Why Is It Weird to Be Friends With Someone Much Younger Than You?

Most people's friends tend to be around their own age, practically by default.

The vast majority of friendships are built while in school or through work––both environments wherein one is likely surrounded by their contemporaries. But times are changing, and nowadays, a lot of modern friendships are also built online, oftentimes in niche, special interest communities where age isn't necessarily a factor for participation. As such, it's not uncommon for friendships to form over a shared hobby between two people of vastly different ages. But isn't it weird to be friends with someone younger than you are?

Family guy FriendsFOX

Unfortunately, there's a certain stigma of "creepiness" that often gets associated with friendship between two people with a large age gap between them (especially if one of the people involved is under 18-years-old). To an extent, the stigma makes sense––or at the very least, the inclination to be wary of such relationships is reasonable. After all, age isn't really just a number. Age directly relates to life experience, meaning that any relationship between a younger person and an older person possesses an inherent power imbalance.

With that being said, there's no good reason for age to ever be a barrier to genuine friendship.

Many close friendships stem from mutual interests between two people. One of the greatest aspects of the Internet is its ability to connect people around the world within tiny communities dedicated to even the most niche hobbies and fandoms. No matter what you enjoy, be it birdwatching, attending Disney theme parks, or geeking out over obscure anime from the '80s, there are almost definitely other people out there who like the same things and actively want to talk about them. In that light, why should age bar potential friendships?

If anything, friendship between a younger person and an older person within the context of a shared hobby can be mutually beneficial. An older person might have more experience and insight into the hobby, potentially even offering guidance and serving as a role model for their younger friend. Likewise, a younger person might have their finger on newer, more cutting edge aspects of the hobby that might be harder for an older person to find on their own.

Friends playing boardgame

In fact, this symbiosis goes beyond the hobby world. Friendship between two people of different ages can lead to both parties growing and learning new things that might otherwise not be possible through friendship with a similarly-aged peer. Different generations tend to have different approaches to life and vastly different tastes in music, art, and media. In the best scenarios, friendship between a younger person and an older person can result in a give-and-take of life experience, advice, and new interests.

Better yet, there might even be mental health benefits to intergenerational friendship.

"Bridging the generation gap not only increases the friend pool, but it also expands and supports mental well-being," author Anna Kudak said to Good Housekeeping magazine. "Friendships with older and younger people help broaden your perspective, which in turn allows you to have compassion and empathy in your day-to-day life."

With all this being said, there is a gendered element at play, too. From a social standpoint, it's much easier to maintain an older-younger friendship along gender lines than across them. While understandable, it's also sad that genuine friendships are oftentimes subject to judgment and sexualization from outside parties. So if you're an older person who happens to become friends with someone younger and of the opposite gender (or even someone whose gender you might be attracted to), it's best to stay extra vigilant to make sure you never take advantage of your position in the relationship. At the same time, there's no reason to let society's oftentimes draconian standards for normalcy stand in the way of a genuine platonic connection with another person.

In short, despite what anyone else may think, there's absolutely nothing wrong with being friends with someone younger than you. Friendship doesn't make you weird; it makes you human.

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