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How Moving Is Linked to Losing Friends (theatlantic.com)
130 points by prostoalex on Feb 29, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 81 comments



A lot of that is how we create friendships. Growing up in an area, you have many years with the same people. In college, you have many years with the same people. After you graduate, even if you're in the same area there will be multiple phases to friendship.

1. You're going to be working and single/married but still have plenty of time to spend after hours and on weekends with friends. The crux comes from income disparities that might prevent some friends from spending money on activities that others are willing to do.

2. As soon as kids happen, the group dynamics shift. The parents are often times going to be exhausted for a few years (especially if both are working), going out requires hiring a babysitter, inviting people over involves working around the kids or trying to avoid waking them. We host our friends all the time just because it's easier, but it's very different. Overtime this shift in dynamics becomes a big deal.

3. The solution for getting together with friends when you have small kids is other people with kids the same age who can play together. This causes another significant shift in the dynamic as you start to create new friends with parents from your neighborhood, school, church, scouts, etc. If you're in an new area and many people in these groups already know each other, then you're going to be responsible for making the effort to get to know them.


I think it's worse when you're single and really have no plans on having kids. It's just one of those things that make it hard to socialize since the common activities aren't going to align as often, either. That's been my experience so far.


For kids, the OP had point 3: "The solution for getting together with friends when you have small kids is other people with kids the same age who can play together."

What he forgot to mention was point 3a: "The solution, when you have kids, for dealing with friends who have no kids, is to kick their asses out of your friends network". It's closely related to point 3b: "The solution, when you're married, for dealing with friends who stay perpetually single, is to kick their asses out of your friends network".

Note, I'm not promoting this behavior, I'm just pointing out, from observation, that this is how people behave.

My experience, as someone who has no kids and is unlikely to have any, is that the only way to socialize is to move into a big city where there's a bunch of other ~35-45+yo people with no kids. Otherwise, you're going to be a very lonely person, because you simply will not fit into any other social group.


"is that the only way to socialize is to move into a big city where there's a bunch of other ~35-45+yo people with no kids" - or you could find / join a group with similar interests. A local LUG, sports group, music... whatever floats your boat. For example, I have found it pretty easy to make new friends through mountain biking and track building in my new area.


It's a bit worse when you're trans and come from the Bible belt (moved to Minneapolis for better opportunities). Both of those seem to make a bit of an outcast even among the LGBT community (seems any hint of social conservative values is frowned upon around here).


Ok, I gotta ask: how can you be both trans and even a little bit socially conservative? Economically conservative, sure (Log Cabin Republicans do exist after all), but socially? Social conservatism these days seems to center on being anti-gay, with a big dose of evangelicalism, so I can't imagine how you can support that and be trans.


1. I oppose drug use (don't support drug laws, though).

2. I oppose sex outside of marriage.

3. I do believe in some concept of a God (not necessarily Christian).

4. I oppose most "social justice" movements.

So, yeah I think I'm fairly conservative. I think 2 and 4 are what get the most flak in the LGBT community, especially 4 since all I support is non-discrimination laws like ENDA and anything beyond that is redundant. For example, I think badgering someone like Brendan Eich for being a devout Mormon and putting some of his private funds into a pro-Prop-8 PAC is stupid. Basically, all social justice stuff and "call-outs" are pointless when the real issue is how the State and corporate actors are allowed to behave under the law. I don't care if Eich thinks I'm going to Hell. All I care about is will he conform to the law when it doesn't favor him in discrimination? Beyond that, I don't care as to his personal values. So, I get lots of static for that particular view point.


Let's not downvote a guy for asking what appears to be an honest question. I'm curious about this too. I suspect the question comes from a different interpretation of what 'social conservative values' means, so an explanation would be valuable.


> If you're in an new area and many people in these groups already know each other, then you're going to be responsible for making the effort to get to know them.

I never understood this mindset. From a sheer work perspective, it's easier for ten people in an established group to make a small effort to the new person than it is for that new person to make the same (or even less) effort toward all ten. And from a psychological perspective, they're already in an unfamiliar environment and likely without any friends or family. It's much more humane for the established folks to reach out to the new people.


I have about twenty friends that I regularly do things with. But only 3 of us organize 90% of our activities. A new person is a burden on that core group. We try, but some folks make it hard to bring them in. If they don't rsvp, or use nonstandard communication methods it makes it hard. They don't have to reach out, but they have to respond or after a while we quit trying.


Well, there's a little more to it than that. First off, there's the diffusion of responsibility. The more people there are that can make an invite, the more people assume somebody else would do it. Then there's the group dynamic factor. If anybody in the group has any issue with you, other people can feel awkward about inviting you. The last is the benefit factor. The benefit of getting more ingrained to the community for somebody who isn't established is for the person who isn't established. The people already ingrained have their routine, so their incentive to keep making overtures isn't nearly as strong as your desire for those overtures.


Basic economics (supply and demand) explain a lot of phenomenons: you need them more than they need you.


For this reason, I tell college applicants that there's value to going to a school in the economic area you expect to work in (straightforward if it's LA, SV, or NY). Most of your friends are going to stay in that area. I lost most of my college friends when I moved back to the west coast.


Is that actually a good idea, though? Schools in California and New York tend to be quite expensive. Moreover, it's arguably much safer for people, to move after college, when they have more maturity and an improved economic outlook than it is for them to move far away from home just after leaving high school. If a high-schooler gets into trouble in college, it's much better for them if their college is a couple of hundred miles from their parents and their existing social network, as opposed to being a couple of thousand miles away. It's much easier for kids who are marginal to get that extra support and attention, which can mean the difference between dropping out and graduating.

Certainly, in my case, I'm very glad that I chose to move away after college, rather than before. I had a hard time in university, and the extra support I got from my parents was crucial in getting me out with a diploma. I would not have had that support if I'd moved to California or New York for my computer science degree.


I'm not so sure. I went to uni in a different state, 1000 miles from home. I was also one of those marginal students (low income, poor schools, poor neighborhood, single parent, etc). Freshman year, moving to a new state made me a bit monastic. While my new friends, who were in state, were going home, constantly hanging out with friends from high school I would spend my weekends studying, try new interesting activities, listen to music, etc.

Being so far from family just made me more self-reliant and resourceful. Example, my roommate would take a car load of laundry home every month because he didn't know how to wash his clothes and could not be bothered to figure it out.

While being self reliant prepared me for life it did not help with the studies. It took me a few years and a few failed courses before I really learned how to study. Not at the grade school level but at the university level. But that was not because of the distance to the school. Being first in my family I had no one to lean on. Now my siblings are doing much better because I was the first, took all the arrows to the chest and mentored them over the stumbling blocks I encountered when transitioning to university.


It is sort of the opposite with post-graduate schooling. Almost everyone you meet is from somewhere else, and going somewhere else in the next 5 years.


The majority of people can ultimately attribute meeting nearly all of their friends to either work or school. Having friends also makes meeting new friends both easier and far more likely.

People who move around often are hit pretty hard by that dynamic. I'd say people with little to no educational background who then work remote or otherwise solitary jobs also have it rough in that regard.


Ouch. I've worked remotely for years, have a history of moving, and haven't been in school for over a decade. I can easily vouch for your statements, not to mention two other factors - being in a Southern European country where "there's no future" (and thus it's the locals that move) and being in my 30s when most social circles are already established.

It gets more complicated depending on the type of country one lives in. It's been said that Portugal, where I'm living, doesn't have so much of a social culture while Spain very much does. This weekend I went to a Spanish border town and saw infinitely more people, of all ages, out and about. Crossing an artibrary EU border (just a sign) and suddenly everything changes. The problem lies in what this means for the individual. As it has been explained to me, social cultures are like peaches - easy to breach, hard to truly enter - while less-social cultures are like coconuts - hard to breach, but easier to truly enter.


I'm in my thirties and felt as you did until I found the right social hobby (swing dancing). Now, my biggest social concern is balancing:

1. Being kind and open to new people I meet. 2. Dedicating enough time to the people I know. 3. Dedicating enough time to myself.

I write this as an American living in Thailand for the last five months. I'm unfamiliar with Thai and many other Asian languages, yet in those months I've made friends with people from a half dozen countries in Asia and a couple in Europe. I would happily meet up with many for a meal. For some, I would even consider hosting them or asking to crash on their couches.

This is less of an advertisement for swing dancing or dancing in general, and more an advertisement for exploring different subcultures. I explored many before finding this particular one.


Heh, I think my wife and I accidentally stumbled on your swing dancing group. Is it the one that meets in that second floor bar with windows facing west just south of Sukhumvit from the British embassy? Looked like fun but people taking it oh so serious! Lots of expats. We were simply relaxing and amused at the difference with China, but I've since seen a similar event in Chengdu and we've since met an Aussie tango teacher who has just started up here in Kunming. From what I understand, swing is super popular with US west-coasters. Seems a bit of a thing in this area right now. Of course it's probably a faded fad by now in the more US-connected Korea/Hong Kong/Taiwan zone...

Guess I am the exception that proves the rule. 33 here, moved at least 10 times in the last 15 years, including 3 major international jumps, but still have a big circle of friends across the region in multiple cities. We are definitely more aware of parents now that we have a child but overall most friends are still without. Certainly couples are more approachable now than singles, though.


> 33 here, moved at least 10 times in the last 15 years, including 3 major international jumps

35 here, moved at least 20 times in the last 15 years, including 3 major international jumps

FTFM (fixed that for me). It's fun but not always easy, as a single person, that is.


Yep, that's one of two places here. The swing dance scene in HK and Korea is much larger. Once I'm a little more settled in my new job, I'd like to go dancing in both places.


Yep, I'm in the same situation as you. Had almost no social circle in my early thirties, but then I started attending meetups as well as getting into the hobbyist board game subculture.

Now it's a real challenge to spend time with everyone and yet save some time for myself and my creative hobbies.


Dedicating time to myself is the most challenging because the feedback loops are long and unpleasant. If I don't dedicate enough, I feel overwhelmed and maybe behave in a regrettable way. I usually don't have a problem dedicating too much time for myself, since there's many fun things to do with others or a friend in need.


Same here but I have the opposite situation. Also work remotely and live in the South of Portugal (so not even in a big city). Been living here for a year and made a lot of colleagues and have a diverse group of people which I do various activities with (some for tennis, others hiking, others going to local fairs). The main difference I think is being more outgoing and even going to events where you don't think you will enjoy just for the sake of being out and meeting people.

ps: if you are in or near central algarve, drop me a line, will be more than happy to go for a beer anytime.


>... when most social circles are already established.

That's a good point. It's harder to befriend people in any meaningful way when they already have an ample or established group of friends.


Yeah... it also has a profound effect on children.

I grew up around the world backwards - my dad was a futures trader, and would end up working on a different exchange in a different corner of the planet every 18-24 months. He was also a serial philanderer, which it turns out was the actual reason for the frequent employment changes, but hey.

Between being born and leaving school at 18, I lived in four continents, a dozen countries, twenty houses/homes, and had attended nine schools - only in my last five years of education did I stay put - up until that point I'd not spent more than two years at any school.

So what effect does this have?

I have a weird approach to relationships with other humans. Being dislocated frequently has lead to a low investment high yield model of human interaction - that is to say, I spend as little time and effort as possible on relationships with others, and have an understanding of which levers can be pulled for maximal attachment (on their behalf, not mine - I stay unattached as losing people over and over and over gets a bit painful) with minimal effort. This mostly comprises moulding my external interactions with others according to the expectations that I perceive from them, and thus aiming for the "I met the most amazing X" the other night zone. This isn't because I want people to think highly of me or because I want to take advantage of people - rather because I want friendship in a lonely world but don't want to invest time and emotion into a relationship that may just be whipped away from me. Selfish, I know, but I have to survive somehow.

I don't stay in touch with people I don't see frequently, to the extent that people who were my best friends 10, 15, 20 years ago (all different people of course) I haven't spoken to in 10, 15 or 20 years. They may as well have never existed.

In short, it's turned me borderline psychopathic in terms of how I interact with others, I've learned to be a loner, I can get on with anyone, I can reduce anyone to quivering rage. I don't think humans were really built to lose their entire social group every eighteen months - it's not aligned with the whole primate hierarchy thing.

I recognise the same thing in others who have had similar backgrounds, and almost as oddly they notice the same in me. It usually leads to us simply ignoring each other on mutual understanding of the pointlessness of getting to know one another.


Your experience will not be unfamiliar to millions of kids who grew up in the military, at least the American one with bases all over the world. I don't think it makes people weird or unable to form friendships. The reason you're not talking to your friend from 20 years ago is you don't have anything in common any more. That's normal.


There's a lot of research and literature on the subject, and even a term "Third Culture Kid", for those that bounce between countries:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_culture_kid


Are you still moving around? If not, why do you feel like it's such a big investment to actually invest in another person?


It's really, really hard to change the mental patterns that are formed during your formative years.


I would guess training/habit.

But I think it's leaving him/her with a void for real human connection, rather than the fake that he/she has had for so many years. He/she needs to get over the fear of pain of loss and start actually connecting with people anyway.


I'm much the same, and came from a similar background; I didn't move nearly as widely as you did, but certainly did have frequent moves.

Seeing this described is inspiring me to try to develop normal social interactions -- or perhaps it isn't. Having actual friends, who agree with your goals and will support you in pursuing them, who you don't have to put on a false face before, is one thing; having long-term acquaintances who disagree with you and hold you back is something else. If you're comfortable alone, you won't tolerate unhealthy interactions as being better than none at all...


i'm not sure if its the majority... i used to be this way, but as i got older i ended up making friends in more 'traditional' social settings too (i.e. down the pub) and these friends greatly outnumber the "met them at work or school" ones now.

given that i didn't work with the vast majority of those people i would /guess/ that they are in a similar position.


> The majority of people can ultimately attribute meeting nearly all of their friends to either work or school. Having friends also makes meeting new friends both easier and far more likely.

and

> i'm not sure if its the majority... i used to be this way, but as i got older i ended up making friends in more 'traditional' social settings too (i.e. down the pub) and these friends greatly outnumber the "met them at work or school" ones now.

are the reason why I believe that it's not moving that is the primary issue, but rather that most of us only know limited ways of making, maintaining and having friends. And for many of us, that's okay. But if we move, or if we for some other reason need to make new friends, well, then we probably need to apply new methods.

My experience is that's is surprisingly easy to make new acquaintances and pretty doable to turn these into friendships. While personally I struggle with maintaining them, that problem has always existed. But making friends has never been a problem, despite the fact that I'm pretty introverted and not naturally gifted in the art of socializing.


> American society was mobile in his day and has only gotten more mobile since.

This is the conventional wisdom. Is it true? I've seen assertions challenging it in the past, suggesting Americans were less likely to make big moves today than in the past, and instead remain in the same city (this was in connection with some divorce/custody cases).

Blurbs challenging the assertion:

http://www.newsmax.com/US/americans-moving-less-than/2014/05...

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/post/why-are-a...

http://uselectionatlas.org/FORUM/index.php?topic=151554.0;wa...

and one on how Americans are still mobile compared to the rest of the world: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2013/05/15/the-u...


A related effect happens after you move. In your first months in a new place you can easily seem interesting and get invited to parties and whatnot because you're new in town. But you're like an animal in a zoo: look at him, so unusual, oh let's move on to the next one.

The people you meet will usually be longtime residents of your new home. They have evidence that your friendship will not last, because after all you just told them all about the place you left behind. You'll probably leave this place behind someday, so becoming deeply involved with you is likely a big waste of time.

Don't worry, there's an expat meet-up every Wednesday! We have no idea who will be there, but maybe you can meet some new people!


I guess different cultures have different ideas of friendship.

For me a friend is someone you call at 3AM with "I need you", and he don't even asks the question - "who is this guy", while you bury the body. And some for whom you will do the same.

You may have a couple of those in your life if you are extremely lucky and you don't lose them even if they are half the world away and you talk once per year.

But I guess the majority of friendships the articles talk about are acquaintances. A true friendship is forged in fire, hardened, tempered and not brittle at all.


Reading these comments makes me feel really good about what I'm trying to do with my startup, Krewe (https://www.gokrewe.com). It helps people make lasting, meaningful friendships that they can actually see and do stuff with everyday. It places people into a small social group where everyone lives within a half mile radius, and then encourages them to stick together and meet up often. There really is no reason why we all shouldn't have a close group of friends in our neighborhood, no matter how old we are, we just need an organization to help make those introductions and connections.


How well does it facilitate discrimination? For instance, in the small town I'm stuck in at the moment, most people are probably religious, and I definitely don't want to become friends with any of them. So a service that lets you find people living near you to be friends with would need to allow me to discriminate against people like that easily, or I'm not going to bother using it.


I think that would be a little too controversial for me to try to start out with.


Why would that be "controversial"?

It sounds like (without looking at your site: it's blocked for me) you're basically just setting up something like a dating site, but with a focus on meeting friends nearby rather than dating partners.

I've never seen a dating site (except Tinder) which didn't have basic properties plainly visible for every person in their profile: sex, age, marital/relationship status, religion, ethnicity, kids, and usually a bunch more like pets, income, job, etc. People discriminate when looking for dating partners all the time, and for good reason. If you're a 20-year-old hetero atheist female, you're probably not going to want to date a 70-year-old hetero evangelical female. It's not that different when looking for friends; most people form friendships starting from some shared trait or experience, and tend to avoid people they aren't likely to get along with. Religion is a pretty big factor here: a devout Muslim is not likely to get along with a devout Jew or Christian, and similarly an liberal atheist or agnostic is not likely to get along with a Bible-thumping conservative Christian.

So why wouldn't you want to help people find people they can get along with? If all you're doing is trying to push together people because they just happen to leave within a half-mile of each other, that's doomed to failure IMO.


There are existing fairly-good mechanisms for people looking to network whose primary criteria is shared religion (shared absence of religion has somewhat weaker tools in many locations, and I suppose a tool focusing specifically on that audience might be valuable.)

So, while religious filtering might be of some importance to some users of a new friend-finder tool, there are, I think, fairly good reasons to think that the people for whom it is most important are exactly the people that don't need a new tool at all -- people who network through their religious communities.


dragonwriter put it very well in terms of religion. Plus, I'm quite sure people of differing religions (even devote ones) can become friends. I do let people choose an age group and a category ('professional', 'creative', or 'blue collar') so you can be placed in a group of your peers. But I think having diversity in groups is very useful, and I'd hate to exacerbate social segregation.

Krewe is not a Tinder or Match.com marketed for making friends. It's doesn't work anything like that, because making friends is not like finding dates. I think what makes churches, as well as stuff like schools, sports teams, fraternities, community service organizations, etc, so great at helping people form lasting, meaningful friendships and relationships (and why people love them so much) is that they really are just a group of people getting together often. You don't need to find the absolute best or most compatible people for you--you get to have multiple friends of varying closeness after all. You just need to have access to people who you can see frequently, build connections with, become involved in each other's lives, and create a culture of new, shared interests, inside jokes, traditions, etc. It's really how human society has worked since its very inception.


Just from reading your description, this sounds awesome! I thought about building something very similar. Especially as someone who has moved around quite a bit, it can be hard to make friends in new places.

Hey also your site seems to be down at: https://gokrewe.com/ It looks like it only works if you add the www. in front


Oh thanks for the heads up on that. And that's for the words of support.


I've experienced an almost opposite situation a few years ago. Rather than moving away and losing friends, life brought me to a location in which I couldn't care less to live in. Because of this, I would make a great effort to not make friends, not socialize, and not have anything to do with the community. I lived with the assumption that it was a temporary situation and would be over soon. It wasn't as temporary as I had hoped...


I'm in much the same situation now. Don't listen to that other guy: if you're living in a place where you don't intend to stay, and the locals really aren't people you want to spend your time with, then don't. All the people around me are a bunch of small-town religious people, so I have no desire to get to know them, or else they're going to start asking me about my "personal relationship with Jesus" or somesuch. I'm just working on my finances and planning my move out of here, and for socializing I try to take a day every weekend and drive to the nearest big city and do something with a Meetup group there. I meet some very interesting people that way, unlike the people I currently live around.


Meetups really did help the situation! Luckily this isn't so much of a problem these days and I have carved out a small niche where I am at. Not exactly where I want to be, but I've found a way to be happy with where I am!


For what it is worth, I think that is a terrible approach in general.

Life is what is happening to you now, not some vague future plan or wished for remembrance.


Oh I completely agree that it isn't the best approach and I agree that life is happening in the moment. However, living in the moment when you are in a terrible situation is rough. In the moment, depression and suicide seem like a good idea, but that is probably not a good move (not that this is a problem for me).

But living in the immediate moment certainly will help any depression of what could be. Enjoying the smell of your environment or taking in nature certainly prevent you from thinking of your terrible living situation.


I think this is a good approach even if it takes you loner to move to the place you really want to be. I'm in your situation now and I just don't see the value of making friends where I currently am. To me, it's just a waste of time that could be instead spent on trying to get to the place I want to be.


Generally, we've been really happy with our move from Italy to Bend, Oregon, but leaving our friends behind has been one of the most difficult aspects of it. I miss the social interactions with both friends and most people in general, in Italy. "Hi, how are you?" is a genuine question, and not asked if you don't expect an answer.


When you move you change acquaintances, you don't lose friends unless you already wanted to lose touch with them. I know it sounds like a no true Scotsman but with cheap airlines, skype, online gaming etc. it's pretty easy to keep in touch if you actually want to.


Depends on what you consider easy.

I live 12hrs off timezone wise to nearly everyone I know. When I am waking up they are going to sleep, and vice versa. The flights are thousands of dollars and 24hrs of travel time _each way_. To get to a base city. Where all but a couple of them _no longer live_. To get out to the cities they actually live in is a different flight for each of them, or for some hiring a car and driving because are no flights to there.

And only covers 60% of them. For the rest I'd have to go to different countries once again. For more thousands of dollars and days of travel time.

It, frankly, sucks. Hitting 30, moving away and working from home has made me realise that I really need to get a hobby to meet people.


What about my rock-climbing partner, and my musician friends (some of the stuff we do can be done over the 'net, but we can't jam remotely)? I guess these all fall under the category of "take a plane"? It certainly contradicts the spur-of-the-moment environment facilitated by cellphones though, whereby we tend to make plans just a few hours before meeting up.

Keeping in touch is definitely possible, but those types of friendships would become nearly unrecognizable if we're separated by a plane flight.


If a friendship revolves around being able to do some similar thing together, it's probably not a friendship. In a friendship it's about the other person and it doesn't matter if you can't climb/surf/jam together because it's not about doing. People I hang out with because of a hobby are pals, peers, even acquaintances. A friend is a couple of steps above that: a friend I would see outside the usual circumstances. I go have lunch with my colleagues but it's only one or two I actually meet outside of work, and those are potential friend material. Test of true friendship is when you don't have any other other excuse to meet except yourselves, and you still meet.


This seems highly subjective to me, and to be honest, I can't help but be mildly offended - you just discredited the vast majority of my friendships, and yet I don't even understand what you're trying to get at.

I don't connect with people via words. I've always felt people are primarily defined by their actions, so it is very much about the "doing" for me, and it's through doing things together that I make connections with others. Obviously, my friend with whom I rock climb isn't just my rock-climbing partner - we do other things as well, many of which are unplanned and are new experiences. But it's the possibility of playing out our spur-of-the-moment ideas, as well as the other regular hobbies, that make our friendship even remotely interesting. Without being able to do those things together (which is way, way more difficult when you have to take a plane ride to visit), neither of us would be able to glean any meaning from the other's existence.

I don't know - was I really far off in how I interpreted your comment? What is a friendship, to you?


Not GP but I think he means friends are those folks that are there for everything, from the birth of your kid to picking you up drunk at 5 am from the pub kind of thing. If the interaction you have with someone is 95% based around a single activity, they are more in the real of acquaintance than friend.

This is very subjective and each person will define a 'friend' differently. I personally, if I don't count my wife, I can count the number of friends with just my fingers, but for me, the word friend means someone that are there for you for whatever, that even after not seeing each other for a few years, there is no awkwardness and you can pick it up from you left. For others, someone you see regularly, have a few beers are considered friends.


Those that I consider my closest friends right now, we mostly only see each other once a week and play board games with each other.

I'd say 90-95% of what we do is play board games together, but I know what's going on in their lives and they do mine, and I've attended their special events like birthdays and housewarmings and weddings, and helped them out when they needed it and supported them in their endeavors.

If that's not being a friend because we mostly just do a 'single activity', then I very much disagree with your definition.

I do agree about not having seen each other for years and there's no awkwardness when you get back together being a mark of friendship though. I have that with my old high school friends, and I'm sure it'd be the same with my main friends today.


You have been to their birthdays, housewarmings and weddings and helped them out when they needed.

This is very different from 'these are people I only play boardgames with them'. I have tennis 'friends'. These are people I only see in relation to tennis (either playing, practise or even go to watch a match with) but wouldn't get invited to their wedding or be asked to help them move for example. Sure, when we are at the club we chat a lot and are very friendly, but when I'm looking for someone to take care of my kid or lend me his car because mine broke, I won't be calling them (doesn't mean they can't turn to people I would in the future, but pretty sure for that to happen the friendship would have moved off the courts)


   If a friendship revolves around being able to do some similar thing together, it's probably not a friendship.
I think that is a rigid enough view to be nearly useless. People have different types of friendships all the time.

I think it is fair to say that some kinds of friendships are much more likely to survive moving apart, but that isn't even an indication on the "value" of the friendship, just its nature.


Like someone pointed out, it is highly subjective obviously but the scale of friendship has to start somewhere, and "friend" is generally a person at the very end of that axis.

If there was a better word for a friend, which I understand to be a person who you bond with regardless of common hobbies, location, or phases of life then I'd gladly use that. Calling someone "a close friend" or "a true friend" doesn't really express the bond I'm talking about.

On the other hand, there are a lot of words to describe people who aren't quite as close as those who we call friends: they are buddies, pals, mates, etc. So clearly there are steps towards more distant acquantainces on the axis. But towards people closer to you than friends? Maybe there is a specific word I don't know about.


> If a friendship revolves around being able to do some similar thing together, it's probably not a friendship.

WHAT? I would argue the opposite, if you aren't doing similar things together, why are they your friends? Just grew up together or what?

I agree with your last sentence, I enjoy my friends company even when we are just shootin' the shit. There's no reason that should preclude having hobbies with "real" friends though. It can help to have someone mutually passionate about something.


WHAT? I would argue the opposite, if you aren't doing similar things together, why are they your friends? Just grew up together or what?

Most of my real/true/close/best friends (i.e. the people who I consider "friends") don't have that much in common with me when it comes to things to do.

Different jobs. Different hobbies. Different lives. Different locations, most of the time. Different interests as well. Some I've known for decades and some only for a handful of years. Some I've stayed in touch regularly and with some I've had a few years in between but we continued where we left the previous time.

And when we meet, we meet simply because we want to see each other.

Earlier, we sometimes did arrange some activities but those were merely concocted as an excuse to meet. But now we've just mostly dropped all that bullshit. We knew we'd agree on a game night so that we would meet. Now we go to the point directly and just meet.

I'll see my friends in a cafe or go have dinner. We take a long walk, maybe hours and hours. Or we sit indoors and do nothing. It doesn't really matter how we choose to meet. Then we talk about our lives, life in general, our plans, what is good and what is bad. If I had to come up with a "similar thing to do together" it would be enjoying the company of the other person tremendously.

A lithmus test for friendship is whether you'd stay friends if the common activity were to be discontinued. If some friends change when your hobbies change, maybe they weren't friends really, and even if you knew what happened in his/her life your friendship somehow did revolve more around that activity rather than the bond between you two. Maybe if you didn't have that weekly poker night with your friends from college you wouldn't eventually see them that often, or would even stop seeing them.

That's what I meant by a friendship that revolves around some activity. If the friendship is about being friends itself, then the form of external things and activities don't matter. You might do something for fun but you both know you'd stay friends even if you didn't or couldn't have them anymore.


Ouch, I guess I don't have any friends then. Well shit.


I pretty much only had a handful of friends before I moved 2000+ miles away, but honestly, the one and only one that I still talk to was the only one that was really my friend. The rest were more close acquaintances, past roommates, etc.

Some are still on the 'real' friend list, but have lives that kept us from hanging out, even when there wasn't distance. Business, etc.

After moving my wife and I have picked up some couple 'friends,' but they are more playdate type (kids near same age), and party type acquaintances. I don't meet up with either of them individually (and they are socialites, so are always doing stuff with groups of people, I don't know that they have any friends that they just hang out together with, other than in a group).

My closest friend still hangs out with us once a year. We chat and email weekly if not daily, and we both fly to each other's cities to visit, or we meet somewhere and hang out, vacation-like.


    Lewin thought that this idea of friends as fast fashion—easily acquired, 
    emotionlessly discarded when worn out—might be spurred by the United 
    States’s high level of residential mobility. American society was mobile in 
    his day and has only gotten more mobile since.
How does the author square this with all of the recent studies that show that American residential mobility is at an all-time low? [1] And yet it doesn't seem that the average American is making more deep friendships, even though he or she is staying for longer in a single metropolitan area.

[1]: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2013/05/11/why-a...


Over the same time period, the US population has been increasing in diversity. Among other negative aspects, increased diversity increases social alienation. It reduces social cohesion and trust not just between groups but within them.

[.] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_D._Putnam#Diversity_and...

[#] http://politicalscience.ku.dk/staff/Academic_staff/?pure=fil...


I'm not shocked. Its callous but I'm open with my friends that when they move, we're not really going to be friends any more. I don't see you any more, we don't chat all the time because you're in a different time zone, you have a lot of things to do. Why pretend that we're still friends? Its just a lot of hassle for everyone.


I think this has more to do with the way you consume friendship than with the idea in general.

For me personally, even if I live in the same town as my best friend, I will barely see him. Most communication that deeply matters to me happens through text messages or email, not through in-person interaction.

I also tend to have a very small number of people that I consider friends, but I am fiercely loyal and protective of that small set of people. I don't want a large network of friends because my experience in life is that very few people are able or willing to help me and very few people share the perspectives that I have.

For the few that make good friends, geographical distance is one of the last things I would expect to affect the friendship.


> Why pretend that we're still friends? Its just a lot of hassle for everyone.

I've always felt that friendships shouldn't be based on physical proximity, and in my opinion it's not really fair or prudent to other people(or yourself, for that matter) to boil a relationship down to a binary yes/no. Personal example: I live in NJ, and a college friend of mine moved to FL shortly after we both graduated together in 2004. His(and his wife's) kid just turned one year old, and while we don't talk every day, we still keep in good contact throughout the week despite both of our crazy busy schedules. Contrast that to another someone else I've known since 8th grade: we went to middle/high school and part of college together, and continued to be great friends for a number of years post-university. However, we barely talk or hang out anymore, maybe once every few months, and it's pretty clear that we've drifted apart, despite living only maybe 10-20 minutes away from each other. I admit that I don't really put much effort into my friendship with him, as I'm sure he feels the same as well, but I wouldn't say either of us are bitter about it. I guess what I'm trying to say is just because someone isn't right there in driving distance doesn't mean they aren't there for you.


I suppose I can understand your attitude, but it would never work for me. I have very few friends. I cannot afford to lose a single one due to distance. I am not very good at keeping in touch with friends who live far away, but I certainly try to, and I seem to be able to keep about 2/3 of those relationships at least for a few decades (more study would be needed to extend this estimate <wink>).


I have spent my life moving from place to place. One thing I have learned is how to keep friends, because of the internet and cheap plane flights. If my friend lives in the U.S. it is basically the same place to me. This maybe an extension of the fields I work in as they are global and have been for awhile.


Being born and raised in Minneapolis and still living here, I think about this dynamic every single day. I hate the cold weather here but I have a HUGE circle of friends and know tons of people in the city. I really want to move somewhere warmer but I dread loosing all my friends and family.


Also being born and raised in Minneapolis; leave and come back. Most of your friends will still be here. A huge amount of my college/20-something friendships live in Colorado. There is so much of the world to experience before a mortgage, kids, and a job tie you down to one place.


>I really want to move somewhere warmer but I dread loosing all my friends and family.

It's not right to keep them enslaved or confined. Slavery and involuntary imprisonment are wrong. You need to set them loose.


The older I get the more I value the small number of real friends I have.


i'm not sure this is exactly a revelation. did i miss something?


It was pretty bleak except maybe the last paragraph. "Perhaps this occasional tendency to keep friendships from getting too deep, and being willing to let them go [...] comes from the knowledge of how hard it is to leave people."


I blame the Internet.




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