talk about them as if they're your mates, and that working out with them a few times a week is all the socializing you need).
- Talk about older friends, or things you did with them, but speak as if you're still in touch. You're drawing on real experiences so you have way less to make up.
- Tell people what you did on the weekend, by yourself, but let them assume you did it with someone (if they specifically ask who you went with, you can always matter-of-factly say you went on your own).
If you're going to lie, try not to fret too much about being found out. Sometimes people with secrets worry that everyone has a finely-tuned B.S. detector and will catch them instantly. That's not true. Unless you're blatantly shifty and uncomfortable, people will take you at face value if you say something as mundane as telling them you watched movies with a friend on Friday night.
Tricky situation #1: Someone asks about your plans for the weekend or a holiday
This is a common small talk question that friendless people often worry will expose them. Here are some hiding / lying options.
Before the weekend / holiday
- Say you're not sure about what you're doing yet, or that you'll probably figure it out at the last second. Try to portray yourself as someone who goes with the flow and often doesn't know their plans until right before.
- Make up some things you might do.
- Say you don't care about that particular holiday, and aren't planning on doing anything for it.
- Say what you're doing, but don't mention you're doing it alone. Or make a vague reference to "some friends and I".
After the fact:
- Say you ended up staying in, you were sick, your friends were busy, or your plans fell through.
- Say what you did, but again, don't mention you did it alone.
- Lie about something you did, ideally something unverifiable and boring enough not to invite any follow up questions ("A friend came over and we watched some TV.")
Tricky situation #2: You're invited to something and asked to bring a friend along
Some options are:
- Pretend you asked some friends, but they had other plans.
- Pretend you invited your friends, but they weren't interested (e.g., say they're unadventurous and don't like meeting new people).
Tricky situation #3: You're asked what your friends are like
This one is harder to handle, and in my mind emphasizes why the lying route can be more hassle than it's worth. It works for a bit, until someone asks a question that's too tough to fib your way around. Still, your best option is to talk about previous friends, or even just old classmates or co-workers, as if they're your current ones. You'll be able to refer to true details instead of having to invent them.