Tinx Talks: How To Survive The ‘Splinter’ Friendship Era

Does it feel like all your friends are moving in different directions, leaving you behind? TikTok’s favourite big sister is here to help.


by Grazia Contributor |
Published on

Emma Gannon’s debut novel, Olive, is about four best friends in their early 30s, all suddenly in wildly different places in life. Usually, the best part of a book is the catharsis you get from reading a specific emotional situation similar to one you’ve been through yourself. In this case, the prose felt almost too on the nose! The painfully accurate depiction of four women trying to navigate friendship and life changes felt all too real, because I lived it. We all do. Welcome to the Splinter Era.

The Splinter Era is the often-painful period in a woman’s life where all of a sudden all of her friends are going in different directions. Until your late 20s and early 30s, you tend to progress at roughly the same pace as your friend group. You all stumble through your first “big girl” jobs together, live together as roommates in cramped apartments, and figure out taxes and break ups and dating apps as one extended organism, one heartbeat. Then, 28 rolls around. In the blink of an eye, one friend decides to go to law school, one friend is off to Bali to get her yoga certification, and another is about to pop out her second baby and move into a house that’s like… meant for grown-ups. Panic ensues: where does this leave you?

The Splinter Era can be unsettling because of two main feelings at play. The first is the feeling of being left behind. Now, maybe you are the friend who gets happily married at 28. Maybe you’re the friend packing for Bali. But for many of us, the end of our 20s is more of a slow slide from the comfort of youth. An undefined era wrought with self-doubt, erratic job changes and sometimes a cross country move. (I experienced all three - amazing, right?) And that can make the Splinter Era truly anxiety-inducing. For me, it was the first wave of engagements that sent me spiraling. I was unhappy in my job, more single than ever and battling awful self-image. I felt that all my friends who were getting engaged were so much further ahead than me. That, coupled with the fact that I thought I would lose them, made me feel deeply unnerved.

The second feeling is that you'll never be in the same place as all of your friends again. It’s a scary feeling when it first starts to dawn on you. I remember wondering if we’d ever all be one big group again. And the truth is, you are, and you aren’t. Huge changes happen in the Splinter Era, but I’m happy to report there's joy on the other side.

So how should one navigate this turbulent time? Allow me to offer some advice I wish I’d had. Firstly, and most importantly, be happy for your friends. Truly happy. Feel their wins in your bones. Feeling unsettled in your own life is good breeding ground for the green-eyed monster, so stay on top of it. Someone getting engaged doesn’t mean you won’t find the love of your life. Your best girlfriend getting a promotion doesn’t mean you won’t land your dream job. Channeling discomfort into gratitude always proves effective for me.

Secondly, acknowledge things are changing. There’s going to be that first ‘holy shit’ moment when one of you is coming to brunch straight from a rave and one of you is coming from a Mommy and Me playgroup. Things change and people change, but the bond you have with your friends doesn’t have to. We mustn't abandon people because they're in different life stages, but rather find new common ground and push through the awkwardness of new realities.

Finally, make sure you have friends in the same headspace as you. I am not for a second saying to abandon your old best pals (see above), but I can’t emphasize enough the importance of adding to your clan, so you don’t feel… well...insane. Being the only single friend in a group of married people with kids can make you feel awful. Similarly, being the only person who doesn’t like going out anymore in a group of people who still love to party can make you feel crazy. Instead of lamenting your core group feeling suddenly imbalanced, look at it like a fun project. Goal: find people in your life stage while still nourishing your tried-and-true friendships, wherever they are.

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