#131: The “friend recession”
Are you feeling it??
Last week I caught a cold and, after days of lying to myself that it was a 24-hour thing (is it ever though), I finally accepted I was too sick to write. Thank g*d for my editor Mallory Rice, then, who offered to sub in for me today! She’s going to kick off a discussion on a topic I’ve been wanting to cover: the current state of friendship, apparently in crisis according to the News Media. Very curious to hear your thoughts since the last discussion thread I had on this topic was a banger. I’ll meet you in the comments!
Best friends (discourse) forever
Tapping in this weekend to give Haley the proper sick days she deserves—and with pleasure, since the topic she was thinking about covering is something I feel pretty interested in too.
The Social Recession. You may not have heard the term but you’ve definitely heard the gist: People are hanging out with each other less and less and this trend has been playing out since basically the proliferation of mass media, sped up remarkably by smartphones, and then again by the pandemic. I do think some of the social recession talk is exaggerated and overly handwring-y, most often due to the distressed states of people who are too-online and dominate the conversation. (I still laugh a little when I think about Haley calling out the writer who earnestly claimed nobody dances anymore.) But all the various graphs I’ve seen are hard to argue with. And, of course, I don’t even need the graphs because I am alive.
Knowing our tech overlords aren’t going anywhere soon, I’m curious to know how people are taking matters into their own hands, defying all the stats and empty-calorie digital interactions, to keep their social lives feeling lively, especially as it relates to friendship. When I moved to Livingston, Montana about a year ago, after housesitting in Wyoming for a while and living in Brooklyn for 15 years before that, I sort of imposed a social recession upon myself. I remember telling myself that it was going to be a “quiet winter.” That was my coping euphemism for “actually it might be excruciatingly lonely but hopefully only for a season.” The truth has been somewhere in the middle—it was never actually that lonely and it actually took more than one season to start meeting people who felt like friends. It’s been humbling at times, learning how I might come across to people who don’t yet know me, and also exhilarating to realize that there are still so many more people to meet who can make life feel bigger and more interesting.
Some of my friends in New York have said that it seems like I’ve met a lot of people already. I’m always quick to tell them that it’s not for lack of effort. Right away, I joined a club for women who fly fish (clubs, meet-ups, etc, have historically not really been my thing) and I’ve taken up basically every offer of an introduction that anyone has extended. I literally, randomly, met someone nice in the middle of a horse pasture. When I wrote a “15 Things” for Maybe Baby last summer, a bunch of people in or near Montana reached out, which I found life-affirming. (Feel free to DM on this round too if you’re nearby.)
I’ve generally accepted invitations, even when I’m not exactly in the mood, and rarely regretted it. I’ve had periods of feeling energized by all the newness and I’ve also mysteriously cried on the drive home from parties where I, by my own account, had fun. Sometimes, in a quizzical tone, I ask myself why I have made my life so weird by moving here when I have plenty of deep, cozy relationships somewhere else. But then when I talk to the people who I’ve already known forever, I’m reminded why the pursuit and building of friendships is worthwhile.
With that, I’d like to know where you are with all of this. Has your social world “receded” in recent years, as the graphs indicate, or not really? What’s your appetite for socializing with friends new and old these days? Please share any winning strategies. (Fodder: What is the social equivalent of a stimulus check? lol.) And, of course, if you’re looking for more connections where you live, please do make it known in the comments.
I hope you take Mallory up on shouting out where you live if you’re interested in making more local friends/connections! That’s happened a few times in my comments by accident and I think it sounds nice to make a place for it on purpose.
Also, if you’re a paying subscriber and missed my Tuesday newsletter, I shared 6 tips that have helped me shop better/smarter/less in recent years and asked for reader submissions, which were so useful. And under my recent Friday recs I shared my favorite habit and asked people to share theirs, which were unexpectedly fun to read. Look at me going buck wild on comment sections…maybe I’ve been a little lonely, too? (per the graphs)
Hope you have a nice Sunday and stay healthy!!