Playing Nice with the Other Kids–making friends in the real world

I have been an adult for roughly a year now and I feel that I have been pretty successful.  I have a job, a roof over my head, a relationship, blah blah social status symbols blah.  But for all this “stuff” I have checked off the list of social acceptability, I have found that I am not very good at making friends.  Don’t get me wrong I have friends (hey Mom, don’t cry), I swear that I do, but I have not had the success building a large community of people of diverse interests and backgrounds that I had in other stages of my life.  For the most part I have found that I have a lot of trouble becoming friends with people outside of the contexts of coworkers, roommates, and significant others thereof.  All of these various groups have their pros and cons:

WORK FRIENDS

Your job, is in my very limited experience, a virtual treasure trove of possible friends.  This is where I have had the most success meeting people that I have actual things in common with, enjoy hanging out with, have maintained relationships with and so on.  Here is a breakdown of my positive thinking:

  • People are goal oriented while at work (even if they are not in their personal lives) which makes them appealing as companions in my mad dash toward prestige (this has yet to begin btw)
  • People at work are actively trying to get to know their coworkers to divert themselves temporarily from an unpleasant task at hand or to fill the long hours of the afternoon between 3:00pm when all urges to be useful stop and 5:00pm when we feel entitled to go home.
  • People at work may share common interests, societal goals (if you are working in a personally meaningful field), education levels, and outlooks making them easier friend targets than others
  • People at work can’t run away when you get weird.

But there are also some drawbacks to this approach at friending IRL:

  • You can’t complain about your co-workers/boss if your friend is also your co-worker/boss.
  • People at work might not appreciate your goals beyond your current employment/not want you to leave.  This limits important friendship factors like conversation topics and longevity.
  • Sometimes making work friends feels like networking and networking for the sake of networking feels a little like inappropriate flirting.
  • People at work may share common interests, societal goals (if you are working in a personally meaningful field), education levels, and outlooks making them easier friend targets than others but also limiting your societal scope and outlook by being just that.  Comfort zone has its drawbacks.

Most of my good friends here in Portland came from my job with OSPIRG.  While my relationship with the organization did not go as planned, I couldn’t be happier with the fact that I found these strong, smart, and oh so stylish women to call my friends.  But we are a group of well-educated, liberal, mostly red-headed women in our mid-twenties with a righteous political zeal and the goal of changing the world.  Hanging out with ideological copies of yourself is fun and comforting, but ideological diversity makes the heart grow fonder right? Maybe? Love you guys!

ROOMMATE FRIENDS

The other place where I have made my meaningful relationships since I left school is my own private domicile.  Joey and I have always been “house people” but we have not always been “money people” so we inevitably always have several roommates.  Making friends in this situation is pretty much a necessity but can also have its ups and downs.  On the up side:

  • Roommates don’t have to leave their house to hang out
  • Roommates can wear their pajamas around each other even on the first day of the friendship
  • Roommates can’t run away when you get weird!

And on the down side….

  • ROOMMATES WILL STILL BE THERE REGARDLESS (even if you piss them off and/or decide you aren’t compatible)

So I guess what I am trying to say here is I may be having trouble making friends in any situation that moves faster than my pro con lists.  And also I am only able to play to captive audiences.

OTHER FRIENDS

So in truth I don’t have too many of these.  I have made some friend attempts with people I have volunteered with (sup PYB) and a few friends of friends moving here from out of town.  But as a millennial I think what I really need is a friend-ing App.  I have been dating Joey since before Tindr was a thing so I have never gotten to try it, but I hope that this potential app would look a lot like that…..except instead of asking to Netflix and chill the app would help you find people to just drink wine and yell at the TV in your living room on weeknights until 9 pm when you all need to go to bed.

See, I think the struggle here is not the technology or the willingness of the population.  I am sure there are plenty of recent college grads with wide open social calendars, a need for arbitrary structure and rules in social situations, and a background in app design just waiting to jump on this opportunity!  But my wariness to just start going on “friend dates” with random people is not coming from social anxiety (I think), it is coming from the newly found adult fears that someone is inevitably trying to swindle you.  Maybe its just me but these days I have a moment of pause when meeting a new person I didn’t used to have in college.  I guess its the loss of the assumption of common goals.  When I meet someone now I tend to think any of these thoughts:

  • Is this person hitting on me?
  • Will they steal my TV if I tell them where I live?
  • Is this the kind of person who will move into my living room and live on my couch if I’m nice?
  • Where are my keys?
  • Is this person hitting on me now?
  • If they came over for dinner, would they even bring wine?

To combat this automatic reticence I have come up with some app names and taglines that will either keep everyone honest, or start a huge black market in fake friend crime:

  • NoBone: Friend dating for platonic relationships
  • Neighborly: Connecting neighbors and helping them snoop on each other from the inside
  • Happily Hour After:  Finding friends for Happy Hours across your city, don’t worry you can be home by 8.
  • Pal-caching:  Like geo-caching but you are collecting people you have 3rd degree connections to on Facebook
  • Common Enemy: Bringing People together who all used to do something (worked for the same company, dated same person).
  • Wine&Feelings: Airing your grievances isn’t just for Festivus anymore!
  • Tea4Two: And by tea I mean Whiskey, and can it be 3?  I need to bring my boyfriend.
  • ThirdWheel: Assigns single people a couple to hang out with so they have automatic wing people and a reason to go home at 10 on a weekend.
  • Fantasy Friendball: Create a fantasy team of 2nd degree social media connections and if your team does enough cool stuff (and posts about it) you talk to them in person at the end of the league.

While some of these may seem extreme and voyeuristic (ehh you could be right) the flat truth is that people of my generation need to incentivize meeting new people.  I would rather make finding friends into a game than admit I am in need of help socializing.  And I would rather admit I need help socializing than admit to any human person that I used their readily available internet persona and personal data to recruit them onto my Fantasy Friendball team.  So maybe the benefits of these apps could be twofold:  they would both give people stuck in social ruts a way to branch out, and they could shame people into being honest about their friendly intentions.

GO MAKE A NEW FRIEND TODAY EVERYONE

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