Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Friendships form via shared context, not shared activities (billmei.net)
530 points by Kortaggio on May 30, 2022 | hide | past | favorite | 182 comments

If you've been exposed to both Western and Eastern cultures, this is probably something you've seen both sides of.

I grew up in Egypt. Family was family, including extended family. You don't choose them, and you can't really distance yourself from them (you'd be crazy to try). You can to some extent choose your friends in school, but that is mostly "shared context"—they are people who probably are from your neighborhood or from the same "social class" (yes, Egypt was/is very class-ist).

I live in the US. Everything is very individualistic, and even for those with families, it's very nuclear-family-oriented. Boundaries are well-respected. I'd say when friendships are formed, they're usually more around shared activities, regardless of where someone might be originally from, what their background is, etc.

Very different worlds, with pros and cons in each.

> Very different worlds, with pros and cons in each.

Indeed they are. I've straddled both worlds for most of my adult life and while I have a bias to a more communal / less individualistic approach to life, I can acknowledge the benefits it brings.

One thing I realized though is that years of being inculcated with non-western values has resulted in me having a stunted / underdeveloped "self-concept". This is very much ill-suited for life in the west. I struggle to set boundaries and have an unhealthy obsession with other people's concerns, their opinions. In other words I'm a strong 'people pleaser' which isn't a great trait to have in a dog-eat-dog society where each individual is only concerned about their own welfare. I'm curious if you have experienced something similar? How were you able to reconcile both perspectives?

Even as a white person who has lived in America his whole life, I struggle with this. I am a strong person but my instinct is to "people please" and do things in a communal way.

I just think that acting communally makes more sense, so I do it. I assume that others will do the same. But they don't. As you say this can lead to negative outcomes.

> I just think that acting communally makes more sense, so I do it. I assume that others will do the same. But they don't.

You are not wrong. They are the ones being selfish.

Thank you, I sort of needed that this morning. Your words brightened a stranger's day by a bit.

Well, he's mistaken in his assumption others will act the same way as him. That's a kind of 'wrong', too- towards himself.

Being kind to other and giving them the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise is only human.


And can be hugely benefitical or detrimental.

Adam Grant writes about this topic in. Givers are overrepresented both among the most and among the least successful individuals. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16158498-give-and-take

I feel the article has a strong skew towards an utilitarian approach to life. Everything needs a function and a purpose and the author’s writing seems to reflect that. I guess it’s part of western culture to some extent but it’s good to know it’s not the only way and especially in polarizing times it’s good to go the other way and learn (others) about trust and a sense of belonging.

> a stunted / underdeveloped "self-concept"

Very true. In a non-western culture, the self is shadowed and limited by the group identity. I believe that contributes to the unity of the group and the warmth one misses when living in individualistic societies. But when taken to the extreme, it creates fragile group identities, and leads to their demise in the long run, for a group can't be strong if its members don't have a healthy sense of themselves.

Very well said!

My other comment is relevant here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=31578957

Thanks! You echoed my thoughts exactly. Added the book to my reading list.

Perhaps you should read "The 48 Laws of Power" by Robert Greene. I first read it in my early thirties and got depressed for a while. I used to be 'people pleaser' too. Expecting everyone to do the 'right' thing or reason in a certain way. That book made me understand that people may be guided or driven by laws or maxims different from mine. I had been very naive about how the world worked for so long and that made me sad. I certainly wasn't going to court attention at all costs, or keep people dependent on me, but I was now aware that these were principles followed by some people and expecting them to behave otherwise was foolishness. Then learn some Stoic philosophies. The daily stoic by Ryan Holiday is good recommendation.

I think a healthy addendum to "The 48 Laws of Power", certainly a rough/cynical take on how power is curried, is "How to Win Friends and Influence People". IME it essentially tells you about how to be a people pleaser in the vein of the former - main thing being, speak to other's self-interests without being a doormat.

You might find The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently...and Why by Richard Nisbett interesting.

Like you, having experienced both Eastern/Western values i had come to the conclusion that this is the main reason for the "Rise of West" over the last few centuries. Individualism has free reign within a much larger boundary so People can realize their potential in any chosen dimension. Eastern Cultures/Values were so stifling that they sabotaged their own development. Thankfully they have learnt their lesson (we are adaptive organisms after all) and i believe that their amalgamation of Groupism and Individualism is now propelling them forward.

Have you looked into Taoist philosophy? I wouldn't call it "individualistic" but it does teach about letting go of concerns and accepting things for the way they are.

Very much so. I stuggle with being blunt and direct. I feel I carry this from asian culture and doesn't translate well in the west.

Spend a few years in Germany! I come from a very indirect culture by Western standards, but now after living in German for a while I just come out and say it, although not as harshly perhaps. It certainly makes getting things done easier.

> Very different worlds, with pros and cons in each.

Which results in a higher quality of life for a person, all else being equal?

It's hard to compare, it's almost like apples to oranges. A big part of it might just be personal preference. From my experience, having a forced, tight-knit social fabric is very frustrating in the day-to-day, but I think it's probably better in the long-term.

It's frustrating because you do not get as much privacy, "freedom", and flexibility. There is a lot of drama, as your business is everyone's business and vice-versa. Things you do can bring pride or shame to your family/friends/etc.

That said, in the long-term, not being insulated is probably much healthier, and on the bad days / bad times, there are always people there for support (be it emotional, or if you actually need someone to help out financially or otherwise). You're never alone, and it's during the bad times that you appreciate not being alone.

Personally, I find that I enjoy the ability to choose the social connections (which ones, and how deep) you make in the US. But, when I think about what I want for my kids... it's definitely the social fabric.

Having experienced both, I think individualism brings more freedom and independence which is crucial for some/most people.The cost is losing this tribal connection that gives you some sense of belonging and safety which fulfills the urge to be part of something. That's of course theoretically. In practice, the extended family is mostly a pain and a way to oppress individuals with different opinions.

> In practice, the extended family is mostly a pain and a way to oppress individuals with different opinions.

You're kind of repeating yourself there. That seems like the cost of taking the individualist track, experienced from the perspective of the individualist.

Having experienced similar, individualism is superior, it allows the person to develop to their fullest extent. There is a lot of infantilism that comes with a traditional way of life.

They optimize for different things . Individualism: human progress and breaking the boundaries. Traditionalism: extending the family population

>They optimize for different things . Individualism: human progress and breaking the boundaries. Traditionalism: extending the family population

Well Said!

How do you swuare this with the wide-scale infantilization of westerners in the last 30 years? What do you think changed?

Its no surprise that the infantized westerners in question are in highly collectivist subcultures (Twitter/College communists, etc)

Wow that is a neat way to look at it.

> Which results in a higher quality of life for a person

Neither: a balanced spot in the middle is what you find in happy societies, and it makes sense from a PoV of psychology.

Strong collectivism harms individual's creativity and ability to develop.

Rugged individualism... we all know about the mental health and loneliness crisis in US. See the recent school shootings.

I've had opportunity to live with and become a part of two different branches of my family at different points in my life.

One side of the family was somewhat dysfunctional, and more importantly didn't suit my personality, interests, and to some extent my worldview. While it did have some of the positives I'll mention below, overall, being part of this family felt like a minor thorn on my side. Like having an annoying neighbour.

The other side of the family was much more functional (existing members were well-connected together), and suited me much better too (so the potential for me to form a new connection was strong too). And I realized how comforting such connections are, how much mental stability they give you. The "being part of a whole" experience was significant and strong: when any of you did well, the collective-you was doing well, and so you wanted it like your brain wants your legs to do well; when any one of you had a problem, it was automatically something for everyone to try and chip in to fix (in a way qualitatively different from most friendships).

But to make this work, there needs to be constant honest communication between the members (which can feel like people poking their nose into your business when you're not getting the benefits from it), and you have to be willing to imbibe some of the shared culture of the community (so that, for eg., there's some agreement on what's good/bad for the community). The second part can be particularly difficult for children of immigrants trying to assimilate into a larger family (who are often the ones that get to experience this family-oriented lifestyle as a new thing), as there's not only the usual generational cultural difference, but also the larger fundamental cultural difference between the traditions of different parts of the world.

    The "being part of a whole" experience was significant 
    and strong: when any of you did well, the collective-you 
    was doing well, and so you wanted it like your brain 
    wants your legs to do well
One of the strongest (completely natural) "highs" I've experienced is playing team sports and completely abandoning my ego, while others did the same. One organism working toward a common goal.

I would imagine that playing in a (cohesive, unselfish) band or an orchestra is much the same. Or acting in a play, etc.

I have experienced this at work as well over the years, but much more fleetingly.

No question that it is Western Individualism in today's Time and Context.

However it is not sustainable in the long run since we live in a Shared Planet with Finite Resources. A Happy equilibrium needs to be found.

I read the article to mean that shared context is independent of culture. I would say that in the US it is more about shared context than shared activities. We don’t have time for sharing activities but we certainly have time for identifying with a particular context. Politics is a prime example.

I have nothing useful to add. But I just have to say Squash players from your country are awesome

I think this phenomenon is part of the reason it's difficult to form friendships as adults. The shared context that the article mentions requires a lot of time around your circle of people, just "hanging out". It's tough to make that time as an adult with a career, family, etc.

This may be why college friendships can be so strong – often a lot of time is spent living and working around friends by default, without needing to schedule it.

A hack that takes advantage of this is to look for activities/events where you spend a lot of sustained time with others.

So instead of a meetup once a month, go to a week-long retreat or an all weekend hackathon.

Or if there’s someone you’d like to get closer to as a friend, instead of just inviting them to hang out once in awhile, invite them to go on a trip somewhere.

Once you reach the tipping point of enough shared time/context by fast-forwarding in this way, it’s easier to then settle into a more ordinary rhythm where you see people periodically but still feel they are real friends.

Neither of the two examples are sustained time events.

Retreats are rather group focused (and even if it’s just two people — it can’t be regular and long enough; especially in the beginning) and a hackathon is, well, a hackathon. One has logistics challenge and another has logistics as well as intimacy challenge (or maybe we are talking about different kind of hackathons).

I’d rather suggest activities which are regular and repeated. That’s how I have made friends after college ended and I started working. Sports has worked for me in this regard.

> Sports has worked for me in this regard.

For the on-athletic amongst us, regularly volunteering can help you to meet more people and find friends, but as with all "work friends" bridging the gap between "work buddy" and "friend" can be difficult. I imagine it's easier if you can get a gig helping out with something you're both passionate about since it can help give common ground quickly.

Joining a running club made a huge difference to my social life, personally.

Running long has a fascinating effect of getting people to talk about things that they normally wouldn't, in my experience.

I have a close friend that I've known since we started graduate school 20 years ago. For 4 months we trained for a marathon together, and the majority of my understanding of his deeper thoughts comes from those hours in that short period of time. In fact, I'll claim that anyone I go on regular long runs with will be someone I end up having a far deeper relationship with overall.

If you're into music, festivals are fantastic for this. I was just at such a festival, in an MDMA-fueled reminiscence of just how lucky my friends and I are to have found each other. Through years of simply showing up, gifting my art, and being open to new people, I now have a tight party crew which has supported each other through some of the darkest shit I have ever experienced in my life. Deaths, overdoses, bad trips, poverty, angry neighbors/property owners, whatever... these guys have my back and I have theirs.

I may be a thirty-something loner and introvert, but these guys are my bass music battle buddies. Highly recommended.

That's awesome. How long did it take/how many festivals before you started to feel they were real friends you can count on in day-to-day life rather than just being 'festival friends'?

The relationships are generally cultivated over time. I have been active in the local dance music underground for all of my adult life, but in this case familiarity was established after showing up at a couple of desert events and hanging out. Later on, I was invited to a house party with some of the same folks where I was accepted into the "family". During all this I would show up at events with my camera, take really good photos, and then give them away, and that got me noticed and made me the unofficial-official photographer of the group. This was several years ago, and the story has advanced considerably since then.

edit- To answer your question directly, it took a few years to really feel that these guys were more than just party friends. I think the catalyst here was us, as a group, navigating through shared tragedy. The 'family' was already formed when I joined, and it definitely took a while to feel like I was someone more than just a guy in the periphery. Gifting is big in my scene, and if you want to speed up the process that is probably the best way to start -- art, food, whatever you can provide that other people might want or need.

edit2- It just occurred to me that gifting is a great lifehack in general for ingratiating yourself into a new group. The key is that it has to be something they genuinely want. For example, I went to visit a friend of mine in Chile and filled up about half of my luggage with candy, alcohol, and some other things that I knew my friend would appreciate. She was so happy and told all her friends, and in an instant I had a whole group of people to hang out with -- who very specifically told me that they appreciated the gifts -- while I was visiting.

> A hack that takes advantage of this is to look for activities/events where you spend a lot of sustained time with others.

This is a good one. I really like camping, so being out in the backcountry for a week or ly helps you understand if you really get along with someone. Planning a trip, dividing up who brings what etc let’s you see how the other person approaches things.

Backpacking was how I spent a lot of time with who turned into my wife and cofounder. It’s fun but can also be slightly stressful at times and you see many aspects of a person. 15 years into our relationship and I felt like we’ve known each other very deeply since the beginning.

I think stressful situations are good for building relationships. Even if the stress is conflict with each other, of you break the relationship it will frequently be stronger after. I think psychology refers to this as Rupture and Repair.

it's how you handle those stressful times and seeing those many aspects which make the difference

Pokémon Go was good for this before the pandemic. I had a Wednesday evening raiding group. Before then, I had a Friday night all-night gym takeover caravan.

I think you're right, you need proximity and significant time together to create and maintain friendships. Which is very hard to organize with adults.

Another way to look at it is the shift in priorities. When I was young, all I cared about is friends. I found it more important than school or my parents. I maximized my time with friends.

As adult "friend", you're way down the list of priorities, after the job, family, personal health, chores, recovery time...and then there's you, the friend. It's not malice, adults simply have too much shit to manage.

Some might be so busy that the last thing they need is a new friend.

Need? They need friends, they don’t have time for any.

I went to ICMI (International Conference on Men’s Issues) 2018 and the thing I was most surprised of is, a men help group is often just having a beer together. Fathers have been so busy with raising babies, maintaining the house and performing at career, that when it breaks down, they just need a beer, even with unknown people.

I get what you're saying and couldn't agree more.

My take was a bit more literal, the situation were one already has "enough" friends and is not in search of making new ones. Not to say that one is not open to meeting new people if it happens by chance, instead to say to not being open to turning that into the commitment of a new friendship.

I'm saying this mostly for people that lack friends and are looking to make new ones. It's good to understand the sobering reality that some may dodge the chance of a deep new friendship developing. Not because they don't like you, simply because they can't take on the commitment.

We're in an odd world where this is the case.

The priority thing is an interesting one. When I was a kid I was just frequently bored and so were the other kids, so we'd hang out. I'm never bored anymore. I might be depressed and not want to do anything, but that's different from bored. With all the entertainment and things to do at all times, I wonder if current children will have the same experience as we did.

Unfortunately I’m bored a lot still but never at a time where I could really go do anything.

Wouldn't it be great if you could just call a buddy and then walk over and hang out? I miss that so much!

Last year I visited Bonn in Germany where I still have some family and friends. It was an unplanned, emergency trip. Within an hour of arriving at my hotel a friend texted me and let me know that he and his partner were randomly at a restaurant nearby. I just walked over and had dinner with them. I want that all the time! Most people hardly have time, for some reason we don't feel comfortable pinging people on short notice and even if it were to work, it would most likely require getting in a car.

I wonder if part of the problem is also a higher perceived barrier of how close one already has to be with someone to just hang out. As kids, we'd just hang out with pretty much anyone available. As adults we rarely make it to that level, because we don't hang out because we aren't close enough yet. So it hardly ever happens.

This was at least 25 years ago and it's very odd that I remember such insignificant detail. I was watching an American TV show where a person opened his front door to find his friend at the doorstep. He then proceeded to ask:

"what are you doing here?"

I remember thinking: Americans are so rude. What do you mean, what are you doing here? He's your friend. He's obviously there to see you. What kind of hostile way is that to greet somebody so close to you?

Now I'm exactly the same, although I'd not say that phrase out loud. I cringe when somebody ruins my plans with an unannounced visit. I'm not proud of it. I think the main cause is that we allow ourselves to be overloaded, leaving no room for "nothing" time or spontaneous time. Whilst that is exactly the time in which life happens.

So create the room. Society tells you that life is about juggling 10 balls in the air but this is nothing but an illusion. Just drop a few balls and decide they're unimportant.

Then the next day, you spontaneously come up with the idea to take a ride with the bicycle. When somebody asks, where are you going, and when will you be back, you give the only correct answers: I don't know and I don't know.

Perhaps you'll drop by the forest, take a stroll through it, and see a fox. The thing about life is that had you put in your calendar "in two weeks, go to forest to find fox", you would find zero foxes. The fox happened.

Or perhaps you'll take a ride downtown and spontaneously go to this dodgy coffee place, purely triggered by seeing it. A place you would have absolutely never attended had you done an internet search filtered by reviews. You go in, and who knows what will happen. Maybe it's a treasure, maybe you meet new cool people.

Or maybe nothing memorable happens at all and you cycle back home. You still had exercise, fresh air, were able to clear your thoughts...that's quality time and the "worst" outcome, in any case better than "Netflix".

> It's tough to make that time as an adult with a career, family, etc.

It's more difficult than college, where everyone is thrown together into close quarters.

However, it's not impossible. It's just different and requires different techniques. If you sit back and wait for the contexts to come to you, it's going to be a slow journey. If you go out of your way to create those contexts, it's actually not that difficult to find and make new friends.

Hosting events, BBQs, get togethers, and any other social event is an easy way to start it off. This gets massively easier when you have kids, IMO, because you can now also host play dates, invite other families along to activities, meet other parents through daycare or school, and so on. It won't happen if you're staying at home or waiting for people to come to you, of course, but it's not that hard to get out and meet new people and friends-of-friends once you start getting out there and making an effort.

Even work can be an easy pivot to new connections if you make an effort. In-person makes this especially easy: Get into the habit of inviting people out to lunch with you once a week and ask if they can think of anyone else to invite along. The bigger the company, the easier it is to be exposed to a lot of new people this way. Again, it won't happen if you're not making an effort, but the amount of effort required is much smaller than it may seem.

I became closer friends, and even friends at all, with folks I knew from college years after graduating. As noted in this discussion, we had a lot of shared context that became more meaningful as we grew up.

The reason friendships between adults are hard is because adults are reluctant to make themselves vulnerable, but opening yourself to others and making yourself vulnerable is exactly what you need to start building a shared history of living (shared context).

YMMV. I found that least in SV - people are so guarded that they’re rarely ever going to be vulnerable even with anyone new they meet.

Maybe it’s the crowds I keep meeting but everyone is uncomfortable with even talking about what they want from life - let alone what they struggle with.

I think many people here don’t ever open up except with their therapist and parents.

It has to be something like this because I add to my list of close friends fairly often - so I have lots of people to lean on (as I discovered when I found myself debilitated by an accident recently).

I'm mid thirties and the last close friend who was willing to help me shower when I couldn't is someone I got to know 3 months ago.

I just learned this in my mind 30s. So many hollow friendships before.

Yeah it's this, just shared time, specifically time hanging out shooting the shit.

For instance of all of my coworkers I am paradoxically the closest to are the ones from out of town. I think this is because when they visited they had no other obligations so we ended up shooting the shit a lot. Where co-workers who lived here were always busy with family/life obligations.

When working 'busy season' in accounting 50+ hours per week for 4 months, there's not time for friends, and barely time for family. I won't work for that toxic culture again.

If this is the case then why wouldn’t workplaces create lots of strong friendships? There is a lot of shared context. I’m not sure I buy author’s brushing this away as being because coworkers are trained to replace you. There is lots of competition in school and college also.

In my experience, workplaces HAVE created lots of strong friendships in my life.

Though, it's interesting, it varies tremendously by workplace culture and the work you're doing. In my jobs doing manual labor or jobs involving a lot of boring hanging out (as a cashier / supervisor / lifeguard) I made lots of friendships. In jobs where it's been primarily knowledge work, I had a lot of good acquaintances, but rarely did that turn into more. I think that being able to talk makes a big difference. It's worth noting though that when I was a lifeguard, I was a long lived employee surrounded by short term employees. The culture was in flux. There are times when I fit in and we became good friends (which remain to this day) and there are times when I didn't fit in or like the people and didn't make any friends. The manual labor jobs produced more lasting friendships than the lifeguarding for whatever reason. Something about actually suffering with others and working toward common aims and being able to talk about stuff produced the best friendships. (I also think that the nature of the work filtered out some of the lower quality people too, and that played a role.)

I doubt “coworkers trying to replace you” has much of an impact.

The bigger issue with some workplaces is that they’re not really close-quarters, because they’re very impersonal. Sure you might be all in the same room a lot, but you’re largely discussing business stuff or working independently. Even corporate “parties” and retreats can be surprisingly professional and unnatural. It’s almost like you don’t really “interact” with the person, you interact with their business facade.

If you’re not just talking business with your coworkers, you’re actually talking about life and hanging out and not having a fake professional personality, then you do form friendships. I say this from experience.

Though talking about non-professional things and not putting on a facade also makes you vulnerable, so those companies where everyone is competing against each other happen to be the ones where everyone is impersonal.

It does. A lot of younger knowledge workers (not at all restricted to STEM) make good friends in their first job because of shared context. Eventually increased responsibility through experience means you necessarily open yourself up less and spend more time mentoring, guiding, or otherwise leading.

The workplace is more like a relay race than a basketball team. Everyone may share the same project, but they all have different parts to it, and are unlikely to share the same or a sufficiently similar understanding of it.

Pretty much every friend I have is a co-worker.

Friends happen when you spend time with the same people in different contexts. That’s why most workplace relationships don’t result in friends.

Workplaces do create lots of strong friendships. In the past, they were also one of the biggest sources of romantic relationships. Though that has changed, people are still friends through work.

To make friends you need to make mistakes. Litigation culture in the workplace prevents that.

I don't see this. I've yet to be afraid of being sued by a co-worker and after a couple of decades I can assure you that I've made plenty of mistakes.

In the edge case, your failed-friend coworker would sue the corporation.

This would cost corporation money.

The corporation doesn’t care about you having friends, but does care about losing money. As such structures the workplace to minimize the sorts of free expression that creates “shared context” but also creates room for error - discussions of politics, religion, your health, ethnicity, age, etc. - topics that in the best case build trust and curiosity and lead to friendship.

My comment isn’t a commentary on people - who are mostly loving, reasonable, and forgiving. It’s a commentary on incentives and the structures those incentives lead to.

If you aren't more guarded around co-workers than your friends, maybe you should be.

Why on earth would a co-worker sue me?

Suing? They can get you terminated, or hinder your advancement. Anything that can be construed as reflecting badly on you or the company can be used against you.

is this a thinly veiled complaint about being hit with sexual harassment complaints? The simple trick to solve this problem is not to sexually harass your friends either

Why did you make two logical leaps just to arrive at an accusation?

From the HN Guidelines: " Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that's easier to criticize. Assume good faith. "

Having backed out of including a reply with my downvote—which I seldom do, but couldn’t find a productive response in me despite some effort—I’m curious what your charitable interpretation is. I went through all of mine, and none of them reflected well on the commenter.

Bizarre but illustrative that I have to defend myself against a nebulous “uncharitable interpretation.”

Are you free (according to corporate policy) to ask your coworkers about religion, health, romance, politics, ethnicity, etc.?

I’m comfortable discussing all of the above with my friends, yet each is to some extent restricted in the professional context, either by default or with seniority.

Not the previous commenter, but yes? I have literally never worked in a place where talking about that has been forbidden. I mean, talking about it offensively is obviously not on the table, but I've discussed literally every single one of those with colleagues before.

Is this a cultural thing? I'm from the UK, and I'm working now in Germany. Perhaps things are different in the US?


Here is an example of how corporate risk aversion prevents authenticity.

No? It’s lived experience, having seen a culture other than American, I can assure you that how most folks communicate at work is guarded, and very controlled. The folks that speak freely don’t get ahead.

Your comment is a great example actually - imagine being presumed a sexual harasser because of your attitude towards tort law! I wouldn’t want my coworkers to take such leaps. Much easier to avoid the question of loneliness in America.

You say this, but this is also my lived experience. I have worked with and interacted with many who bemoaned the rise of ""PC culture"" and complained they couldn't ""make jokes anymore"" when in reality they were just getting in trouble for harassing their coworkers.

Having a family offers a natural avenue for this, though: parents of your kids' friends share a lot of context with you.

I regret not going to college in the city I ultimately knew I'd end up living in. It was a ton of wasted social capital. I did end up saving money though (college city was cheaper), but it probably wasn't worth the savings. I still do keep in touch with a few people, but it's "annual Zoom call" catchup level of socializing: not enough to fill the day-to-day.

I regret not going to college because here I am now with near 0 social capital (and very limited with how I can pivot my professional life).

IRL I find it exceedingly easy to form connections with others (in my 30s), it doesn't take much time at all. I tend to be in situations where meeting new people happens (coworking spaces, cafes, big cities, going to other cities and staying in places with shared spaces etc).

However, 99% of the time I feel disinclined to solidify those connections and create the dependencies the article calls "shared context", because I actively do not find I have much in common with these people. Often I resist accumulating that "shared context" and actively evade and ghost them, other times I don't but later I wish I did. The reason is that by now I have a pretty well-formed worldview, and I know most others have one as well, and I am correspondingly sensitive to finer differences between them. And with meeting people in various IRL communities, the likelihood you are compatible in this way is hovering around zero.


Generally, I strongly disagree with the article, find it meandering and struggle with the unorthodox meaning it's trying to force onto the phrase "shared context". In fact, in the very next paragraph it gives a stark but much more suitable term for what it wants to say: a web of dependencies.

Friendships may form via such a web, but good friendships usually don't. It's a legacy way of sorts, and in our age worth actively avoiding.

An example of friendships formed via these webs is often childhood classmates. The only reason you may end up being friends is geographical proximity. There may well be nothing in common between you otherwise. If you let such friendships solidify, they will weigh you down or you will have to endure the psychological pain of ripping yourself out of that web of dependencies.

Meeting people in IRL communities is like that, it suffers from people being randomly put together. Accumulating "shared context" (again, web of dependencies) due to geographic proximity alone is the last thing you want to be doing. If you happened to meet someone due to chance IRL encounter, you have to vet them 10x more carefully before letting the web grow, because the chance the encounter is worthwhile is very low.

By contrast, shared context (the actual thing, not the meaning forced by the article) is easy to come by thanks to the Web, and there're plenty of people who have compatible worldviews yet are different enough to be interesting to engage with. All you need is try and get a feel for all the various ways of signaling. If you are sorta good at something like art or engineering (yes, this can be hard to know for sure), be a bit brave to go more public with it through social channels, etc. Establishing IRL acquaintance later with casual meetups is easy thanks to relaxing travel restrictions.

The NYTimes has an article "Why it is hard to make friends over 30" that gets reposted almost every year [1]. There's a quote about friendship conditions:

"As external conditions change, it becomes tougher to meet the three conditions that sociologists since the 1950s have considered crucial to making close friends: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other, said Rebecca G. Adams, a professor of sociology and gerontology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. This is why so many people meet their lifelong friends in college, she added."

But it's worthwhile noting that these conditions are simply that: conditions. Their existence do not inexorably lead to friendships. They are necessary but insufficient conditions.

I've been in many situations where all 3 were present but I didn't feel a simpatico with the other person. I've taken weekend trips with people whom I never wanted to interact with again because I did not like what I saw on the trip (vulnerability can backfire -- if someone is vulnerable about how evil they are, I'm not likely to appreciate that). I don't really keep in touch with most college friends either.

On the other hand, there's something that does lead to fast and lasting friendships for me: it's that indescribable feeling when someone is on the same "wavelength". It's a collocation of a bunch of things: the way they view the world (even if they are of a different political stripe), a shared sense of humor, and something you admire about them.

Shared context definitely creates the conditions under which such people can be identified, but mere shared context itself cannot create resonant frequencies that are not there.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/15/fashion/the-challenge-of-...

> vulnerability can backfire

Yep, seen this a 1000 times, person gets a little too vulnerable, accidentally annoys people around them, gives them fuel for any fallouts that may happen between people. I’ve seen some pretty vicious stuff from people who otherwise aren’t that bad.

Probably the biggest thing that shocked me as an adult is how many people still act like teenagers.

> Probably the biggest thing that shocked me as an adult is how many people still act like teenagers.

This still continues to surprise me. I see many people into their 40s, 50s, and 60s acting no different than if they were in middle school or high school. If only they mimic’d the good parts instead of the bad parts…

I'd assumed that those 3 factors were to give you chance to find someone on your wavelength, which IMO is pretty rare, and develop a friendship between you.

I found this article strange, because the author seemed to be reversing cause and effect. Isn't "shared context" — trust, loyalty, love, belonging, safety — the result of friendship rather than the cause of friendship? How can you trust and be loyal to someone you just met?

"We can’t help but desperately compete in this unwinnable game of having the best collection of attributes to show off." I don't get it, because friends don't need each other to be the best person in the world at any given thing. Having things in common seems to be enough, no? Does anyone need to be "unique", a special snowflake in the world? In some sense friends are interchangeable, in that it's a total accident of circumstances which few of the billions of people on Earth you happen to hang out with. But I'm not clear on why "global uniqueness" is necessary for friendship. That seems to be an impossible standard, and it's not the basis of any friendship I've ever had.

"In my early attempts to make friends, I tried inviting people with shared interests to activities like sailing or grabbing brunch". I think the missing ingredient here is simply time. It's hard to become friends in just a few hours.

[Edit:] "One way to create a shared context is through shared struggle. This is why many organizations implement ritualized hazing to initiate new members, but the important thing is not the hazing, it’s the sense that you are working together with your fellow humans to achieve a super-human goal."

The super-human goal of getting your butt paddled by a frat boy? No, hazing is just a perverse power play, nothing more. They do hazing because they can, and get a kick out of it.

>How can you trust and be loyal to someone you just met?

Duty. that's what the military often is like and my experiences with military friendships overlap a lot with the idea that long lasting friendships are build around context, although I think 'shared sense of purpose' describes it somewhat better.

Starting a business together or going through disease or really anything where people have real skin in the game and there's something at stake is where people can form deep, meaningful bonds quickly.

Are you close friends with everyone you served with, though? Isn't there someone in the military you didn't like? ;-)

AFAICT the formula for friendship is pretty simple: time + shared interests + personality/chemistry. The military is a good way to spend a lot of time together, and maybe a shared interest too.

I'm actually still close friends with a lot of them, and importantly that includes people I didn't really "like" intuitively but I relied on for a long time.

I don't think it's that simple really. Chemistry and personality are overrated. Sacrifice and obligation are what really binds people together and if we want to extend the discussion a bit, I think modern marriage which has shifted from being framed as something that's about duty and family towards shared interest and chemistry is an example of how frail this is as a basis for relationships as well.

The article author was basically asking "How can we make new friends?" and mentions sailing, brunch, and borrowing a neighbor's wifi. Whereas you're talking about... going to war. It just feels like you're discussing something quite a bit beyond the article.

I had some close friends among schoolmates, but I wouldn't characterize our relationship as "sacrifice and obligation". What does that even mean to a 12 year old? What does it mean to a college undergrad? I can understand what it means in the military, but that's a rather unique situation in life.

> The article author was basically asking "How can we make new friends?" and mentions sailing, brunch, and borrowing a neighbor's wifi. Whereas you're talking about... going to war. It just feels like you're discussing something quite a bit beyond the article.

He also says "one way to create a shared context is through shared struggle."

> I had some close friends among schoolmates, but I wouldn't characterize our relationship as "sacrifice and obligation". What does that even mean to a 12 year old?

I think it's pretty clear that there are multiple paths to lasting friendships, and some of those paths might not be available to twelve year olds.

Though even at twelve, I'd still expect a certain about of "sacrifice and obligation" from friends (e.g. if they got hurt, I'd be obligated to help them, and vice versa).

It's why joining a fraternity was one of the smartest decisions I made. We were a struggling chapter, too, which only added to the intensity of the bonding as well as the payoff when the chapter's future started to look bright again.

Hi! Author here - thanks for the feedback. I added the following footnote to the article to clarify:

> I use the term "hazing" broadly to mean any way of excluding members from joining an organization. For example, a job interview is a form of "hazing".

In response to "How can you trust and be loyal to someone you just met?" I'll provide a personal example: I recently travelled to a different city, and asked a friend of mine for sightseeing recommendations because he used to live there. During the conversation, he mentioned that his ex-girlfriend still lives there, and offered to put me in touch with her. I then asked his ex-girlfriend (who I had only one prior interaction with!) to be my emergency contact while I was on my trip, which she agreed to, because of the shared trust they had established in their prior relationship, and their familiarity with me in our mutually overlapping social circles. This is what I mean that a person's entanglements are more important than their attributes.

> I use the term "hazing" broadly to mean any way of excluding members from joining an organization. For example, a job interview is a form of "hazing".

I agree that whiteboarding is ritualized hazing. ;-)

But otherwise, you can't just take a term that everyone understands in a certain way and then claim that it means something completely different. Job interviews aren't ritualized hazing, they're part of the hiring process.

[Insert reference to Wittgenstein's private language argument.]

I just don’t find it plausible that only certain people are capable of love, trust, loyalty, etc. and we should be looking for those kinds of people. It seems more likely that this level of investment is costly and people already have these kinds of relationships.

The argument seems tautological. A good friend is someone who is loyal, trustworthy, etc., so look for these traits. But in reality, everyone has these traits, they just reserve them for a small number of high investment relationships. So the claim is that to make good friends, look for someone who wants to be your friend. Which isn’t that helpful at the end of the day.

Not everyone. I made the mistake of believing narcissists were a thing just from the movies.

Time is the missing factor. People aren't patient enough to build a relationship. I think it's 90% familiarity. 1. Bunch of strangers 2. bunch of strangers with afew people I recognize 3. started to be familiar with afew of the people who are there all the time 4. friendship blossoms

This happens naturally in school and in early adulthood. Later when you have children, spouses, jobs, and other interests it happens less. You an absolutely make it happen if your lonely, just be patient and don't be creepy.

It's neither precisely cause nor effect. We choose both the context we keep and the company we keep. And the two influence each other.

I really can't understand the idea of friendship. Throughout my life, I never had the opportunity to foster a meaningful friendly relationship (one with trust, loyalty, support etc.) I found it to be apparent when people toss over the things I do.

I have a lot of acquaintances and friends but very few close friends. Other than that, I feel like most people only talk with me when they absolutely need something. Otherwise, I am always the last person to be called on anything.

> Becoming disentangled from your web of mutual commitments, shared history, and collective responsibility is to be rendered into a transaction, a slave.

When author compared that having this "disentangled" social web is like being enslaved to business, I couldn't relate it. Isn't it completely normal? I don't want to idolize friendship, but everything will end eventually. I have experienced this throughout multiple phases of my life. No one of the so called friends made effort to contact me once I disappeared from social media. Only my close friends remained because I put the effort to do so. When I stopped putting effort, even these relationship got eroded (One can't clap with a single hand). This was the moment I realized that there is no such thing as friendship which author described.

Life is what you give meaning to. It's nice that author is there to foster social meaning. For some reason the post felt like it's trying to create void that people without close friends are missing things from life. When I came in peace that I can't rely on any other person but myself, I found peace.

Life has multiple dimensions. No one has to live in one way. It's better to find our own ways and be happy with it.

PS: Just a minor opinion! Do not take it personally.

did your friendship actually end or did you just loose sight of each other?

how would you feel if that person contacted you now?

i have friends that i consider close, that i only talk to once a year or even much longet. and not so close friends that i talk to every day.

it is indeed the shared context, similar personal experiences and trust that connect us. the friendship doesn't stop just because we stop talking, it does stop however if something happens that breaks the trust between us and we have no opportunity to regain that trust by creating more shared context

> how would you feel if that person contacted you now?

Well, I would just talk with them as if nothing happened However, the conversation always end up with most of them asking something from me.

I think you can get the idea on why I feel this way.

oh, i totally get you. and i don't want to try to analyze your situation. (i am neither qualified, nor is it my place to do that) i am just making general comments how i would see the situation if it occurred to me.

the thing that i initially picked up on was when you said "When I stopped putting effort, even these relationship got eroded. This was the moment I realized that there is no such thing as friendship which author described." because i think it is possible to keep staying friends without putting in effort to keep in touch. the only effort that is needed is that if my friend contacts me, that i do not ignore them because that sends a confusing signal. but if we both stop communicating then we should be able to resume later. again, i am not saying that this should have happened to you. and it doesn't always happen to me like that either.

what i am trying to get at is, that just because you couldn't experience it yet, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

good friends are rare. but they do exist.

Well, I would just talk with them as if nothing happened

which is what i would do too.

However, the conversation always end up with most of them asking something from me.

but then what happens? do they keep asking for favors without giving you the feeling that you are still friends? that would be unfortunate. and i would not know how to deal with that either. if it happens rarely and they are not big favors i might not think much of it. maybe it is just part of their struggle to keep in touch. maybe follow up with asking them something in return. how they have been, i don't know. this is something i struggle with, because i am uncomfortable with small talk. to start a conversation i need to have a reason, or a topic to talk about.

but what ever it is, it doesn't mean the friendship is over, or that it can't be reactivated. frankly, if someone is upset because i didn't keep in touch, then that's their problem. if they think, for you to be worthy of their friendship requires effort on your part, then they probably weren't good friends to begin with.

but the same goes the other way around. if others asking for favors is a problem, i'd think about why that is so.

_do they keep asking for favors without giving you the feeling that you are still friends?_

Then they disappear until the next time. I do not mind helping others at all! I try to help people as much as I can.

_if they think, for you to be worthy of their friendship requires effort on your part, then they probably weren't good friends to begin with._

This might be the case with me atm. I simply can't afford to manage a perfectly feasible time because of personal reasons. However, I have friends who work around these limitations and still manage to catch up. There are some who do not consider this limitation.

You build expectations around relationships. It's hard when you define a rut. Try to reach out and suggest something to an old friend.

A trick for making friend is often to make a minor ask. It makes a person psychologically invested in you. In this case, the people are asking you and you are giving, but you don't ask. Try to ask them for some sort of help, even if you don't need it. It's hard for me to ask people to do things or help me, but this it's often easier than setting aside a block of time convenient for both of you. Other people want to be helpful also.

A trick for making friend is often to make a minor ask

i was actually thinking about that when reading the posts. are those friends asking for something in an attempt to reconnect?

This is muddled. Aristotle lays it out clearly in the Nichomachean Ethics. There are 3 basic divisions of friendship: those out of utility (i.e. quid pro quo or alliances toward a shared practical end), those out of pleasure (i.e. shared interest to a non practical end), and those out of virtue (i.e. a recognition of shared core moral value that defines your highest goals in life). He expounds upon the details of this at length, and I've found it to be pretty accurate.

Interesting! These three ideas roughly line up with a few of the stages in Ken Wilbur’s spiral dynamics: Shared pleasure describes the opportunist. Utility describes the achiever and virtue … well , that more closely describes Robert Kegan’s stage 4 (systematiser).

If we play the missing notes of that scale, we would infer you could also be friends with someone out of diplomat energy - they make you feel (socially) safe to be around and appreciated. Or they help you feel grounded in being the better aspects of your personality. I think both of these aspects come out in strong friendships and healthy romantic relationships.

> (Aristotle) expounds upon the details of this at length

Does there exist a TL;DR of Aristotle's views on this? (e.g. a 10-60 minute version)

I imagine you could read the chapter or two on friendship in the book in about that long, there's really not that much text. Aristotle's surviving works are only lecture notes, his actual writings all being lost.



Did a bit of sleuthing on YouTube, and it's actually surprisingly hard to find a credentialed professor lecturing specifically on this part of Book VIII in isolation from the rest of the work, but I did stumble on this summary, which to my recollection of the reading, is a little dry pretty decent: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ucB_X6h_Mi4

This is bullshit. “Context” has to be the most vague and abused word in English. The article contradicts itself when they say “ One way to create a shared context is through shared struggle” which is a shared activity.

Friendships are formed through shared experiences. The more intense and positive the experience and its outcome, the more durable the friendship. Simple as that. Now go make friends!

Maybe try a more charitable phrase than “this is bullshit” ?

You can put lipstick on a pig, but in the end it’s still…

There should be a higher bar for these types of articles that espouse truisms about fundamental human relationships.

Yes, here's the problem: anyone in the world can write an article about any subject and submit it to HN. In fact the author himself submitted this article to HN. But the author seems to have no particular expertise on the subject matter of the article. The author is a software engineer writing about friendship. And the author's own comments here have just made things worse and more muddled:



The subject matter, friendship, is of interest to many people, but what obligation do we have to take a non-expert screed seriously? Especially since the article itself seems to be problematic in several ways, at best extremely vague. It's amateur armchair philosophizing.

You can also point with a sword, it's not necessary to smash it straight on someone's head to make a point.

"Friendships are formed through shared experiences. The more intense and positive the experience and its outcome, the more durable the friendship. Simple as that."


Shared stressors are how people form deep and lasting bonds. You have to endure an ordeal with someone.

The war journalist Sebastien Junger wrote a whole book that emphasizes shared stressors, after spending time embedded with troops manning forward outposts in Afghanistan, who regularly came under fire.

The soldiers Junger observed there had little in common before being assigned their missions, but afterwards any one of them would not hesitate to fly across the country at a moment's notice to help out another, if it was needed.

My core friend group I've known since I was a teenager, in scouts. I don't have much in common with them anymore, and most are cast to the four corners of the earth, but they're still my friends.

My 'social network' of casual acquaintances have been drifting apart the last few years, and I don't really miss them, because shared context is the only thing we've ever really had going together in the first place.

A year before COVID, at 42, I got back into rock climbing, and now that I've been on a few climbing trips with some of the guys from the gym, I feel like I'm on my way to forming the first real friendships I've made in decades; and the only thing that mattered ahead of time was their willingness to get out there and get into trouble with me.

> Shared stressors are how people form deep and lasting bonds

Not so quick! Shared stressors can also make people aggressive and distrustful of each others.

+1000 for rock climbing as a social experience

This may be why Stockholm Syndrome is a thing.

I had this realization somewhere around turning 30. I had been a touring musician in my teens and early twenties, and those were the friendships I had. I realized at one point that I had selected friends based on the kinds of music that they liked and whether I had partied with them, and that those were dumb criteria for friends.

I vowed from then on I would choose who to hang out with based on how kind, thoughtful, and trustworthy they were, and that I would stop having endless worthless conversations about bands and other products. I could just enjoy the stuff that I was into without making it into a identity. Never looked back.

I think the article is spot on about friendships forming from shared context.

However, shared activities are often the precursor to shared context - so joining a swim team or a bike team or any group activity is still a good idea.

Doing shared activities with some regularity is one way to build shared context and ultimately friendship.

Proximity, unplanned interactions and privacy are three key components or forming new friendships.

See https://www.businessinsider.com/things-that-help-people-make...

Thanks, some actual evidence-based claims instead if this pointless unsupported conjecture.

What I got out of this article is that some psychos share their wifi passwords with strangers.

They assumed he was a engineer being social, not a social engineer.

Congrats to the author, a good observation. I was just talking with one of my friends who recently became a father about how quickly new moms bond and form friendships due to the common context.

But similar interests can make the bond stronger and deeper I'd argue.

Shared context is necessary but I think shared perspectives and values are what ultimately matter. I have shared context with a lot of people at work but I'm only good friends with one or two.

Very relatedly, my wife is my best friend, and I tend to become friends with people who are like her. (ugh, Wife Guy)

how close are you working with others? a small team that goes through developing and releasing a product will develop closer relationships than individuals who work by themselves just picking off items from the big task list

I think his point is true even in smaller teams and environments. Unless you’re forced to be together like in the military - I don’t see people relating to one another as soon as that context breaks apart. The shared moral fibers are important.

The people I talk to frequently outside of work after having left are people I share some deeper values with. Everyone else seems to not share the same values. (Not surprising either because many are not from a similar background or have gone through what my friends and I have experienced)

I think shared values is paramount to friendships developing outside the workplace/collaborative environment. I’ve worked with hundreds of people professionally and through volunteering - very few ever translated because both of these things I volunteer for and work for attract very specific types of people who I do not get along with. I just happen to do both of these things - and my type of values and personality are more spread evenly in society.

well of course there is a spectrum. not every team becomes a group of close-knit friends. it's just a bit more likely that friendships grow out of a team because there are more opportunities for a shared experience.

I'm having trouble understanding what the author means by "context" in this article.

It seems to mean "your location within your network of people"?

Hi! Author here. I'll admit I struggled to find a more precise word than "context". What I mean is that a friendship is not the 1:1 interaction you have with your friend, but that friend's omni-directional interaction with every other friend. Their location within a network is one way of putting it. In other words, their entanglements in your web of mutual commitments, shared history, and collective responsibility.

Maybe think of it like a shared challenge. You might be going through parenting together, or starting a business or some path through life that you have in common.

Well, a variation on this is what Nobel prize winner Bob Dylan says in Brownsville Girl, that shared suffering is important:

    "Strange how people who suffer together have stronger connections than people who are most content.” 
Maybe suffering here can be interpreted as shared challenges.

I've read a fair number of articles like this about 'networks of friends' and 'mutual aid and support' and I always come away feeling like this is more like a description of a network of military alliances between independent city-states in ancient Greece than what I'd consider normal, healthy friendship or familial relationships.

I've seen many human relationships fall apart because people expect too much from the relationships, such as financial support or emotional support or something like that. It's really too easy for such relationships to become somewhat exploitive on one side or the other. When people cross the lines between business relationships and personal relationships, things get messy fast.

On average, people need about 100 hours of interaction to feel a friendship connection.


Given the methodology of the study I wouldn't trust it one bit.

I've felt (and still have) friendships to this day that were formed in a single conversation over a shared university class and then a bit after.

I've tried to make other friendships work by maximising time spent with someone, and it basically never worked.

Highly frustrating if you're the systematising type.

I think of that show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic where the whole point is that the friends are all very different.

Thanks for sharing this! I think your explanation really hits the nail. Reminds me of what Pope John Paul II said on a similar topic in a husband-and-wife context (book title: "Love and Responsibility"). He said that all relationship is build on "common ground" (i.e. school project, work project, etc) and this is one of the reasons why the Catholic church mandates a couple to have the willingness and openness to have children as a prerequisite to get married in the church. Children are one of the "common ground" that glue the relationship between the husband and the wife.

Plus I suspect the conversation rate of being raised catholic is much much higher than later in life without a religious background. Or in other words making new little catholic children is good for the church.

Adults make a lot of friends via kids, because there’s a combination of shared context and many forced interactions.

I think he's onto something. Then again, why aren't we still friends with everyone we spent a lot of time with when we were in elementary school? I fear a critical component is missing.

Because the context changed and lastingly stopped being a shared one?

Not only that but... how many of us have brothers and sisters... but are not friends with them?

True. But it's kind of sad if you think about it. Brothers and sisters will be there forever until death. Unlike friends or relationships which can be temporary.

From this year on, I am at least trying to get closer to my sister even if we have not been "friends" before.

I have a surprisingly decent relationship with most of y nuclear family with one exception, most of my brothers live hundreds of thousands of miles away from each other.

I’m almost certain at this point that in order to maintain a good relationship with my family distance is required. When my parents moved last, they ended up close to family that they were really close to and far away from family they had feuded with in the past. By the time I visited last year, they relationship with the family they were close to had severely degraded, and all the family they used to fight with were friendly.

you can spend a decade living with someone without any shared struggles. relationships can have the same problem. they love each other, but they never had to actually rely on each other. if that weren't so there would not be any divorces.

> One way to create a shared context is through shared struggle.

Can't agree with this enough. Nearly all of my best friendships have been people I've met through a shared goal that required a ton of work (e.g. some intensive artistic training as a youth, early startup jobs, etc.)

I always realize how lucky I am to have had some of these intense "struggles" pretty early on in my life, as I've met people who didn't have that opportunity and I realize how my network of real friendships has greatly benefited from that.

The other property I've found notable is that friendships decay but some people refuse to accept it.

For example, I have had some coworkers who have complained about how difficult it is to find new friends and meanwhile they're constantly traveling. Every time I invited them to something, they were never able to make it. Well, good coworker, it's not that it's hard to find friends, it's just that you traded it off for travels. Of course, I ended up becoming better friends with those who showed up.

Presumably the type of travel they were doing impacted this too. Travel for leisure can net you plenty of friendships: although the overwhelming majority of people will never remain in contact, you have the potential to meet so many people that if you have some good qualities it's hard not to make some genuine friends.

If it's business travel: the poor souls, they need to stop doing so much of that asap.

Isn't activity just a part of context?

Kick-about in the park -> simple activity, not many connections formed

Weekly football team -> training, trips, club events -> more connections formed

From my life the easiest connections are the ones where you're stuck together for a long time, eg education. You do pretty much everything together for years, you end up visiting each other's parents, you know each other's siblings, friends for life. In fact it's a reasonable test of how good friends you are with someone, whether you visited their house, know their family, know their friends, and know their CV.

Work is a little bit different. People are coming and going, there's a hierarchy as well, and also people are busy and have already got a friend group. That being said there's still the "always together" element so plenty of opportunity.

A more recent one is the "other parents in your kid's year". You end up hanging around your kid's friends parents a fair bit, and there's a fair chance they are similar to you. Which brings me to friend templates...

Meet a few people and like the article says, you will find many have similar attributes. Often you end up meeting people who have basically had parallel lives to yourself, in two ways:

- They literally have the same friends as you. I have this guy I went to school with briefly, who then turns up in all my friends' stories about what they got up to over the years, without me actually meeting him. Like a comedy show, he's just left when I arrive. I even had a random guy on an international flight tell me he was going to go see this guy, and I identified it because I knew so much about him. Anyway this is probably something that's happened to a fair few people, but they end up seeing the guy in real life and becoming friends.

- They have done the same things as you, unconnected. They went to your uni, or studied what you studied. They work in your line of work. When you were kids, you had the same interests. They're from your city. These kinds of people are great seeds for relationships, but there's lots of them, and not all of them are watered.

Always a red flag when someone says x happens because of y. In this case shared interest is just as crucial. Imagine friends who don’t have shared interests, they may not hang out as much and not develop “context”

He will not become friends with his neighbor just because they share some context.

He might become friends with him if they can connect on activities they enjoy and then share more context.

Talking about a hobby, doing a hobby together and later on experiences like birthday, parties, shared life Situations (birth/kids).

It's hard to do more with a person if you don't have a common ground.

Yes, but activities can be a decent jumping off point. I always suggest meeting your co-worker's friends. You'll probably not make real friends with co-workers directly, that's too dependant on the point of contact and physical proximity. But they can introduce you to other that can only become friends with chemistry.

> The problem is that we’re not actually that unique as individuals. As much as we’d like to believe in our special nature, we’re pretty much mostly similar to other human beings.

I don't fully agree. Most of the population is indeed like that, but truly unique individuals do exist - I had the privilege of meeting a few.

> Any skill or attribute you claim makes you unique—”I’m really funny”, “I’m good at shining shoes”, “I’m an attentive lover”—you can always find someone else better than you on that dimension.

This reminds me of my friend who told me one time that he's seeing someone, so naturally I asked what she's like.

He answered with a set of skills/talents like "perfect pitch" etc., to which I replied "are you dating or are you hiring her?".

It's not the skills an attributes that make us unique and interesting, but what emerges from their combinations.

Case in point: my SO has pretty bad eyesight, but in exchange a heightened sense of smell - I've seen her detect gas being let out of a stove during a routine checkup two floors down. She is also a kind person and a great listener.

What emerges from these traits is (among other things) the ability to tell someone that they should visit a dentist without upsetting them - especially when they're yet not fully aware of their condition.

> truly unique individuals do exist - I had the privilege of meeting a few.

The law of large numbers suggests this is false. Unless someone has had an experience with exposure to every walk of life, which I don’t believe is possible given 8 billions.

Perhaps more accurately: “I have met tens of thousands of people, and have met singletons in that group.”

Sorry to be a buzz kill, but my pet peeve is people extrapolating their individual experiences for generalizable things.

> Sorry to be a buzz kill, but my pet peeve is people extrapolating their individual experiences for generalizable things.

No worries, because I think you're wrong and can prove it to you:

Say we have 50 different traits that people can have - just a binary yes or no. You meet a person who has 10 of them.

Such an individual has already a lower than 1/10e10 probability of having this exact set, and anyone with the same traits and one additional on top of it has 27.5% of that probability.

But that's a simplification, because surely there are more than 50 features/activities in the world and even if that's the limit, when you sort them by proficiency for a given individual, then suddenly order matters and you need just 6 of them to be "probably unique".

Of course there are plenty of people who are interested only in e.g. travelling, food and movies - popular culture calls these people "basic". But on the flipside there exist humans who have a large set of things that can be said about them.

My take is that we're not exploring even a noticeable franction of those combinations and each one of them generates unique, emergent properties.

> Not that WAP, this one

While I am impressed with his pop culture awareness, I am sad he had to note WAP meant Wireless Access Point

That's not sad, it's good writing to define any uncommon acronyms or initialisms. And many people reading would not recognize that one.

Of course now I am wondering what the other WAP is. Maybe I don't want to know...

I don't think it's as deep and mysterious as the other commenter made it out to be :p

It's just a pop song with some swear words in the title

You probably don't. Your life won't be any richer being in the know. In fact, it may be less so.

That is great advice and I will heed it, thanks.

Considering that the Fortran Assembly Program (FAP) is on the HN home page right now, it seems particularly relevant!


Trying to recall now if I first heard of Proton Enhanced Nuclear Induction Spectroscopy through HN or a random PENIS meme.

"I love it when my friends meet each other and they also become friends. When this happens, it weaves more threads into the social fabric around me, making us all more tightly interconnected"

Cannot agree more. Very satisfying to tie two distinct worlds together, creating a unique third.

I left my hometown and travelled the world and wondered why I never got as close with any of the people I met, compared to the ones from my hometown. This is the reason why. Thanks for the article.

Going deeper: What about when shared context engender conflicts? Ex: family members, marriages, coworkers, etc.

Values matter and these are hard to instill.

When the writer says friendships, I believe the writer means communities, such as community of place.

I prefer friendships that form via shared values.

Made a comment about this on another thread [0]:

"True friendship comes mostly from shared struggle. Think sports teams, military, small teams at work, even childhood friends and the experience growing up.

It is hard to establish anything meaningful of a connection with casual interactions, and expecting to just "party/play hard" with people you don't really know is putting the cart before the horse. First you must work hard together.

I'd suggest joining a Crossfit gym or similar. I've had great success meeting people within the context of group workouts. It has regular class schedules, and provides a way to ease into social interactions at your own pace as you'll be around the same people regularly. Often this leads to opportunities to do things together outside of the classes.

Additionally, there are likely individuals with similar disinterest in the common activities you mentioned in you CS classes. Finding opportunities to work with someone on class assignments, studying or projects together would fall in the "shared struggle" category."


This has exactly been my observation and experience. There’s a poignant cartoon where two animals are on a long journey. One asks the other, “Is it about the journey or destination”. It gets a response “it’s about the company”. Bonds developed through shared struggles tend to be stronger. Even if that struggle is artificial one like going on a road bike trip with random strangers. Even parents bonding over is about their struggles of raising children.

> I'd suggest joining a Crossfit gym or similar.

Isn’t there a popular joke about these being cult-ish?

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact