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Why 30 is the decade friends disappear (vox.com)
512 points by pmcpinto on Nov 13, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 346 comments



The article recounts several anecdotes that hint at causes but stops short of authoritatively declaring a set of reasons (and answer its own headline). But the key point seems to be that social settings like high school and college result in the acquisition of most of one's friends, and as that group of friends goes their separate ways and people settle down to focus on themselves, work, or starting a family, there are fewer settings to get to know new people. But this is an unsatisfactory conclusion -- if every new family, every fresh-on-their-own adult, every new arrival in town within the same age and peer group experiencing the same social decline, why is this phenomenon so widely unsolved, and not self-correcting?

My hypothesis is that cultural changes have caused interactions with strangers to be largely perceived as unwelcome. When interactions do occur and aren't immediately dismissed, they're mentally filed as one-off events not requiring a follow-up -- talking with the person next to you on a plane, or striking up a conversation in the store.

There is a wide continuum of behaviors and interactions between courteous banter and harassment. This isn't the usual lament about how people don't talk to each other; this is the lament that people don't talk to each other because we don't want to be bothersome to others, even if sometimes we wouldn't mind being talked to.

The fact that 'friend dating' is now a real phenomenon, where people explicitly consent to having a mutual conversation, potentially pre-selected by interests and appearance, lends credence to this hypothesis.


It's easy to make friends. You just need to regularly encounter the same (not unlikable) people in a relaxed setting where you aren't beholden to each other. The problem is that we spend most of our time at work or with family. You have to go to a regular social activity or that won't happen. Of course, you also have to open your heart to the possibility as well.


Actually, you need to meet people who are also open to making friends. But it depends what sort of friend you're looking for. Sure, you can make shallow friendships/acquaintances by just mixing with people regularly, but if you actually want a deeper friendship you need to meet people who have the time and inclination to put in the effort involved. This typically happens when you hit transitional points in life where you feel alone and want a group to belong to (e.g. school to college/university, into your first job away from home with a group of other new starters, mums having their first child, etc).

School, university, starting your first job with a group of others at the same time gives you ready made friends (provided you can sit next to them).

Friendship is basically a function of time and proximity. This has been shown in several studies and is accurate by my own experience anecdotally. Meeting people who already have a social circle or all their time allocated won't be conducive to making deeper friendships. Once you're in the world of work, going from one job to another, it can suddenly be very difficult to make deeper friendships, especially those that will endure one of you changing jobs (if they're colleagues).


>> "This has been shown in several studies"

Have links to these studies?


Precisely this. A common piece of advice I hear for people entering a new city for a new job with no one you know around, is to regularly engage in some hobby/activity that brings you in contact with mostly the same people. That could be a baking class, a cycling group, a board-game club, or all sorts of other things. There are a surprising number of possibilities if you actively seek them out.


This is true. However, it becomes more difficult if the hobbies you're interested in tend to attract a type of person that you don't mesh with very well. You can't really become close friends with people whose company you don't enjoy.


This was a strange realization for me as I "aged".

How can I have so much in common with a person, yet completely dislike them?


LAN parties and most CS-related events do this for me.


Because having things in common with a person is just nice, it doesn't really mean you'll like them. People you like are more often people who complement you, rather than people who are like you.



Interesting. Can you give an example of a hobby you have that tends to attract people who you don't tend to gel with (for whatever reason)?


Not op, but

Computing events (so many stereotypically smelly antisocial people)

Fight sports (many wannabe criminals and general low lifes)

Ecological gardening (lots of self righteous hippies)

Then again, I guess if there are so many people I'm not fond of interacting with, maybe it's not them...

(to be fair there are also people in the above groups that are normal, but they're minorities)


The problem with publicly advertised meetups is the selection effect - they tend to be patronized by people who lack the social skills to make friends.

Of course there are also people with social skills who attend those meetups, because e.g. they're just new in town, but if they meet some other people with social skills they will probably become friends with them, start organizing private meetups, and drop out of the public ones.


I find this. Also, the people with social skills may only attend a couple of times, then stop, while other people carry on going for years.

This seems to often be a problem with public board gaming groups -- they get filled with players with antisocial tendencies, who scare off any new players.


This has been my observation as well, having attending such events off and on over the years as I moved between cities. The more extroverted people connected with each other and were never to be seen again after one or two events, leaving the shy/awkward around as regulars.

In bigger cities, though, there's a constant influx of new arrivals so it's not so bad.


The more extroverted people do connect,make friends, and go on dates. This can be really frustrating it is mostly a matter of taking oneself out of the "comfort zone" be that work/church/school/basement and going out into the real world to talk to people.

It is not comfortable, but you will regret more not attending an event than if you did. It took one or two times of realizing that "I'm tired" at the end of the week was no excuse to avoid making friends.

You have to go out there and meet people, they don't necessarily have the will to meet you.


I would not tell the parent how they will feel. For myself, I have been actively attending meetups and other events as a way to meet people for about a decade. At the beginning I forced myself to go, even if I doubted I would enjoy it. And sometimes I would make friends and get dates.

But eventually I realised I mostly regretted attending. Sure, you can meet people, but it's a setting that creates an initial bad impression and with people who are probably a bit socially awkward. Doing the initial greeting stuff got really old (job, home country, etc...) and most people were uncomfortable skipping it.

So now I never go to events to meet people. I only go if I would go anyway, because I'm curious enough or know I will enjoy myself. That's my recommendation, anyway.


It seems to me to come from a difference in priorities. I'll try something because I want a new experience, whereas the people who maintain the subcultures are there because they want to receive the social capital that goes along with being the best in their group.


So true, same for me. Either the topic is interesting, or the people. But rarely both match.


> Can you give an example of a hobby you have that tends to attract people who you don't tend to gel with (for whatever reason)?

Photography. I love the image making and the enjoyment of the subjects, but most of the photographers I've met through clubs / trips seem more motivated by having the latest kit. Which isn't me at all.


Cycling (road-bike).

Group-led scuba diving.


Maybe that indicates you should develop another hobby you have some interest in but more importantly where you like the typical person who seems to be attracted to said hobby.

We are all multifaceted people and we often don't acknowledge that. Even Richard Feynman played the bongoes.


Where do you even find these activities in the average small to medium town? I can find a few now that I'm in a "large" city after moving abroad, but these options were generally few when I lived in the states.

Except: Church organizations. And it seems such organizations prefer that you are also Christian or are willing to fake it.

Furthermore, the poorer one is, the less likely one can take advantage of these things, especially in a town of around 50k or less.


50k is not a small town to me; where I am from in towns of 50k there is everything to make friends very fast. Maybe it is different in the US, not sure.

I have lived the past 13 years in 3 tiny towns (under 100); just go to the bar every night. Made both good shallow and good deep friendships like that while I was over 30 most of that time. Mind you that was in another country with another language than my native. Personally I get depressed by big cities much faster; people I met when living in those are far (acting) busier and so need to keep things shallow.

Also, I seem to have some thing that people find weird; I can make and sustain deep friendships via internet chat alone. I have friends I speak to every day, who would do anything for me and I for them who I do not even know what their voice sounds like. I have started, ran and sold companies with friends who I have never seen or voice chatted to.


10 years ago it was bulletin boards in your local supermarket and bulletin boards in the sports halls. Coffee shop notice boards. Library notice boards. Not sure if they're still used.

The digital equivalent of those places are Facebook groups. meetup.com, although their mobile redesign is a complete joke. Linked in groups. In the UK we have gumtree, probably Craigslist in the US. There's probably more, just sounds like you never looked.

You're looking for digital bulletin boards for your area, groups need new blood as much as you want to find them, you've just got to look.

Plus, of course, the local college night classes.

I just searched meetup for my costal corner of a home town of 20k in the UK and it had a bunch of meetups nearby, so it's pretty easy to find stuff.


It's a good advice. Although, I noticed if you aren't performing well your chances to get new friends in hobby societies are lower. Especially in team activities, like volleyball. So it probably makes sense to choose a society for a hobby that you're good at.

Another observation -- finding new friends usually requires spending money for social activities. That's OK, but one has to be ready to spend more money than usually. I'm not saying that "free" activities never work. It just gives you fewer chances.


This is very true. When I was new to Portland, activities helped me make several friends. I joined hiking meetups and would randomly go on hikes to Rainier and Hood. I bought a bike and joined a biking meetup and met several good people. The key is to attend these events regularly. For me, the goal was not to make new friends but to just get reasonably good at the said activity. Making new friends was just a side effect.


Psychologists have long theorized that when the need to belong is unmet, people start to pay more attention to the world around them. Imagine times when you were driving down the highway, feeling hungry, and you noticed every single food sign you drove by. Same with friendships and loneliness. When you feel left out, or feel unconnected, then you notice social cues. You become hyper-aware of yourself and of other people.

Yet this doesn't drive toward social interaction. That's why you see lonely people standing in the back of the party, watching everyone else. Gardner's research suggests that people struggle to "self correct" (as you phrase it) because of feelings of loneliness. [0] This doesn't sound intuitive, but here is the idea.

When nonlonely people are surveyed, they cite commonsense solutions to making friends: clubs, sports, coworkers, coffee dates with acquaintances.

But when lonely people are surveyed, you'll likely hear something researchers call fantasy findings. Instead of planned coffee dates or the monthly photography club, lonely people believe that friends are made in chance meetings, blind luck, unlikely encounters, chatting someone up on the domestic flight. Lonely people may be unable to think practically about social outcomes and devise effective social strategies.

The author says "The ratio of times I hear, 'We should hang out!' to actual hangouts is about 10 to 1." These kind of fantasy offers express feelings of connection that bypass the difficulties of forming real relationships. Lonely people are very good at relying on these when thinking about forming connections.

It's not that lonely people don't know how to meet other people, it's that they associate friendships with daydreams, conjuring up images of togetherness.

[0] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16207773


What pervades your comment is that lonely people are somehow broken or stuck in a fantasy world. Is that really how you feel? There is a certain class of person who is incapable of making friend and will forever be lonely and a class of person who is somehow effective and organized about making friends that they make them.


This is particularly fascinating to me, because I am a deeply and painfully lonely person. My current working hypothesis is that my life experience has caused some level of attachment disorder, resulting in a feeling of loneliness even when I am not alone. The main reason I started going to various roller derby practices and events was to grow my circle of friends (the common sense advice -- clubs, events). This has happened, but I still feel a sense of apartness, which I suspect will take a long time to go away.

I've learned a lot about the mechanism of establishing friendships, though. As niftich points out above, I had the tendency to consider friendly encounters as one-offs; more specifically, "Oh, that happened. How pleasant." And then go through the mental acrobatics of wondering if the person would like to continue being friendly or [s]he was simply being polite. So the idea of "broken fantasy world" works in reverse here: I have a broken core belief where I don't understand the value someone gets out of hanging out with me.

Just a week ago, friends came over to celebrate my birthday and watch the WFTDA champs. Another friend who is not part of that circle remarked on something that hadn't really clicked for me -- I must be a good friend (and loved) because my house was full of people. So the feeling of loneliness, somehow baked into a bunch of erroneous core beliefs, also masks reality and hinders the formation of relationships.


This is interesting, I have been doing a little reading on it. Nothing particularly technical, but I would be interested to know whether you went to a boarding school. There has been some research on the matter, and I can see the relation (boarding school in several countries from 6+). I have a disturbingly high proportion of the symptoms mentioned on the following page[1]. I'm pretty sure that I have friends, but I don't know if it's true, so I never ask people for anything. I also have a tendency to push people away.

[1] http://www.ibblaw.co.uk/insights/blog/boarding-school-syndro...


No, no boarding school. Just a seriously crappy childhood.


Most people try very hard, incredibly hard, to hide that they are lonely or don't have friends. Most people would rather admit they're depressed and get some quick pills rather than say "I'm lonely." Saying you're lonely broadcasts that you feel insufficient and unsafe. Because of that, it's much harder to ask for help and therapy, or even admit and accept that you're socially isolated.

I don't think this is a "forever" state as you put it, but I think this is why some people suffer for so long (some researchers call this chronic loneliness [0]), and turn to fantasizing friendships as a way to cope.

I want to believe there's a way out, I'm not certain, but I think therapy and mindfulness could help, and also being around secure/empathetic people. Loneliness is kicked around as the bastard child of psychology and most practitioners will disregard a lonely person as simply depressed.

But taken to an extreme, according to attachment theory, there is a class of people who naturally gravitate to social isolation yet, paradoxically, desire closeness -- they're called avoidant personality types [1]. There is early research (Bowlby, Ainsworth, lots to read online) that trace the development of this behavior to experiences as an infant. I think these types of people could get stuck in their ways through their 30s and 40s.

[0] http://magazine.uchicago.edu/1012/features/the-nature-of-lon...

[1] https://www.reddit.com/r/AvPD/


> "there is a class of people who naturally gravitate to social isolation yet, paradoxically, desire closeness"

Thank you for the description of avoidant personality types, I recognise elements of this in myself.

Similar themes were explored in the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion. I would suggest the main protagonist Shinji definitely has these traits (probably expressed mostly directly through the 'Hedgehog's Dilemma'). I felt a certain amount of relief after finding that show, that at least the creators understood. It also helped that it was a great anime.

To be honest, whilst I don't have the same desire for friendship that I once did, the main thing I do have desire for is a form of sensuality (not sexuality). Moments that are complete without words/with very few words. That's not exactly the easiest thing to communicate to other people, so most of the time I'll just enjoy it in my own time.


You can satisfy your need for sensuality by going into social dancing events near you. Or join group singing events. None of these require you to be musical or able to dance at all! Just leave your prejudice and thinking at the door and enjoy the good vibes. Social dancing / Conscious clubbing is what keeps me going when I do this have a significant other in my life. The importance of touch and being touched is so important. It cannot be replaced with any amount of meditation or medication.


Thank you for your comment. I do enjoy dancing, and have enjoyed trying out different styles over the years. I've taken part in group singing too. I'm glad you have found great pleasure in these activities as well.

When it comes to activities, I'm not short of options. There are new things I want to try, and things I've already enjoyed. What I find less easy is to enjoy them with other people. For example, whilst I've danced with partners before, I tend to prefer dancing by myself. I'm very happy just closing my eyes and letting my body move to the music.


> lonely people are somehow broken or stuck in a fantasy world.

That's almost a useful place to start, as long as you're not being judgmental about it. No one should think lonely people are stuck in a fantasy world.) If you can recognize that something is broken, then you can work on fixing it.

Recognizing that lonely people have fantasy notions of how friendships work is recognizing that in your 30's, it's a bit more work to form a friendship, compared to the lifelong bonds forged by the act of sharing a juice box during recess.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is widely used to help reframe and de-fantasize a number of unproductive thought patterns so that instead of fantasizing about a chance meeting where someone instantly becomes your new BFF, mental energy is spent planning and arranging aromantic dates to form the foundation of a friendship, much like trying to find a romantic partner. It's an evidence-based practice for treating mental disorders originally for depression but it's proven helpful in a a wide range of mental health conditions, including identifying upsetting feelings and anxiety that frustrates the a person's attempt to make friends.


There is a wide continuum of behaviors and interactions between courteous banter and harassment. This isn't the usual lament about how people don't talk to each other; this is the lament that people don't talk to each other because we don't want to be bothersome to others, even if sometimes we wouldn't mind being talked to.

Although I'm hesitant to generalize this to everybody, I've definitely observed this in my own life. I know that sometimes I could use some pleasant social interaction, but most of the time I just want to be left to myself. I assume other people are the same way, so I leave them alone.

The thing is, if everyone went off of the probability argument (they probably don't want to be bothered because most of the time they want to be left alone), no one would ever talk with anyone. We need the overly outgoing people--who aren't quite so sensitive to other people's alone time--to keep the communication flowing. I had a number of very close friends in high school, but only because a few of them would constantly get everyone else in our group together. Those people (who can get annoying, sometimes) are absolutely necessary for everyone else to form social bonds. Those types of people become busier as adults, and so they stop forming the groups that everyone else depended on. No working adult has time to hang out dozens of hours every week. The old friends might last, but the new friends are almost always kept at arm's length.

I think that friend dating is actually pretty great. It's not the kind of thing I'd take part in, but I absolutely see the value in a service that helps people meet on friendly terms.


I observed when I was growing up, and have heard similar anecdotes from many other people, that many people attend Church or a similar regular religious setting because of the social activities and opportunities to make friends and acquaintances. I know more than a handful of family members who's entire social circle revolves around church activities -- and many of them aren't really terribly religious. It makes quite a bit of sense, in most big metros you can find plenty of churches with congregations of well over a thousand members, giving you a large pool of possible social connections.

It seems as people in general become less religious, there's less of a default gathering place. But I've noticed that various types of fandoms seem to be filling in some of that gap. For example, if you have an interest in old computers and games there's a couple dozen big shows all over the U.S. every year and it's my understanding that many people have formed regular friendships because of these shows.

I almost wish there was a "Church of the Rational Mind" that met for service every Sunday morning at a local University auditorium, and you could hear lectures on various topics for an hour, then socialize afterwards. The Bible provides fodder for a tremendous number of sermons, on many topics, but there isn't the same kind of focused equivalent book for secularists.


Unitarian Universalist Churches are often brought up as a good option for those seeking a "Rational Mind" church with a decent reach in most cities. As with any church the communities vary from church to church based upon the mix of people that show up every week. Most UU churches especially the growing few that prefer to place Universalist first in the name (Univeralist Unitarian) as something of a signal tend to draw from an increasingly broad set of spiritual sources/practices beyond just the bible [1] and sermons/lectures on a wide variety of topics.

The UU Churches are often very focused on their socialization side, with an old joke being that the UU sacrament is the social "miracle" of turning water into coffee.

There are a lot of more secular/atheist attendees of UU churches and UUs tend to embrace the diversity and the spectrum of beliefs. It's not a bad idea to give your local UU church a try if you haven't already.

[1] The interesting history of it is that both the Unitarians and the Universalists (once different groups) split from the mainstream Christian churches surprisingly early and relatively much more quietly compared to the Protestant revolution. The Unitarian dispute, especially, dates back the Nicene Convention that resulted in the Nicene Creed still central to modern Roman Catholicism and still often referred to by Protestants as well, although the organized church is quite a bit newer than that originating dispute in which the Trinitarians won the orthodoxy; UUs will tell you've they've been bucking orthodoxy for centuries.


I just attended a UU church's 150th anniversary yesterday and the main sermon mentioned this very topic. "We need to change how we do church" type of thing, because "young people share many of our UU beliefs but do little more than stop by for one Sunday".

To me it's not a "attract them" problem, it's a "keep them" problem.


That's an interesting point. (Certainly there still is an attract there problem too, because I know a lot of atheists/non-believers/secular humanists/pantheists don't always know that a UU church can be a kind and gentle social option, just as the person I was responding to seemed to be seeking.)

I know that I've long considered myself a UU "irregular", which makes me "part of the problem". I show up as I feel like it when the whim hits me or there's a lecture/speaker I want to hear that week or I generally just feel a need for some coffee with a group I know I can typically count on to socialize with. Without the implicit coercion of "traditional" services have behind them telling people they must show up every week, UU can be seen as having a bit of a disadvantage on that front in keeping/maintaining/growing their communities over time. (The little UU church that is my favorite in my hometown is not quite 150 itself yet, I don't think, but probably shares a lot of similar tales of growth and shrinking over a nearly as long of a lifespan.)

At that point, so far as my advice may be, for what little it might be worth, finding repeat visitors that become irregulars that become regulars are a marketing problem like just about any other social club or an MMO videogame. There probably are things to draw from some of how those cope (or don't) with very similar problems. Help people feel welcome, help them feel engaged, help them find reasons to keep coming back.


> a UU "irregular"

That's a nice phrase, and it seems to describe be at the moment as well.


In Judaism, "community" is an explicit part of observance. It's also a reason Jews are nudged to be members of a temple. (Many others too)

In Silicon Valley I've seen non-theistic churches sprouting up. I believe the Society for Ethical Culture on New York is similar.


I've been to Ethical Culture services a couple times and found them to be enjoyable and filled with open/amicable individuals, although I do have a couple misgivings:

For one thing, full membership requires you to tithe a fixed percentage (2%) of your income to the organization. Maybe I'm just being cheap, but I don't make a ton of money in research and that coupled with living in the most expensive area of the US makes me less inclined to seek out membership in their congregation.

I also feel weird about how they discuss their founder, Felix Adler. The number of times they invoke him seems almost like it's a cult of personality for him / he serves as a Jesus stand-in, and while I can't say I feverishly dislike the man, that was a huge turn off. If the group's observances were less centered around him and more concentrated on a broader variety of humanist figures, I would be able to get behind them a bit more.

The last issue I have with Ethical Culture is that it felt very monocultural / like an echo chamber. I'm fairly liberal by most standards, but I like to have exposure to individuals with different viewpoints from my own, be they conservative or libertarian. In Ethical Culture, any group other than die-hard liberals would meet with stiff opposition rather quickly and this was something I wasn't very comfortable with when I did attend services there. When I was religious, my church congregation was a much better mix of political perspectives (and even theological disagreements occurred occasionally).

In NYC, I've had much better experiences with the Secular Humanist Society of NY. It's much less formal, much more cost-effective for an expensive city (their meetings are in the back rooms of bars for the most part and yearly membership is only around $20 last time I checked) and it feels a lot more egalitarian / less hierarchical.


The question is, can you effectively replace a meeting to discuss the nature of life and existence with a meeting to discuss games and movie fandoms?

Or does that deeper topic interplay with meeting and socializing with people?


But would it be rational to go?


> interactions with strangers to be largely perceived as unwelcome

I think this is very much a density thing. In an urban environment, it would simply occupy too much time and effort to acknowledge people because there are too many of them. That leaves this environment where if someone does start speaking to you, you assume (often correctly) that they want something or are weird.

Whereas if you're out in the middle of nowhere it would be extremely odd not to acknowledge the few people you did meet.

> mentally filed as one-off events not requiring a follow-up -- talking with the person next to you on a plane

The protagonist's "single serving friends" from Fight Club.


>if every new family, every fresh-on-their-own adult, every new arrival in town within the same age and peer group experiencing the same social decline, why is this phenomenon so widely unsolved, and not self-correcting?

Because most problems are not self-correcting -- they require real and conscious effort, and even that can be futile if it goes against larger forces (e.g. economic downturn / necessity).

Poverty, sexism, discrimination, bullying, corrupted politicians, bureaucracy, the examples of not self-correcting issues are countless.


Yes, but if everyone's (supposedly) lonely, why don't everyone's incentives align in their quest to be less lonely? That was the rhetorical question I expressed.

Sexism, discrimination, bullying -- there are no aligned incentives on opposite sides of these, by definition, so no expectation whatsoever that they'd be self-correcting.


Because the process of becoming "less lonely" is time-consuming and sometimes downright uncomfortable, and success isn't even guaranteed. Friendship is what happens when you enjoy each other's company.

If 20 lonely people are sitting in a room, no one's going to stand up and say, "Hey, I bet a lot of us are lonely. Why don't we hang out together?" Even though they're right that everyone is lonely, what are the chances they'll all get along? Or maybe one person goes around to the 19 others and individually asks each one to be friends. The success rate on that is going to be rather low, and it'd take a lot of time.

Your rhetorical question is misguided because it presumes that loneliness implies an already existing effort ("quest") to be less lonely. I think it's safe to say that most lonely people have no idea how to go about being less lonely (and if they do have an idea, it's daunting to them).


Admitting being lonely is a social taboo in most situations - it's perceived as failure. While many people feel it, few are willing to seek help.


> "While many people feel it"

There's a useful distinction to be made between lonely and just being alone. Alone is the state of not having anyone else close to you in that moment, lonely is a negative emotion that comes from being alone.

It's quite possible to enjoy being alone, I know I do, my mind is much freer to wander, and I sure I'm not the only person that feels this way. As Byron put it...

"There is a pleasure in the pathless woods, There is a rapture on the lonely shore, There is society, where none intrudes, By the deep sea, and music in its roar: I love not man the less, but Nature more"

There's also a style of alone that can be very enjoyable, which isn't so widely commented on, and that's to be part of the hustle and bustle of a big city, with lots of human activity around you, but where you're only involved as a passive observer. Buses are good for getting in this state, as is exploring a city by foot (even better in a country where you don't speak the language), but really it's a mindset that's available anytime.


Being alone when you have an obvious choice not to be is nice. I can usually choose to phone up a handful of friends, or make it out to the hackspace, and be almost sure to meet someone. Being alone and not having that opportunity sucks, on the other hand.


Obligation can suck the fun out of anything. That includes feeling obligated to interact, as well as feeling obligated to not interact.

That said, if someone wants to overcome loneliness, it's possible for them to make their own opportunities to interact. Finding people with shared interests is easier than ever, now that we have the Internet.


So it's essentially the prisoners dilemma. Two persons must admit they are lonely for mutual benefit but nobody dare to do it first in fear of being the only one being perceived as failure.


Because evolution.

After 30 you are dead to your genes. The machinery that drives you before then expires, and you have to find another way.

It's pretty hard.


Well, it'd be nice if you backed that "After 30 you are dead to your genes" with something more scientific. Because it does not make sense, really. Menopause is still some 20 years away, and even then there's evolutionary advantage of living, to provide to your offsprings and offsprings of your offsprings (hence why women live longer than men, even after menopause), see [1]. If anything, you're very much alive to your genes at your thirties, only that genes require you to focus not as much on you finding a mate. By this age, your genes assume, you have found a mate and probably have procreated at least once. So the focus shifts to providing for your progenies, and social aspects, such as "friends" ("potential ways to get laid" for your genes), naturally, wane. So you're right about that part, that it's probably evolutionary predisposition to make friends at younger age to find a mate; having said that, I have reasonable suspicion, though, that your statement "After 30 you are dead to your genes" is grossly incorrect, though.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grandmother_hypothesis


Dunno, I'm pretty sure people are still having sex and babies after 30...


Which doesn't really change genetic factors based on some hundreds of thousands of years of evolution predisposing people towards early (15-25) child bearing.

Those take much more than the entire recorded human history to change...


I'd also add the obvious: most problems we see are not self-correcting because if they were, they'd already correct themselves.


Ahh, the old self-selecting, non self-correcting bias.


nurturing relationships take time, it takes time away from family and work. When you are young you have no family nor job, so you can spend a lot of time with friends.


I really think it's a time constraint thing. Modern life demands you give up 40 hours a week to a job. There's also the time spent outside of work but "preparing" to work. Driving to work takes time. Cleaning your work clothes and prepping lunch takes even more time. If you have kids or a spouse they'll make other demands on your time. It adds up to not a lot of time to idly interact.


There is a wide continuum of behaviors and interactions between courteous banter and harassment

The modern problem is that you don't even know where initiating a conversation falls. Even saying "hello" is a hate crime in some people's minds. Who wants to take the risk? Even if you're with your friends, you never know who's listening at the next table, with their finger on the tweet button... It has a chilling effect.


A random person's tweet has a chilling effect?


Yes. Since seeing some of the latest feminist theories online, I avoid saying anything to women I don't know. I'd much rather avoid the risk of a negative outcome than gamble on the small potential for a positive, friendly interaction.

Edit: I'm not sure whether this is a good or bad change. Perhaps it is in fact better to avoid the small chance of great harm by sacrificing the larger chance of small benefit.

Downvoters: This is not meant to be a political point, just an observation of my own behavior.


Is "friend dating" really a thing? That sounds even more ridiculously contrived than "safe spaces".


Look up Bumble BFF. I know several people who have made friends on there and for whom it had a positive effect.


Looks like my comment was interpreted differently than intended -- if "friend dating" is a way to meet people you wouldn't otherwise have met, it sounds like an OK way to handle a super-busy schedule. Still treating the symptom rather than the cause, but okay.

I interpreted the term as a way to vet potential friends before becoming actual friends, to reduce the risk of having to deal with a somewhat incompatible person in an adult and non-structured manner.


Isn't this what meetup.com is about?


MeetUp seems to be mostly about offline user groups now. Mostly about tech - at least in my town.


Although a majority of groups are about tech, in most medium cities you can find meetups for hundreds of non-tech topics with enough people attending each week.


It's because your cities are bad.

Wait, let me explain. Around 30 is the age people start having a bit of financial independence and put down a mortgage on a place in the suburbs, move, and start a family. Noble and normal goals, except that in North America (and other anglosphere countries) the suburbs are hugely spread out and isolated from the city and other people not in your immediate street. What are the chances your friend group all decide to live in the same suburb, let alone the same street? You're already spending most of your free time driving to and from work, how much do you time do you have left after meals, kids and shopping to spend more time driving to your friend's suburb to hang out?


I live in the Netherlands. Our cities, by your definition, are definitely not bad.

A single one of my college friends still lives in the same city as me. On the far other side, about 8km away. Everybody else moved all over the country.

This matches America, in some way - after all from my city (Eindhoven) to Amsterdam is about as far as from San Jose to San Francisco (just with better trains). But still, we don't have urban sprawl and our friends still disappear at 30.


I've decided that that's because people have friends because they have no girl/boyfriends, and when they get a stable one, they settle down and replace friends with the spouse.


Indeed, either replace with family or another alternative.

Replace with work/career also appears to be popular.


Yes, very true. It's odd to me that this happens, as I'm convinced that a strong social circle is the key to happiness.


>we don't have urban sprawl

What would you call people moving from central Amsterdam out to Haarlem, Amstelveen, Almere, Zaandam, Purmerend as soon as they have kids?


I can tell you've never seen American suburbs :-)

Almere might count, if you squint your eyes a bit, but all those other towns are really true towns in their own right. They have a historical center, things to do, shopping streets (instead of a just a big mall), a soul of sorts.

Mountain View is a miserably sad joke compared to Haarlem.


sub-urban sprawl ?

But also, the Randstad is like one big city - it's only 30 minutes from Amsterdam to Utrecht / Leiden / Haarlem / Purmerend.


No, no, the situation you describe is much better than in the USA. My friends are all over the country too, much like yours, but my country is _much_ bigger. I wish they were merely sprawled around an area the size of the Netherlands.


I came to say that all but one of my university friends still live in Amsterdam like I do, but I just realized that they don't. One moved to the other side of the country (Nijmegen) early on, but still shows up on our monthly RPG meetings. Another moved to a suburb (Purmerend) a few years ago, and a third just moved to another town. One still lives in Amsterdam but left our RPG group, and only two still live here and show up. I was actually ready to finally leave Amsterdam a few years ago, but now my wife doesn't want to leave.


>>A single one of my college friends still lives in the same city as me. On the far other side, about 8km away.

That's only 5 miles, which is nothing. Most people in the Netherlands have bikes, right? 5 miles should take about half an hour via bike.

Not to mention public transport. I've been to Amsterdam many times, and it never ceases to amaze me how easy it is to get around using bus or tram...


Nope, it's the culture. Lived in NYC for a year and it's still super hard to make friends outside of work. In the US it's just considered weird to have anything more than superficial interactions with strangers once you're 30+. It's annoying.


Maybe those people are just not worth making friends with. I find that people who accept that deep interactions are important to never stop making are those with the most insightful views on life.


I don't have kids but I'm from Australia (Perth to be precise), and our suburbs are like this too - generally far from the center and all the cafes, restaurants and nightlife that go with it, and very spread out. It's common for people here to get married young, have kids and move to the outer suburbs, falling out of contact with friends who aren't nearby.

I was always terrified of that so I got out, and discovered it doesn't need to be like that. In Berlin for example, Prenzlauer Berg (a very central suburb) is booming with young couples having kids, and from what I've seen and understood they keep very active social lives.


Friends just moved out of Amsterdam after having kids because they didn't want to raise kids in the neighbourhood where they lived. I couldn't think of a better neighbourhood to raise my kids than the one I live in. Tons of friends live nearby, lots of neighbours with children in the same age group. I wouldn't want to raise my kids in the dreary suburban town I grew up in.

But I live in a more expensive neighbourhood of Amsterdam than those friends. I can imagine if you can't afford that, suburbia become a lot more attractive.


Have to agree here. My anecdotal experience? Had a bunch of friends after college, all move to SF for work. Three years later, they've ALL moved across the country to find work in less expensive areas, living in Suburbs.


Haha, this is kind of my plan. Just finished grad school and will probably end up in SF or somewhere similar for a while. But my girlfriend doesn't like big cities and wants kids in a few years, so I imagine we'll move back at that point. Unfortunately, at a personal level, I find cities much more entertaining and enjoyable to live in than suburbs (having grown up in the suburbs). But maybe that's just me.


Your situation is, more or less, exactly like mine lol. Right down to the fiance not liking cities, but me liking them very much. Quite a pickle to be in, since I know it means we'll end up in the burb's eventually and I'll likely have a midlife crisis.


Haha. It is indeed a pickle. Both mine and my girlfriend's families live in the South, which means eventually the only (world) city I'll be near is Atlanta, which isn't exactly a tech-haven at the moment.


So true. And even worse. I have good friends in the same neighborhood but not such a short walking distance. I hang out with them much than my next door neighbors (their and our kids play all the time, so we have "over the fence" talks that lead to having a beer / doing s'mores and just standing in one of the back yards, talking to the other parents while the kids play soccer. No time for driving, not even to the other side of the subdivision...


I never lived in a city but I still had friends until I was roughly 30.


I lost my high school friends after high school, lost my college friends after college, I got new friends from 30-40, but 40+ have been losing some of them.


I have had some of the same. I think that some of my new friends currently (i'm in my late 30's) is because I moved out of the US to northern Europe. I found things in common with other immigrants in language classes.


"What are the chances your friend group all decide to live in the same suburb"

Excellent, because American K-12 schools, unlike higher ed, populate based on geographic boundaries.

That means the EE you met volunteering at after school Vex Robotics lives around the block, the assistant scoutmaster of the school pack lives down the road, the two couples who we're inseparable from during soccer season are about a block away in opposite directions, my wife's PTO buddy is three blocks away, times were pretty good!

HN skews young, and perhaps from recent election results or whatever other reason, they're very pessimistic, but I'm old enough to have lived thru "the little kid era of activities", and it was actually a blast!

I will admit some of this is rose tinted glasses remembering a decade ago we seemed to have a million idyllic picturesque picnic tailgates at little league games in the summer and it was always bug free and 70 degrees and everyone was friends with everyone else after a couple years together, but in reality there were probably only thirty or so that were not clouded by mosquitos or 95F+ or colder than 60F or it starts raining in the second inning or whatever. Still, even taken more realistically, times were pretty good!


At 41 I have lived through the "little kids" era too. Three of them, first kid at 27, last at 31. There was a stretch before they went to school where our (my wife and I) friend's disappeared as we dedicated our time to the kids. Now that the kids are older, in grade school and involved in team sports we are accumulating a new group of friends from their friend's parents. We had a bunch over last night for games as a matter of fact.

If eight years ago, I decided to go on a guys trip with some friends I would have had no one to go with. That was depressing. Today that is no longer the case. I have many friends I would go with. That said its still work, you can't just expect to go out every night, party and meet someone new.


how often do people in Europe change jobs? Curious as another reason for rotten commutes has been changing jobs or worse your job moving within the same city to a new location.

got friends who commute by train and I was shocked how much time they spend on that run. still would be worse if they had to drive it


Europe is not the same in all countries. Depends of the country. Where I live, Germany, people do take train, for 40 minutes per day. But is normal, as with car you will do the same. And with train is more safe and relax. Changing jobs, is not the norm. Being an engineer you probably will work some years(3-7) before exchange


> It's because your cities are bad.

If by "bad" you mean "big," sure. The problem you're describing is almost entirely driven by the scale of American cities.

(The problem the article is describing is driven in part by that, in part by the very nature of what people tend to do in their 30s.)

American cities may be bad, and big may equal bad, but those are separate issues.


They don't mean big, they mean bad. Which obviously is subjective: In this case, I assume they mean, as I do, "bad" from the perspective of "encourages community building & social connections".

If you walk down a street in, say, Amsterdam, or down one in St Louis, it's two very different experiences - Amsterdam teeming with life, it feels close, safe and small. You can bike anywhere in 30 minutes; the layout of the city itself encourages pedestrian traffic. The marginal cost of popping into the bakery next to the wine store is 30 seconds, so the streets are lined with small mom & pop stores that care, genuinely care about how their street is doing, that the sidewalk is welcoming..

St Louis is a city replanned for cars - you do not move in St Louis but by automobile. The marginal cost of going to two stores instead of one is at least ten minutes, so you always go to Schnucks and call it a day. Biking from one point to another is a lost cause - I literally saw a woman crush the skull of a bicyclist with her SUV in St Louis just last month, he's dead now because fuck bike lanes.

And Amsterdam is three times as populous as St Louis.

Cannot recommend https://www.amazon.com/Death-Life-Great-American-Cities/dp/0... enough for this - urban planning has a massive impact on our lives.


I remember how the "walkable city" and "walkability rating" idea started popping up ~2004 [at least for my radar]. Like the idea of these shopping oasis out in the middle of nowhere vs a mix-use neighborhood vs the financial district that turns into Tumbleweed City on weekends or after 6pm.


Not always; NYC is large population-wise, but reasonably compact (on average).

Suburbia makes me sad. The density is so low that you need a car to get anywhere, and everywhere is outside walking distance.


NYC is always a special case. Most US cities aren't NYC.


That is the point that elktea is making. More USA cities should be like NYC.


But do people in NYC bond any more with strangers than they do in Peoria? Phoenix? Some outer-ring suburb of St. Louis?


I live in Berlin and it's not hard meeting new people in Bars, Clubs, meetup.com events and the like - but then again I'm not over 30 yet, the same is true for most of the people you usually meet that way.

You wouldn't have all that without a certain density that allows you to have all that within walking distance or easily reachable via public transport.


>You wouldn't have all that without a certain density that allows you to have all that within walking distance or easily reachable via public transport.

Bars, clubs and restaurants flourish in suburban areas, provided they target the appropriate clientele. There is lots of disposable income in suburbia.


Not for people who aren't with the majority culture more often than not. Gay bars don't exist in most suburbs, for example.


>Gay bars don't exist in most suburbs

Neither do straight bars. Where I'm from we call them "bars", and they cater to no specific culture.


If you're a gay dude in a straight bar, you become quickly aware about how the culture isn't really set up for you, mostly in terms of sheer numbers. Of course one can just go to hang out, but if you're looking for companionship or at least the chance of it, traditionally gays have had to have a place to go where they'd have a better than 5% chance that the guy that is funny/interesting/good looking isn't straight.


Additionally, sexual orientation isn't a "culture".


No, but there are cultures that are near-exclusively tied to sexual orientation ("Mainstream-gay culture" for instance). People who are rejected by the culture they grew up with tend to gravitate towards those.


That would be worth studying.


>More USA cities should be like NYC

Have you considered that the suburbs exist in their current form because some people actually want it that way? Not everyone wants to live in a city like NYC, evidenced by the fact that many people avoid high density like the plague.


NYC pushes families out faster than the other ones. The underlying problem, IMO, is that cities are too expensive and inconvenient for certain types of people, including families and the disabled.


It's really sad--high density is actually lowers living expensives and yet there is no serious amounts of cheap high density in this country.


Housing in some cases eats up the savings of having everything withing walking/biking distance. And that's a problem with city hall and not the city itself.


Living with kids on Manhattan is definitely quite expensive (at least, for me), but you can have a proper city environment in both Queens and Brooklyn, with 20-40 mins commute to basically anywhere on Manhattan (where the jobs are).


Not really, plenty of cities in the US where you can get by without a car. I actually found Portland to be way more mellow than NYC without a car.


There's a difference between "big" and "sprawled".


It doesn't really make that much difference whether the city is sprawled or not. People move to other cities.

Of the friends who I used to hang around as a student in Helsinki region (Finland), one lives in Singapore, one lives in Jakarta, one in Turku, and two in Tampere, one still in the Helsinki region where I am too. I spent a stint in Beijing in between.

We do stay in touch over Facebook etc, and see perhaps once per year on holidays or in family parties, but is it really a problem of urban sprawl that I don't see them so often?


>If by "bad" you mean "big," sure. The problem you're describing is almost entirely driven by the scale of American cities.

Not really, it has nothing to do with scale -- it's all about the spread and lack of public spaces for meetings, cafe culture, etc. Paris is 10-50 times as big as tons of American cities (of e.g. 100,000 people) that are totally hostile to walking around for example.


> Around 30 is the age people start having a bit of financial independence and put down a mortgage on a place in the suburbs

Why is the assumption here that if you are over 30 you want to live in the burbs?


It's more you want your own place to start your family, but the only (reasonable) available housing for first time buyers is available in the burbs


I guess the assumption is just as much one of: needs space for kids; can't afford more space in the city. Hence suburbs.


Around here, it's not primarily space that drives the suburbs, it's that the only decent schools are out in there, and not even the ones near the city, but the ones just before the belt of non-developed land that separates the city from the exurb commuter towns farther out. There are a handful of OK elementary schools closer in, but they all feed to terrible high schools.

The result is that the people who live close to the city are 1) young and childless (-free, whatever), 2) old and retired, 3) too poor to leave, or 4) rich enough to have gardeners and send their kids to private schools and pay a premium for a nice house closer to the city. This leaves out parents with two OK or one good income, who move to the distant 'burbs or commuter towns even if they'd rather live closer, because they can't afford private school.


Also the desire to own your house, rather than rent as is more common in for example, Berlin.


I see London rents when I go down there for work. People paying £800pcm for a room in a 3 bed house.

I pay less than that for a mortgage on a 4 bed in the suburbs, and most of that is equity repayment. Ie the cost is about 1/10th of the price of renting.

When you have kids, in the UK you need to own as otherwise you're stuck with a 3 year lease at most, if the landlord decides to whack up the price, or simply sell up, you get maybe 2 months to move. That's a pain when you're a young professional, but when the kids are at school and you can't find anywhere available in that tiny time period, you're screwed.


It starts well before 30, both in the article, and in the developmental psychology subject I was taught over 25 years ago. Back then I was taught that people form cliques of roughly 8-15 people in their late teens to early 20s, and then those cliques dissolve.

This stuff has been known for a very long time, and it's not "cities are bad", it's "people pairing off and moving out of their parent's place". Then for a bit of variety, throw in the others that disappear because of personal politics, move to another continent, or even simply die. When you're at school, you all live near each other. As you pair off and move out, you don't live near each other anymore, and you're also not spending large amounts of the day together.

Similarly, your clique is learning how to be adult together. How sex works, how relationships work, how earning wages and paying your way works. It's an intense time. By the time most people reach their mid- to late-20s, they've got most of that sorted out. When you're 20, relationships breaking up amongst your friends is new and intense and interesting and gossip-worthy; when you're 30 it's boring and people are tired of hearing the story. Not so much opportunity for the heart-to-hearts that help make strong friendships.


I'm 39...so here is some perspective:

If you decide to have kids, you will sacrifice everything for your spouse and children, and have very little left for yourself. It is totally worthwhile. You will chose yourself and solitude over scrambling for friendship.

If you decide not to have kids, you will still be incredibly busy, however you won't have access to your friends who do have children because of reasons outlined above.

I am in category A. My ideal vacation involves going to a country alone where I don't speak the language for two weeks. The best part is coming home to my wife and kids.

Friendship becomes more rare as you age because your friendships don't have the desperation of youth. It was always rare to find people you truly relate to. When you get older, you almost don't have the option of wasting your time with people you don't relate to. It's awesome.


I agree. Once you have kids, especially when they're young, you don't have the time to sit around on the couch with the boys. I came to terms with the fact that I don't actually want friends anymore. I want relationships based around common interest in tech, politics or a hobby. Other than that, I'd rather be alone.


But the people with whom I share a common interest are my friends!

And I think it's always been like that. I could never just hang out with people for no good reason. It's easier when we share a common interest. As a consequence, I also never know what to do on family days with the in-laws. (My family is easy; we're all nerds.)


"don't have the time to sit around on the couch with the boys"

There's a lot of binary thinking in this thread.

First of all the article is weirdly misleading where the cheezy intro picture (cheezy as in giant intro pix are so 2011 and its not 2011 anymore, although the stock photo itself is a bit cheezey) is mom with a "Waltons"-full or "Bradys"-full herd of her own small children, but the article clearly states she has no kids and is waiting for her biological clock to ring off the hook or something. Maybe this "I'm bored" is mother natures evolutionary way of subconsciously motivating women to start squirting out kids. One thing that is unarguable is the editor who picked out the intro pix didn't bother even skimming the article.

When my kids were infants and toddlers I had a pretty good excuse to burn a ridiculous amount of time on IRC and discussion groups and multiplayer games, which were kinda the social media of their day. But that only lasts a couple years and now I socialize more than when I was single!

Kids often participate in scouts, church, after school clubs (Vex Robotics, etc) and especially sports. Theoretically at least a small part of the rationalization for making (forcing?) kids to do that stuff is to teach kids how to make friends and socialize, but it hardly stops at 18... There's two couples specifically we hang out with constantly during soccer season because our kids play, and another couple hangs out with us at every basketball practice and everyone hangs out together and basically tailgates at baseball. My wife became friends with a mom at a "kids learn how to cook" class and they're always talking and my wife got her friend's daughter a job where she works etc etc etc. My daughter is on a bowling team and has made a friend on the team and no my wife hangs out with her mom quite a bit.

There's a lot of fake sounding rationalization about parents "forcing" their kids into activities and I think a much more practical realistic explanation is the parents don't really care if their kid is making lego robots or baking cookies or playing sportball, the parents just want a couple hours a week to gossip and eat junk food and maybe tailgate or maybe everyone goes to the restaurant afterwards, or just hang out and watch the game together or whatever.

And with respect to the increase in kids programmed activities and decrease in kids ages, no 2 year old ever asked their mom for ballet class or toddler yoga or WTF, but plenty of moms and dads of 2 years olds want to hang out with other parents. The purpose of ballet class and modern dance class is for the moms to hang out, and likewise cub scouts is basically the dads want to hang out together, oh and in both cases the kids do something to stay mostly safe and out of trouble as a secondary thing.

I'm happily married longer than I have kids so this doesn't directly matter to me, but I've observed that some of the local single moms think the sole purpose of scouting is to provide a meat market of single men for them, oh and the kids learn to tie knots or something to stay out of the way. If people have nothing else to gossip about, they'll start on that topic...


The intro picture is friends at a birthday party.


As someone a little bit older, let me suggest an addendum to this. Once you get into your later 40s and your kids are grown you will find that you do have more time for friends. This is especially true when (as more then half of all people eventually do) you get divorced. I speak from experience.


>as more then half of all people eventually do

This is inaccurate.

>The divorce rate peaked in the 1970s and early 1980s and has been declining for the three decades since.... If current trends continue, nearly two-thirds of marriages will never involve a divorce.

>Ultimately, a long view is likely to show that the rapid rise in divorce during the 1970s and early 1980s was an anomaly. It occurred at the same time as a new feminist movement, which caused social and economic upheaval. Today, society has adapted, and the divorce rate has declined again.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/02/upshot/the-divorce-surge-i...


As more than one-third of all people eventually do, then. Not much of a difference?


Ummmm... Yes, there's a huge difference between 50% and 33%.

That's just for the general population though, as the article said the drop is largely concentrated in certain groups of people. If you are the average hacker news reader (a high earning heterosexual man) and you marry a college educated woman whose when both of you are in your late 20/early 30s you are very unlikely to divorce.

The 50% figure is really flawed to start with through, it came from taking the annual marriage rate per 1,000 people and comparing it with the annual divorce rate. Understand in in a given year the people who are getting married are not the same people getting divorced.


As I was writing this, I realized it would be really great to hear an older person's perspective. Thank you for sharing!


Completely agree on the time wasting bit. With kids, your free time is precious, so your tolerance for bullshit (which comes with most friends) wanes. With the exception of those rare, close friends to which you relate so well, it's hard to justify the effort for ones to which you don't.


This. The first taste of cat B comes when your friends find their spouses, but that first blush lasts maybe little over a year. With kids it's a bit longer.

Also at least for me: when you have a kid the free time you have without any arrangements tends to be couple of hours here and there. It is just much easier to have solitary hobby than to hunt around for a friend whose schedule your free time slot fits in.


My wife and I are in the no kids camp. We've watched our friends disappear as they have had kids. Nothing we do is kid unfriendly, but I think misery loves company so parents hang out with other parents ;)


Your category B speaks to me exactly. I'm a couple of years younger than you. Well put!


This flies in the face of pschology, that states relationships, family (not necessarily children) AND friends are all requirements for a fulfilled life.


This is very much where I am at now.

After work and my family I have a very small window of time left, and that time I just want to spend alone doing things I enjoy.


The crazy thing is that working in a tech startup I feel like I've lost more friends than any other part or time in my life.

Long hours (which have paid off and I have no regrets about) have caused me to become distant and not reach out to friends. At times turn down friends when they want to have causal drinks or just meet up. Now that things have calmed down a bit at work I find it challenging to just reach out to my old friends and rekindle those friendships. I try but it's not the same. I thought this was normal.

I think it's important to be vigilant and not lose our friendships. This reminds me to try harder, I think without friends and people life isn't as enjoyable.


Now 34. For me, realization that group interactions were not what i like.

I used to have e.g. 64 friends, i would hang out with 8 at a time.

Now, I maybe have 8 friends, hang out 1-1. Can't have more and actually know them.

Depth, not breadth. That is my 30s.


I had the opposite experience. My best friends are from work and I made all of them after 30. We've been hanging out now for 25 years. (Just had lunch with them on Friday.)


I think this might be a cultural issue... let me explain.

I am originally from Nigeria and I just turned 30 but I went to college in the US and ended up living there for 10 years. I have lived in 4 different cities there and have traveled around the US a lot while I lived there.

One thing that struck me immediately after college was how hard it was to make friends. Secondly, I realized a lot of friends I made did not have old friends. Growing up in Nigeria, I still have friends I talk to from elementary school that I catch up with from time to time and still share a deep connection. I have friends from high school I intentionally travel to see and they visit me as frequently as they can and in college I made life long friends who I talk to every day now. Maybe it was the circle of friends I had but with my American friends, it was unusual for them to have friends that ran that deep. They rarely mentioned people from college and I knew of only one person that regularly maintained a friend from high school. After college, they seemed to be only able to make acquaintances and found it hard to make REAL friends.

In America, I feel people are quick to label things that they do not perceive as "normal" interaction and write it off. Like someone randomly approaching you at a grocery store can easily be seen as creepy or weird. A stranger or acquaintance sharing emotionally charged information can be seen as overbearing/burdensome and so on and so forth. Basically, anything outside small talk and a logical approach gets red flagged from my experience.

This is not the way things are in some other countries around the world. Individualism is a strong part of American culture, which can encourage people to create the best version of themselves, but it also leads to loneliness as we start to self-actualize.

My parents in Nigeria still regularly hang out with friends from elementary school and high school and college. They share their ups and downs and life changes and they are still making and losing friends and they are 60. This is not strange in Nigeria.

Countries who have a communal culture do not suffer from what this article is about, they have their own problems but making good friends, or the ability to are not one of the problems. If people opened themselves up to things that are different from them, were open to serendipity and supported strangers and acquaintances emotionally when they can, they would find friends in the strangest of places.


As an Italian living abroad, I can relate to your experiences (I'm not US-based though). I still have friends from elementary school, which I talk to regularly. I live in the German part of Switzerland, which is not exactly the friendliest part of Europe. I got here with my family, and I couldn't speak the language and didn't know a soul. So, as I'm into photography, I started a meetup group in Zurich and started organizing events. Now the group has 1000 people in it - mostly expats - and I have more friends than I need to (joking, but sometime I have to deflect invitations to dinners etc. to be with family).


You are preaching to the choir. I don't know how many times I've made this observation or discussed it with other Africans. Very few North Americans have traveled to an extent that they are able to understand how much of their perspective on life is influenced by their own cultural biases.

My experiences largely mirror yours, moved here over a decade ago and unfortunately most of the people I can actually call "friends" and not "acquaintances" were not born here and come from parts of the world where it is normal to interact with people long-term on a more than superficial basis.


This meets my personal experience with Nigerians: they are extremely friendly people. I might say they are "oddly friendly" in a good way. To me, it is unusual to be that friendly with strangers, but I'm not surprised that such openness to others yields a rich social life.


I'm an expat who has lived in 15 cities in 4 countries. I'm 32 and have been doing this my whole life so it is roughly 2 years per city. I have had to make a whole new set of friends every time. A few insights that I think my add perspective on what I've noticed as I've gotten older.

1) The odds that a new person I meet will be more interesting than people I already know are in constant decline. This is because I let go of my less interesting friends. As a result meeting random people has gotten a lot less fun over the years. I'm ok with this.

2) It is far more difficult to make friends in some cities than in others. Seattle and SF are by far the worst cities for making new friends that I have ever lived in. Seattle has the Seattle freeze and SF has constant social climbing and virtue signalling. Best to move to a better city like NY, London, Sydney etc. (it's a long list)

3) If you can't move and you still want to make friends I recommend joining a religion or a cult, e.g. crossfit or november project. People in these environments are signalling that they value making new friends over the cost of believing something stupid, doing dangerous exercises, and or getting up and some ungodly hour in the morning. You don't need to stay in the group for long as there are always people looking for others to become 'disillusioned' with. Instant circle friends.


I visited SF for the first time last year and I was shocked at how put-upon people drinking alone in bars seemed when I tried to talk to them. Even the bartenders couldn't be bothered to talk.

I've lived all over the world and it was the first time I've ever felt really incapable of meeting people.


2nding that Seattle is horrible.


Care to elaborate on the Seattle-freeze? I'm about to relocate to the region. Is it really that bad?


People are polite to you but no one wants to hang out with you. Ever. Coworkers will tell you about a great party they're going to and will not invite you to come along. It's thoroughly depressing.

I highly recommend joining a cult. AFAIK crossfit and november project are up there. If you're young enough Maestro Wenarto has a 'personality cult' that is a lot of fun. Seek him out, tell him you heard that he and his friends are really fun to hang out with, offer to be in one of his youtube videos (1) , bring top shelf alcohol as a gift. It'll help if you're good looking, outgoing, and a fun loving extrovert. Don't mention the 'cult' aspect ;)

(1) 'cults' require a negative aspect to define an inner group. You don't get to be in this cult without publicly embarrassing yourself. Still better than crossfit or november project IMO.

BTW - treat SAD with blue light therapy or you'll be depressed 9 months of the year.

Best of luck.


I've lived here for 10 years and can see it from both sides. Nobody will pull you out if you don't want to go out. I've made plenty of friends here with people who share my common interests, because I involve myself in sports, music, conferences, meetups, message boards. If I get an invite I try to take it because it might not happen again. Seattle has been traditionally (before the most recent influx of tech) passive, so if people see you at the bar alone in your thoughts, they will assume you want to be alone with your thoughts. I can often be introverted especially when work is heavy so this resonates with me just fine.

People work really hard, there are a ton of small businesses and the success of Seattle is only making the cost of living higher, so we all keep working. Many of the tech workers work overtime and hang out in the same places near work, so I don't see them. I go to restaurants without wait times and places in my neighborhood, Seattle is very neighborhood-y which may be unusual for people who relocate from Midwest or rural areas of America (I've lived there too).

Another good way to meet people is friends of your-friends-who-don't-live-here, so many people have moved here that I'm often 1 degree away from someone with who I have a commonality. Many people move here and bring their friends soon after so they already are setup with friends. But I don't know where these people are who are 'frozen' out of our friend group. Shoot the whole city is watching Seahawks every Sunday and you would be welcome rooting in any of those groups that I frequent. But whereever the frozen are looking is not where we are.


I lived in Seattle for 6 years. Seattle freeze is pretty bad. Everyone is polite, but if you try to become friends with anyone or get to know them better, they will "freeze you out" by coming up with endless excuses. Hence the name.

The main thing to keep in mind is that the problem is not you. It's Seattle natives. Seattle is a pretty cool city and very welcoming, but underneath the veneer there's a thick layer of disinterest towards befriending non-natives.


Another reason that I think friendships diminish as people age: People become much more concerned about status and the value brought to the table by people they associate with than they do about friendship per se. We split up into social classes more.

Rarely do you see the executive making friends with the dry cleaner, or hanging out with their friend who became a landscaper. They dine with people they can do business with and who enhance their status, and if they still talk to to the landscaper, they don't invite them to socialize with their executive friends.

I don't like that social segregation, but it's a reality.


Well I've found the more likely reason there to be that unless you still share hobbies it is pretty difficult to have stuff to talk about. Other than the old times.


Rarely do you see the executive making friends with the dry cleaner, or hanging out with their friend who became a landscaper

It used to be quite common in both London and NYC to see a banker and a street sweeper or a cab driver, chatting over a fag outside an office building. One of the unintended consequences of widespread smoking bans is that this interaction stopped.


That can't be directly due to smoking bans, since smoking outside buildings is much more common after than ban than it was before it.

I reckon it's more likely because of smartphones -- all three people are more likely to fiddle on a phone than cross the street to talk to the other smoker.


Aren't people who pull out their phones on break more likely to be texting a friend or checking a social networking site than doing something devoid of socialization on their phones?

So they're opting for their existing social circle instead of the company of strangers; even just based on app downloads and usage patterns I'd hardly suggest that most smartphone usage is net loss for humans being social.


It's hard to overstate how social smoking is. You have a lot of spontaneous interactions bumming cigarettes to and from people. You get to know all the other smokers in your apartment building or office building. You coordinate smoke breaks with your coworkers or other people in your building, they're a great excuse to get away from your desk and bullshit for 10 minutes.

I would reckon smokers are far less likely to stare into their phones when they're outside smoking than most people.


That's a great point. I see it in effect in my life in several indirect ways. Some people I might want to hang out with (because I find them interesting) give me the impression that I'm below their status level. I'm conscious about this and probably concerned about this too much. Another part of me really hates this attitude in people and then resorts to thinking that if they're that centered on status, maybe after all they aren't that interesting.

Of course I could try harder, but with social situations this usually just leads to the inevitable impression of being in need for something (which is majorly off-putting).

There's so much that could be said about this topic but in the end everyone's time is limited. So we decide: Do I want to spend time with person X or do I rather use that time to work on... my career, ... or maybe just read a book.

Since this applies to another person as well, this makes me afraid to ask: "Hey, do you want to hang out with me, or do you think the time spent with me will be less valuable than what you normally would do?"

The harsh truth might be that the other person deems us less interesting than doing whathever else they do.

And we ought to be ok with that. I'm quite aware of this and it's one of the reasons why I oftentimes don't engange in social situatioins in the first place. I've encountered dozens of awkward social situations where I left the party early on some pretense when in the end I just thought you're all boring as hell, I want to go home. Some of these situations were quite painful. However the risk of having to go through such a situation shouldn't keep me from enganging more actively. I'm writing this partly as a statement to make myself be more active again in that respect. Most of _ is crap and social groups are no different. But allowing the average to prevent the exceptional (great friendship) we might run into shouldn't be the case.

So I'm saluting all the weird interactions to come as the price to pay for finding friends close to my heart.


While it may be true that there are strata of social activity, I don't believe it is generalisable that everyone "dine[s] with people they can do business with".

Most people's social interactions are much less formal/utility driven in my experience.


I'm 34 and am going through a very rough patch (for me) right now. I feel like I literally have nobody to turn to for help. It's so hard. I've never been able to make friends easily, and the few I have made seem to have been easy for me to get because they're already so social and likable. So I end up not being a primary focus. :(


I know what you mean. Fond memories of days long gone, but only rare contact with old friends. I consume myself with work because I literally have nothing better to do. Both my parents died recently, this year and last. I miss them both immensely. And I've never been close with the rest of my family. Lonely times in these 30s. Lonely times indeed. I'm sorry for your lonely troubles too.


It makes me wish I (cliche!) knew then what I know now. I'd have picked (and hopefully been able to recognize) better people to try to follow so I could have lasting relationships. The only person I speak to with any regularity from my high school days isn't somebody I feel I could call with this, and they live four states away anyway.


If you live in either SF or NYC, I'm happy to go out for coffee and a conversation some time. I can't promise we'll be best friends, but we can sure have a try ;)


I appreciate that, zemvpferreira. I'm in Denver, though. Thanks for the offer.


I'm also in my 30s, in Denver and struggling with the same problem. I moved to Denver 2 months ago and realized something rather painful - I haven't actually made new friends in over a decade. It's always been difficult and I've been comfortable with a few folks I am close with. The problem is now they're not here and I just can't seem to take the next step with people I meet and move past the acquaintances stage. Anyway, if you'd like to meet sometime for coffee or something let me know. I'd be happy to chat :)


Thanks, sakopov. How do I contact you?


I'm also in Denver and happy to meet up. My email is in my profile. (Anyone reading this is welcome to email me too.)


Hey there, my email is on my HN user profile page.


Also in Denver! Would be thrilled to hang out with any fellow HN folks. E-mail in profile :)


The email field in your profile is private. Add your email to the "About" field for others to see it.


Learned something new, fixed thanks!


You're in a city! Good news for you -- that means you're halfway there!

There are a lot of people in that city! Do you enjoy playing Dungeons and Dragons? Finding or starting a Dungeons and Dragons group is great way to make long-term friends. It's how I made my group of local friends that I can count on for anything, and I'm nowhere near a city.

edit: Also, let me add something. I used to live in Sunnyvale. Lots of people everywhere, almost like a city. And I'm extremely extroverted, probably the most extroverted tech people I know. But I was depressed. Clinically depressed. Lexapro helped. It saved my marriage and possibly my life. Go see a psychiatrist.


Which part of Sunnyvale was that? Honestly all of my South Bay memories are being outside and hardly seeing another person.

Sunnyvale and MV do have lots of strangers in the small downtown strips, but that's just 2 blocks; San Jose has the inverse where the area near SJCC is always empty but people are in a circle around it. Maybe.


This may or may not help you at all, try augmenting short winter days with a very bright sunlight spectrum lamp. It's no substitute for a nice coffee with friends, but it can still help keep energy levels up.


I lived in Denver for 2 years. I love the city, but it was actually pretty hard to make friends there. I met some random people in the gym that my wife and I hung out with some, but they became nothing more than acquaintances. I'm sure it didn't help that both my wife and I work from home, but it was one of the driving reason why we left Denver.


I hope you do find some new friends. And remember, you have to be a bit of a stoic if you want to preserve friendships and make them last longer.


[flagged]


I don't think it's healthy to rely on alcohol, even if it is the "social lubricant". On the topic of being outside (the other thing you implied in your comment), it can be more difficult for some people than others. If you find it easy to go out and make small talk, consider yourself lucky.


Kind of sad you had to answer your own comment.

Listen, you know, as long as we're alive we can change things. Go out to a bar meet some strangers. It's never too late to make some friends. My problem has always been time.

Just don't give up, we don't need hundreds of good friends just a few. Even one or two are better than none.


> Listen, you know, as long as we're alive we can change things. Go out to a bar meet some strangers. It's never too late to make some friends. My problem has always been time.

FWIW i've had consistently low success with finding friends at bars. Mostly i find people i chat to aren't there with an open mind to getting to know people, at most it'll be a quip here and a joke there, but ultimately they're with "their crowd". YMMV.

> Just don't give up, we don't need hundreds of good friends just a few. Even one or two are better than none.

I totally agree with this sentiment, though.


I know how you feel with that last bit. There's a few people who are very important friends for me but if I'm honest about it, I'm not sure I'm even in their top 10. Don't get me wrong, they've each done wonderful things for me and I treasure their friendship but sometimes I feel I'm not a very high priority and I'm not sure they realize how much I depend on them.

Asymmetry of interest can be a major strain on a relationship; unfortunately it seems true symmetry is a near impossibility.


Very few people are able to become friends with someone on command. It doesn't work that way, making friends is something that 'just happens'.

I have to note that I'm everything but social. Social activities are so exhausting for me that I often end up actively repelling people. But I still have no trouble making friends and it happens more often than I'd like, even friends I can talk to about everything, not limits.

If you want somebody to hang out with and just talk about stuff, that's pretty easy. Look for the group/scene that shares your hobby and interests and communicates on your wavelength. It's easy to talk about your interests and they will listen.

However, if you are looking for someone to talk to on a deeper level, that's more involved but I think it's not _that_ hard. Try to be honest with someone who resonates with you and talks on your wavelength. Tell something about yourself that you normally wouldn't; chances are they will respond with something personal too. Before you know it, you've found a good friend. It takes time though.

Sorry if I made it sound too easy, I'm just relaying my experiences. But I'm pretty sure that you should never ever try to force friendship, it doesn't work. Try and error is key here.


I'm the opposite. I have too many people in my life. I've been trying to go full hermit but somehow I always get pulled into stuff by friends/family. And I'm an introvert.


> I feel like I literally have nobody to turn to for help.

In my experience, almost anyone you already meet casually (work, gym, library) will try to help if you reach out and start talking to them about what's bothering you. (I'm living in Europe, maybe it's different in the US -- dunno.) Even if they can't directly help you, talking about stuff helps.

Reaching out is the hardest part though. Choose the person you feel most comfortable (or least uncomfortable) with.


I feel you. I'm in my early 30's too and have felt just the way you describe.


>In the final years of my 20s, I learned how easy, and how lonely, it can be to keep to yourself

It's not that bad, honestly.

It's probably better to choose activities which have a higher engagement between two people for actually forging close relationships. Most of the stuff mentioned puts the focus on something else (preacher, yoga instructor, movie). Those things don't leave time for adding bits to an ongoing conversation. You don't learn anything about the other person doing those things with them other than the fact that they like to do those things.

For nerds, D&D, table-top games, card games, etc. succeed here. It's pretty difficult to not interact with other people doing those things even though the focus is not necessarily the other person.


That last part is key. When i entered my 30s, is when I went from being a loner (I had been a loner all my life, by choice) to being "my calendar is always full" social. Mainly because I started mixing table-top board games and role play in the mix. 2 board game nights and one tabletop RP session a week, all with different people, ensure you see a lot of people. Then every time you see those people, they always end up suggesting extra (often unrelated) things, like going to a movies, a party, going for dinner, etc.

Makes for one busy (and fun!) life.

I do also live smack in the middle of a very densely populated city, right by a primary subway station, so most of my friends live within 15-20 minutes. That doesn't hurt.


Same. Started going to board game nights (and other meetups) and eventually that turned getting invited to more social events that I can really keep up with, especially since I need time to myself to create things and unwind. But I do my best to maintain those friendships as much as I can.

I just hosted a Halloween/Housewarming party a few weeks ago that had almost 40 people RSVP. I would have struggled to get 5 people to do the same 5 years ago (I had more friends than that, but they were very flaky).


Right on. 42, happily married, close friends have mostly moved away.

Long time gamer here. We play remote (roll20) and I meet new friends regularly to chat/bs for a few hours per week


i reached a point where i realised that my friends were more important to me than i was to them. it was a horrible feeling, but i couldn't blame them.. they were all getting married and having kids - after which my friendship was waaay down their list of priorities. one of the benefits of being in a relationship is to have somebody to whom you're at the top of the list for. friends just cannot be counted on as much, a realization that only hit me after age 30.


> they were all getting married and having kids - after which my friendship was waaay down their list of priorities

You have to understand that if someone has a kid, let alone two, and they make the time and effort to see you even every couple of months, that's huge.

The saying "days are slow but weeks are fast" is never more applicable than when you have small children. Months go by in a flash. Just keeping them cared for is a non-stop grind that takes most of your energy, and you start jealously guarding those few spare moments that you get to yourself. Leaving the house and socializing is the last thing you want to do.

You certainly cannot count on them to be up for impromptu mid-week shenanigans, but that doesn't mean you're not important to them. They just no longer have as much to give. Think of it as if they're working for some crappy client who demands non-stop crunch time and lives at their house.


> Just keeping them cared for is a non-stop grind that takes most of your energy, and you start jealously guarding those few spare moments that you get to yourself.

I've always wanted children, but this entire thread scares me a little bit with comments like this all over the place. Everyone says "Oh, but it feels so worth it!" That's great, but does it feel that way for everyone? I crave alone time and working on my own little research projects and hobbies. The idea of driving multiple little people back and forth to soccer practice just... doesn't seem like my version of a good time (which is why I really hope self-driving cars become a thing in the next few years).

It sounds like young children would cause an introverted tech person who is more interested in ideas than sensory experiences to fall apart after a while. I really hope that when I have children I get the magical "this is amazing; I never could have imagined how meaningful life could feel!" moment that everyone else talks about, but if that doesn't happen, I might be screwed...


The ones who regret having kids (and they certainly exist) will generally never admit it.

It's socially unacceptable to do so.


Let's say it takes 25% of your current free time to maintain a healthy relationship with an SO (this number may vary wildly, but the broader point stands). Let's say you have about 6hrs free time on weekdays after commute and meals and such, 32hrs on weekends.

Then you have a kid or three.

Over half your total free time is now gone—~24hrs devoted to them on the weekend if your kids do 12 awake 12 asleep each day, which is typical for young kids past the newborn phase and will remain stable for several years, plus ~3hrs each weekday, for a working parent. Consider too that there will be more cleaning, more cooking, more everything to keep your house in order, but let's put that aside for now (some of that can overlap with times your kids are awake, but far from all of it).

Remember that 25% of your (original, larger amount of) time you spent keeping your relationship with your SO healthy? A little of that can come from family time while the kids are awake, but not all of it. True, you can (and to stay sane must) fudge your free time a little by having one parent do all the parenting parts of some days while the other one does non-parenting stuff, but that only gets you so far. Point is, if you don't want to end up divorced/separated/whatever, much of your now-smaller pool of free time isn't gonna be entirely free.

If it's starting to look like you've only got somewhere in the neighborhood 10-15hrs a week to do things you want to, including travel time to any activities, well... yeah, that's not far off. That's media and arts (books, movies, video games, the opera, whatever), playing an instrument, taking online courses, going to the pub, game nights with friends, sports, crafts, biking, kayaking, hiking, gardening, exercise et c. If it's starting to look like you'll only be able to keep up 2-3 of those things on the regular—yep, exactly right. You can kinda do some of those things with your kids, but it won't much resemble doing those things without kids (count on getting 10% as much done in a given stretch of time, IOW, and it won't be nearly as relaxing). You will have to abandon most of them, at least as any kind of regular activity.

I hear this gets (a lot) better when they're older, and can be left to fend for themselves a bit, but you're still looking at most of a decade lived like this, and more if your kids are spaced out.

Other things that suck: having to move to a nice suburb ($) into a house with enough bedrooms ($) in a good school district ($) OR a house closer to the city with enough space ($$, if you can even find such) and private schools because those public schools will suck ($$), OR having a parent stay home and homeschool ($$$). Medical bills can add up even for minor stuff, and insurance costs more. Having kids is basically financial suicide, and clothes/food are the least of the costs—housing, medical, and school/child care are the killers.

Travel is like 20x harder and more stressful, plus more expensive, plus you'll lose a lot of potentially fun travel time to taking care of kids, which is if anything less fun to do in Barcelona or Tokyo or a little country town in France or a campsite in the Rockies than it is at home. You probably won't want to do it much and will feel like you need another vacation afterward when you do. For that matter: staycation-type vacations will be less relaxing than they would without kids, too.

There are some cool things about it, certainly, but make no mistake that it'll be fucking incredibly expensive in pretty much every way. It is a life decision in the sense that lots of stuff you might otherwise do in your life will 100% for sure not be done if you have kids. You can't have everything, and you only have so much time and money, and kids are likely by far the biggest sink for both of those things you could (reasonably) choose to do.

Source: have three kids.

[EDIT] oh and by the way, every time you have a kid you're buying a ticket in a reverse-lottery that could end in their having chronic illnesses, brain developmental issues, et c. Imagine all of the above, especially the part about it eventually getting better, if that happens. Yeah. Ouch.


So... after having two children, what made you have kid number three?


I'm an idiot?

Really, once you have 2, more aren't that much worse.


Well, that's all a bit depressing. What would your advice be for me? I'm 26 and my SO wants three children as soon as I'm willing to have them.


It sounds bad, and it can be bad, but it's often not. It's all about perspective. Everything above is true. But more often than not it's worth it.

Why? I didn't know until I started responding. But I believe it's worth it. Let me throw some words out there. They may or may not resonate with you.

- Maybe it's because they are full and complete human beings, eventually capable of everything you are capable of and possibly much more.

- You will know everything about them and be responsible for molding them and teaching them and keeping them safe. Taking them from incapable blobs to a person who can think and make decisions and love and hurt.

- You will develop deep relationships and strong feelings for them, more than even for your spouse (which you never thought was possible), and deeper than any other project you'll ever take on.

- This thread is about deep friendships. This is deep. You will laugh with them and cry with them and argue with them. You will create and build things with them. You will discuss and debate things with them. You will challenge each other and make each other better.

- They will trust you like no one has ever trusted you. They will look up to you like no one has ever looked up to you. They will need you like no one has ever needed you. I mean it. No one. Your spouse has lived life before you. Your kids have not. Life without you isn't even conceivable.

- You will be imbued with purpose whether or not you already had purpose.

I state the above as if it were a certainty. It's not. Maybe I'm lucky. Some of the things above are choices you can make.

Some advice:

- Start with zero expectations of time. I took the first years of life with kids very badly because I felt like I lost my life and my time. Eventually I realized that this is my life now. Once I accepted that and stopped looking back and stopped looking forward everything got better. You will start to get more time back and that became a pleasant surprise rather than something I unhappily yearned for. There will be regressions (where you lose time you previously gained back). Expect them and learn how to drop things you were doing until the regression is over.

- Be present. Your kids don't have to have the best anything in order to turn out great. They just need you. When you are with them drop everything else even your thoughts. Be there for them. Play with them.

- Take care of yourself and your needs. Make sure you get enough sleep. Your baby is crying and you are desperate for sleep? Check if they are safe, if they have poop, if they've eaten and if they are warm. Done? Get some earplugs and go to bed. Seriously. Take care of yourself!

- Any time you are feeling at your wits end reset your assumptions and take care of yourself. Start with what's absolutely necessary and work from there. Feeling stretched financially? Kids don't have to be expensive. You need to feed them. You don't really need anything else, not even diapers. A nearby park maybe.


You got here ahead of me with a really good post so I'll quote and add my 2 cents rather than doing a full write-up from scratch. My earlier post intentionally focused on the down-side of kids, but there are good things too--I just think the bad parts don't often get a full accounting.

> - You will know everything about them and be responsible for molding them and teaching them and keeping them safe. Taking them from incapable blobs to a person who can think and make decisions and love and hurt.

Helping kids discover the world is really, really cool.

> - You will develop deep relationships and strong feelings for them, more than even for your spouse (which you never thought was possible), and deeper than any other project you'll ever take on.

My Saturday morning outings with my kids (I get coffee, we share breakfast pastry, then we walk around the farmer's market for a while) are my very favorite part of my week. I highlighted that your free time gets sliced to a tiny fraction of what it was when you have kids--far less than half what it once was--but that time with your kids isn't wasted (unless you just hate being around kids and can't get over that, or you can't figure out how to enjoy yourself with kids, I guess). To put it bluntly: you're stuck with 'em, you can mope or you can enjoy yourself, and if you choose the latter it can be a lot of fun. They'll go through rough patches (so, so many) and man will they frustrate you off sometimes even if you have a pretty mellow disposition, but the good times are really great.

> - You will be imbued with purpose whether or not you already had purpose.

I'm definitely more mentally stable with kids than I ever was before. Go figure. YMMV.

> - Start with zero expectations of time. [....] Expect them and learn how to drop things you were doing until the regression is over.

It is vital that you don't try to keep up all the stuff you did pre-kids, or you'll have no time to do any of it well. Some of it you can shift around and squeeze into the cracks or during kid-time, maybe in a different form from pre-kids (PC gamer? Maybe switch to a Gameboy you can suspend at any time and carry anywhere. Runner? Jogging stroller. And so on.), but other things you just gotta let go or you'll be constantly annoyed that you can't seem to get anything done properly, because you're trying to keep up too many things at once. This advice is solid.

> - Be present. Your kids don't have to have the best anything in order to turn out great. They just need you. When you are with them drop everything else even your thoughts. Be there for them. Play with them.

I've gotten in the habit of thinking, in idle times when my kids are awake, "if 80-year-old me were transported back to this moment, what would he do?" Nine times out of ten this drives me to go play with my kids rather than doing whatever time-wasting crap I might have done for that five minutes instead.

> - Take care of yourself and your needs. Make sure you get enough sleep. Your baby is crying and you are desperate for sleep? Check if they are safe, if they have poop, if they've eaten and if they are warm. Done? Get some earplugs and go to bed. Seriously. Take care of yourself!

THIS 10,000x.

> - Any time you are feeling at your wits end reset your assumptions and take care of yourself. Start with what's absolutely necessary and work from there. Feeling stretched financially? Kids don't have to be expensive. You need to feed them. You don't really need anything else, not even diapers. A nearby park maybe.

I highlighted all the ways kids cost tons of money, and oh man do they ever (if you have to you can definitely spend less on e.g. getting into a good school district, but if you've got the means you'll find it hard not to spend that money) but you can easily spend way more than you need to on them. Buy used clothes (Craigslist and swap shop are great for this, so are garage sales), buy used toys--the kids won't mind used things unless you teach them to mind. As mentioned, kids love parks and they're free. Half the crap in the baby section of the store is of little actual use. You don't need to pack like you're making an expedition to an unknown continent when you go out with a baby, with a huge cargo-stroller and/or a huge $300 baby bag (these are real things and many people buy them)--one prepped bottle, 2-3 diapers, and some wipes are all you need 99+% of the time, and often you can get away with leaving some or all of that in the car (if you drive).

(addressing the parent question directly)

> Well, that's all a bit depressing. What would your advice be for me? I'm 26 and my SO wants three children as soon as I'm willing to have them.

I hesitate to advise anyone to have kids or not to have kids. I'd say if you're really set on, say, traveling the world extensively before you're 40... maybe don't. Some stuff's just not happening if you have kids. You cannot have kids and also all the other things you may have wanted. Your retirement savings/debt repayment (say, mortgage) will surely suffer, probably a lot. If you'll consider it a major life failure if you don't retire early and you don't have an incredibly high income (or two), maybe don't have kids. If it's very important to you to at least try to achieve great things in pretty much any field and you don't have enough money to pay for live-in help or an SO who's willing to take on almost all the work of raising the kids (see: the biographies on Wikipedia of people famous for great accomplishments who also had kids) then maybe don't have kids.

Then again, lots of life is making choices about that kind of thing, whether you know it at the time or not. Having kids is a particularly large one with unusually far-reaching consequences, but it's not so different from the rest. If you just really want kids, or of the idea of doing some fraction of the things you might otherwise have done (plus a fair number of things you wouldn't have) but with kids rather than alone or as a couple is very appealing to you, then maybe have kids. Just know what you're choosing to put aside for that, and reach a peace with that fact sooner rather than later to save yourself some painful adjustment and maybe regret. You're doing this rather than that, because it's what you want.


Wow, thanks for the great replies! From both of you. That really means a lot taking the time to write all that out and explain both the downsides and upsides of having children. I know I definitely want them (I always have). But it does seem like it would be advantageous to wait a few years to get traveling/etc. out of the way first. Thanks again!


Just balance that with the fact that every year you wait is another year that future-you will think "damnit, why didn't I have these brats earlier so they'd already be out of the house?" :-)


This is do true.

My only downtime was taking an extra 5 minutes to pick up books I'd reserved at the library on the way to picking up take-away once a week.

The idea of seeing friends every couple of months seemed impossible.


but that doesn't mean you're not important to them

No, he's right. You're no longer important to them. They make their life choices and set their priorities such that you are so unimportant to them that they don't spend any time with you at all. Ask yourself this: If something or someone is important to you, do you make choices such that you stop spending time with them? There's your answer.

And they can say "noo you are still important". They should show it or they are a hypocrite. Emotions that are not acted upon are useless.


Do you seriously not feel 'important' to someone unless you are more important to them than their own children? That is a truly staggering level of entitlement.


Unless you are more important to them than some aspect of their own children? Yes. That has nothing to do with entitlement; you don't deserve anyone's friendship.

Children require a certain amount of time, and are given some degree more by any parent who enjoys parenting and/or has higher standards for parenting than what is required. If someone can't find any time for you because of their children, it isn't that their children have been deemed more important than you, it's that every single thing that they spent an hour a month doing with their children has been deemed more important than you.

I'm not being bitter here; my friends with kids found time for me when the kids were young, and now those kids are teenagers, so there's tons of time. It's just that all importance is, is priority. If you can't prioritize something enough to maintain it at all, it's because it's not important to you. Importance isn't some inner strength of feeling; that's a rationalization of being all talk and no action. If you don't feed something, it dies.


If there is anything that causes them to ditch me as their friend from one day to the next, then yes. Then I am not important to them. I mean, that's okay, but that's no longer true friendship. And it's in no way entitlement, it's just an observation. It's just that I have a deeper and more rigorous sense of friendship than other people.


> one of the benefits of being in a relationship is to have somebody to whom you're at the top of the list for

Not true.

If this were true sexual attraction would not be the primary driver for relationships.

That's why you don't see heterosexual people marrying same sex people just because they are great friends and at "the top of the list".

Relationships (romantic) are primarily sexual affairs.

The whole "top of the list" thing is a recent western "invention".

Edit: I guess you can also say they are economic affairs, but there is always a sexual/reproductive element involved way before friendship


All I can say is that, based only on the comment (I don't know you at all, of course) you may be missing out on literally the best things in life. I don't think I've seen a long-term relationship that matches your description, I haven't read an expert describe them that way, and I don't think it would be healthy or tenable. Sex drives, for example, diminish as people age; and IME relationships primarily focused on sex don't last to become long-term ones. Another way of looking at it is that long-term relationships with prostitutes would fit your description.

Sex is great and valuable; it's probably necessary at certain points in the relationship; but it's certainly not sufficient or the most important thing. Love, intimacy and human bonding are far more rewarding and valuable (and all enhanced by positive sex). As another easy example, beyond a doubt anyone I know with kids would give up sex before they gave up their child; it wouldn't be a close decision - it would be offensive to suggest otherwise to them.

EDIT: I omitted a very valuable reason for long term relationships: To have someone to care for, for whom you matter. I believe research (and plenty of anecdotal examples) shows that, lacking this benefit, isolated people feel like they don't really exist.


All I'm stating is that all romantic relationships start with sexual attraction. Otherwise they are friendships. The two are different concepts. They can and many times overlap, but don't have to. The conflation of these two concepts is a recent phenomenon and far from universal (far less common in the far east and in the so called underdeveloped world where survival is difficult)

> Another way of looking at it is that long-term relationships with prostitutes would fit your description.

There's not much data on that but I remember vividly reading an academic study that interviewed many prostitutes and cases where regular "clients" used their services for more than 2 decades while racking several divorces in that time where common.

I was really surprised at the time.

Maybe friends disappearing (like the article states) leads those men (in that study it was only male "clients") to pay to have a permanent human element in their lives.


>All I'm stating is that all romantic relationships start with sexual attraction.

You'd be surprised, but the qualifier "romantic" messes up with clearly addressing this (since it presupposes sexuality).

Marriage in most cultures have been more about the economic and companionship part than about sexuality up until recently. Heck, marriages were mostly arranged in most cultures until the last 1-2 centuries...

After all you can "play" around without getting married too, no need to marry for that.


Marriage used to be mainly economic. If anything the friendship was at best a third reason.


> If this were true sexual attraction would not be the primary driver for relationships.

i think we need to distinguish between long-term and short-term relationships. sexual attraction might be the primary reason why a man and woman initially get together, but it's not necessary the reason they stay together for years or even decades. relationships evolve, and in the end, long-term relationships are built on a lot more than sexual attraction.


As a married man with a kid, there is something more to long term romantic relationships than sex and reproduction. There is a joining of your lives; since my now-wife moved in, my life centers on two people instead of one. I don't make all decisions about what I will do and what my life will be like on my own. There is both a loss of control and a comfort in this. Where are we going to live? How are we going to spend our weekends? How will we decorate? All of those things used to be my decision on my own; now, the two of us choose together.


> Not true.

Wrong. (You're blunt? I'm blunt. That's OK.)

Poster said "one of the benefits", not "the primary driver of", and it absolutely is one of the benefits of a relationship. If you're not top of your partner's list (and vice versa) then you're not partners, you're just a mutual booty call.


I think that point went rushing way over your head.

The key words you missed, even though you quoted, are "one of the benefits". Not "the only benefit" or "the most important benefit".

Also this leads into some pretty important marital advice that just because you're at the top of someone's list doesn't mean you should stop trying to keep yourself there. Gotta put that effort in!


> Relationships (romantic) are primarily sexual affairs.

This is only true for a time when you're young, before you grow and realize what's more important.


I can't imagine anything more boring or unsatisfying than a relationship (longer than a night or two) driven by sex.

I want to have a life partner, not (just) a warm body to ejaculate into.


> Not true.

maybe you haven't met the right person yet?


In what way is this related to what was written in that comment?

It seems like you are dismissing the argument with some nebulous personal attack.


Friendship is an opaque, organic process. No one understands how to "make it happen." So it pretty much becomes a numbers game. The more people you are in steady contact with, the higher your chances of that process taking hold. Before 30, people are in institutions that provide this kind of environment: school.

Work can provide it as well, if you want it to. A lot of people aren't comfortable with trying the process there because, unlike school, it's really hard to avoid someone if things go sour. For this same reason there's usually a little taboo around workplace relationships.

Then there's the knock effect of having a couple real friends in our youth: all their friends become our acquaintances and maybe even our friends. The numbers game at work again. All these acquaintances make our social circle feel a lot bigger than it actually is. This is what makes the drop off after a certain age so hard. When we look back, it felt like we had so many friends, but most of us really didn't.


I have a wise older friend who is fond of saying, "Our attention is our most valuable asset." Sometimes, depending on the setting, he will add that in our culture it has been stolen.

I certainly often feel like I'm in a losing battle to keep my attention on what is essential. I've had 3 close friends move away in the past year. There are and handful of new people I've thought, "Hey, I'd like to be friends with them." Each time one or both of us don't seem to have the time to connect or if we do it's once with a "We should do this again soon."

Still looking for answers I guess.


Competition for attention among personal relationships seems to be growing thing in my life. Makes me a bit resentful sometimes. It's been especially harsh these past weeks.


Step #1 for making new friends: both people silent their phones and drop them on the table, face down


I've taken to doing this whenever I go out, whoever I'm with. I'm always on call at work so I can't just ignore my phone, but having it face down and peeking every now and then to see if any of my notifications are slack or texts works quite well, and anything important goes to my watch anyway.

I find this really helps me be present, especially given I have ADHD and have a hard time focussing at all.


Not sure why the author "actively resists" having her spouse as best friend. My wife and I have known each other since high school. She's the only one from high school I still talk to regularly, and she is definitely my best friend.

We're in our 50s. She has always been more social than me, and struggles to make female friends. I'm not sure that it works as well for her as it does for me, but the casual acquaintances and handful of friends I've had since hitting my 30s have been enough for me.


The quote in context is: "Husbands and wives may allow their partners to fill the role of best friend, letting other relationships fall by the wayside (something I’ve tried to actively resist)."

It seems the author is advising against forsaking other relationships and placing the entirety of the burden to supply all of our friendship needs on our significant other. I think there's wisdom in diversifying our relationship portfolio the same way we do with investments.


The thinking on this issue seems to go back and forth. On one hand is the view that marriage is primarily an economic partnership to provide the basic for successful child-rearing, and that emotional and intellectual fulfillment could be found via other avenues. The more modern ideals says not only should you be in love with your partner but you should also share the same interests and be one another's primary and perhaps sole confidents.

But lately some suggest that expecting your spouse to also be your best friend is impractical and puts too much burden on one single relationship. Instead, the idea goes, you can be perfectly happy with a sufficient level of compatibility and support, while relying on a wider network of relationships to fulfill other intellectual and emotional needs. That not only is it potentially more healthy, but more realistic, as you can't necessary hope to find one person who matches all your interests and pursuits.


> The more modern ideals says not only should you be in love with your partner but you should also share the same interests and be one another's primary and perhaps sole confidents.

Do you have some evidence that says such things weren't expected to develop in pre-modern times? It seems hard to imagine it wouldn't happen a lot, naturally, even in arranged marriages.

> lately some suggest that expecting your spouse to also be your best friend is impractical

I've seen it happen many times.

> you can't necessary hope to find one person who matches all your interests and pursuits.

You both can change your interests and pursuits enough to match each other. Doing and getting what you want becomes much less important than whom you do it with and their happiness.

A good amount of overlap is very helpful, however, but probably people won't get through the initial stages of a relationship without it.


Not really, I can't claim any specific historical correlation for these views, mostly just trying to stake out the poles of the spectrum. I'm sure it happened but it just didn't see like the expected outcome.

Your advice on purposely dovetailing your interests is interesting, especially contrasted with the advice I often hear about not trying to change your partner. Don't expect change, but give it?


> Your advice on purposely dovetailing your interests is interesting, especially contrasted with the advice I often hear about not trying to change your partner. Don't expect change, but give it?

It's a very good question and a subtle, sometimes difficult issue. IMHO:

You both are human beings. You both will be able to change in some ways and not in others; you'll be willing to change in some ways, not mind in some others, and not want to change in others (and might find you change anyway). And all change is a matter of degree; it's not binary.

You can't say in foresight what is possible, though some things are obvious. Don't expect that your free-spending, indebted partner will inevitably 'see the light' and adopt your financial discipline; but maybe they will agree to let you handle the checkbook. Your extreme introvert partner probably won't become a social host(ess), but maybe they will learn better social skills or become more comfortable and able in social situations to some degree. Or maybe the introversion will become even stronger, or come and go.

So you can't expect your partner will change in specific ways that suit you and you can't make them do it. You won't be able to change in all the ways you and they wish you could. A necessity at the start is that you happily love and accept each other as is, as real people, with warts, character flaws, and all, even when they suck and make your lives miserable - the other partner's love in those moments can change your lives.

What you can do is both have the trust and good faith to do the best you can for each other and support each other, even if it's not always 'fair' or balanced. Both change what you can and work out what you can't. Maybe you love RTS gaming and your partner doesn't, but maybe you can find interests that you both love and suit both your needs for an escape. That applies to more serious issues too, but hopefully you discuss the most important ones (e.g., kids) before making a commitment. A major step is realizing that there are things in life more important to you than you (especially more important than your pleasure), and if you do change then you'll find that many of those personal 'needs' weren't so important after all. Personally, it's a source of joy to do things for my partner, to see what I've given up and the seemingly infinite reward; it's also a source of pride, a measure of how far we've come.

EDIT: I should add, though, that IME different people have an amazingly wide variety of arrangements, explicit and implicit, in their relationships.


> She's the only one from high school I still talk to regularly, and she is definitely my best friend. We're in our 50s.

I wonder if this is a generational thing, I've kept in touch with a few high school friends, and none of them are married in their early 30's.

In the past decade I've forgone serious relationships for studies and work, and I'm alone at 31. It's sad in some ways, but at this point I'm more afraid of a bad partner and financial ruin than taking a chance at a happier life.


I'm only in regular contact with one friend from high school, and that's probably only because we also went to college together. It makes sense to me, given how much I and just about everyone I know changed in college, that a friendship from before that wouldn't last.

I'm still Facebook friends (we could get in contact, but don't) with several former high school friends though, and nearly all of them have gotten married before turning 30. In my experience it's less a generational thing than a career field thing, because none of those former friends from high school are devs, but the majority of my 30+ dev friends and contacts are unmarried, a tide that's only starting to turn. I won't speculate on what it might be, but there definitely seems to be something about devs that makes us take longer to settle down than average.


> I'm more afraid of a bad partner and financial ruin than taking a chance at a happier life

You do get to choose your partner. Perhaps keep looking until you find someone you feel safe with ... you only need to find one.


> I'm more afraid of a bad partner and financial ruin than taking a chance at a happier life.

Just curious, what would cause financial ruin?

Dating being expensive, etc? Or divorce?


Divorce


What about prenuptial agreements? Anyone who isn't marrying you for your income should be open to one.


Courts are known to throw out the occasional pre-nup, depending on jurisdiction.


Perfect handle for this response.


The book "Algorithms to live by - The computer science of human decisions" [1] has an hypothesis on this in the chapter on explore vs exploit.

It is that in the early part of life, we focus on exploration (extreme case: young kids), which includes meeting lots of new people and having many friends. Then as we age, we focus more on the "exploitation" part: focusing on what we liked best. This leads to reducing the circle of friends to a reduced core of very good friends.

Of course, it would be reductive to only consider this angle (e.g.: having kids tends to reduce quite a lot social activities, and often happen in this age range). But it's an interesting perspective, and the CS part of it may resonate with the HN crowd ;)

[1] http://algorithmstoliveby.com/


How many of your neighbors do you know? In many places in the world I've been (generally poorer than the US) - it would be absolutely insane not to know, and talk often with your neighbors. In the four or so places I've lived since college in the USA, I don't think I've more than introduced myself to a neighbor.

I posted the below before, but still think about it a lot.

"As time went by, the settlers from Europe noticed something: No Indians were defecting to join colonial society, but many whites were defecting to live in the Native American one."

The passage shocked me, as it is extremely surprising, and speaks to the core of our societal growth over the past few hundreds of years not leading to maximum happiness. The passage is from this David Brooks column (which I think is definitely worth the three minutes to read): http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/09/opinion/the-great-affluenc...

The core thought is that people trade up for comfort (including privacy), but that they lose out on the overall bonds with other people that are what really makes us happy. One extremely clear choice: Do you work from home (more comfy) or an office (more social)?

The work from home choice seems extremely relevant to me. Is it actually bad for happiness in the long term to do something that's so much more comfortable (no commuting, no dressing up, feeling of being at home, etc)? When I think about the best times in my own life, they were the times when I had a close group of people I lived and hung out with (college, summer camp, etc). I assume it's the same for many others reading this. So why do we not live more like that into our adult years?

Originally posted here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12299621


In the late 90's my dad started to telecommute. Never large to begin with, his circle of friendships started to die off and he stopped really going out and engaging with the world. He'd wake up early and go to work and honestly it was kind of sad to see him in his home office intermittently working and then watching news and refreshing webpages. His view of the world dwindled down to input from mainstream media and his imagination rather than real interactions and unexpected experiences. His life was just a cloistered, insulated routine. Two years ago he got laid off after well over a decade of working from home (HSBC) and had a nervous breakdown and had to be hospitalized because his comfortable life came crumbling down and he had spent so much time not building his defenses and resolve to face any kind of life uncertainty. He's ended up a frustrated, lonely, newly-divorced, angry old man who a few days ago voted for Donald Trump. The only positive thing to note is that in the last few months he's started to drive for Uber and he's actually gotten out into the world actually meeting strangers in interactions that aren't strictly premised on transactions (like you have when you buy groceries or get your tire changed). Since then he's even gotten drunk with a lady his age when she invited him into a bar he drove her to. He's got a little pep in his step for once.


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