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The Challenge of Making Friends as an Adult (nytimes.com)
697 points by MRonney on July 15, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 304 comments

I knew a guy who made a boatload of money off of the dotcom bubble. He kept doubling down and doubling down, then at right about the peak he told himself "I have as much money as I'll ever need if I cash out now. There's no reason to take any more risks." In other words, he timed it perfectly (based on his own situation - he wasn't genius and he would freely admit that)

So here he was, a multimillionaire who'd spent the last five years or so working and playing the market to the exclusion of everything else. He was one of those people who had unconsciously believed if he just had enough money he could find a way to be happy. When he finally had the money he realized relationships with other people are what make you happy. But at that point he didn't have any friends and didn't know how to make them.

He was, without a doubt, the most miserable guy I've ever met. He was always willing to buy a round or lend people money. He'd go to Vegas and pay for five or six people to go with him. So there were always people around. There were always women willing to sleep with him. But they were there for the money and he couldn't delude himself into thinking otherwise. The money actually added to the problem, because it meant even when he wasn't paying, people had a motive to hang around. So he became cynical and a bit paranoid.

Eventually he got into drugs and ended up eating a whole bottle of pills. I've always wondered if any of those hangers-on went to the funeral.

"So there were always people around. There were always women willing to sleep with him. But they were there for the money and he couldn't delude himself into thinking otherwise."

For some reason people seem to think that someone wanting to be around because of a person's fame or money is less pure than other reasons because it's not real.

Generally when people want to be around someone it's because they give them something the other person needs. It could be humour it could be looks, it could be prestige, it could be they went to a college you admire, it could be because they are in awe of the person, or their profession, or their power. There is always a reason that a person is attractive to others. Money is certainly one of those things. Sometimes it's because they are angling to gain something from the person and sometimes it's just the halo that makes the person more attractive or respect for what they have done.

I understand the whole idea of people who are successes attracting people and not knowing of their motives. But the fact that someone liked you "way back" when you were nobody doesn't mean their current attraction is entirely pure either once you gain something else that is of benefit to them.

I've read these stories of guys who are big successes and manage to still play ball with the same guys from high school who are "regular" guys. Do you think the successful person's status has nothing to do with the fact that the high school friends all manage to want to get together and maintain ties? I think it does. For one thing it gives them something to talk about with others (say at the office) that elevates them. "Oh, yeah, I played soft ball with my friend from high school Robert DeNiro this weekend and was at his house, anyway..."

Uh....many people don't think like that.

For most of the people I know, they aren't looking for anything besides connection to other people. They're complete & whole people on their own, they don't need anything else. They don't hang around their friends because they're looking for a halo of success. They don't do it for prestige or looks or humor. They just do it because they like company.

It's really a difference in worldview. For some people, things come first in their life, and they surround themselves with people who will help them achieve those things, or ones who have already achieved them so they can bask in their glow. For others, people come first in their life, and they surround themselves with things that will help them relate to the people they care about.

I've been on both sides of the fence, and I can tell you, I have felt miserable every time I tried convincing myself that success was all that mattered. I'm trying to find my way back to a place now where the people matter more than the accolades - it's not all that easy, because it really is a worldview, and once you've optimized your life for success, it's pretty hard to un-optimize it and build relationships. But I can tell you that my friends don't care if you're a hot-shot developer for Google or a yoga instructor or a public-policy consultant or an urban planner. People are people, they're complex, and they're a lot more than a laundry list of characteristics you might like to have.

It would be impossible to have a meaningful friendship on such grounds. That is not friendship it's a trade between "fame/money" and "rich friend". It's not just "less pure", it's insane and wrong.

It's entirely possible to be true friends with people of vastly different status. People have a great instinct for real friends when they see one. The problem with rich/famous people is that their lifestyle changes vastly since they can afford not to work, they live in more isolated neighborhoods and it becomes increasingly rare to bump onto people with similar goals in life.

If you're super rich you can work your way through the social elite, but if you're averagely rich this doesn't seem to be an option.

>For some reason people seem to think that someone wanting to be around because of a person's fame or money is less pure than other reasons because it's not real.

There's a big difference between a person's intrinsic properties and his money. You like your friends; you like the rich guy's money.

And when you're around someone for his money you're playing a part. It's a job. You're not going to tell him what you really think about anything. That's pathological.

Here's the thing though.... If there was more of a gift economy in these cases, the intrinsic properties would be something like generosity, fairness, and honor. You have a lot of money and have a reputation for these things, who is to say that isn't more real?

The problem though is form. I am generous with my good fortune to you. What are you doing for me in return? It used to be that a gift demanded reciprocity (as would injury or misbehavior), and to be forgiven for not doing so was a bad thing and an insult to one's honor. Then Christianity came and we all got screwed over by this obligation to forgive.

Interestingly we know from anthropology that money came about as a way to quantify debt, not the other way around. So perhaps this is only less real today because of how we account for our possessions and how we relate to our money, not because of any intrinsic issue with a relationship based on disparity of this sort.

Interestingly Cicero brings up a similar point in his work on friendship. At a time where Roman society was very stratified and friendships were supposed to be between economic equals, he suggested that the best friendships would be made with people below one's social status, for the specific reason that they would be more loyal. Friendships in Rome were all about a gift economy (as they still are in many parts of the world today. I have a friend who studied with Edgar Polome for his PhD and said Polome used to use India as an example if this. He'd get a gift-- maybe a new wallet or something-- from someone one year and a request for help getting a job or a car or something else a few years later. And when he'd turn them down they'd be unhappy because it was not fulfilling his obligation for having accepted the gift. This is true all over Asia as my wife always reminds me never to accept a gift from someone unless I know what they want in return.)

I think the examples you mention would fall into the sphere of "acquaintances" or "family friends" or "connections" or "not enemies" today (in the business or strategic sense). We are talking about actual close friends, comrades, (BFFs if u want) here.

I don't think that's all though.

Case in point, read the Old English poem "The Wanderer" (ideally in Old English but if necessary in translation) and remember that the relationship the narrator is lamenting is this sort of relationship.

The point is that gifts tie us together. As one person said, "obligations unite us, debts drive us apart." The idea that you give money and there is some sort of a moral obligation to reciprocate in some way (but not a quantified debt) creates the bond.

The way gift economies work is that you give gifts out and therefore obtain communal esteem, and people reciprocate to get that esteem by giving you gifts.

Making the claim it's better in Old English is just a transparent way of bragging you know Old English. And it's subjective how best to enjoy something. It's like telling someone they need an ice cube in their scotch.

The issue is that in translation, something is always lost. There are a few phrases[1] in the poem that are darned hard to translate adequately although knowing Old English well enough to read the poem is not a guarantee by itself of getting more out of it than in Modern English.

In general, if you can, reading a work in the language it was composed in is better than reading it in translation. It is generally hard to disagree with that.

The fact is that translation into contemporary English from Old English and Old Norse is deceptively difficult.

[1] wyrd bið ful aræd is probably the best example. It's usually translated as "Fate is wholely inexorable" which is not a good translation. "The turn of events is fully complete" is better, as would be "My fate has now been decreed" depending on how you want to look at wyrd (fate, but literally "that which has turned" and often personified as a woman) and araed (decreed, established, spoken).

Edit Changed the above OE to proper characters, and adding this:

While I am bragging, as you put it, about my understanding of languages I will point out that the structure there of wyrd becoming established through the spoken word is also found in parallel Old Norse traditions, where we have the description of the Norns in Voluspa ending with:

þær lög lögðu,

þær líf kuru

alda börnum,

örlög seggja.

This is again difficult to translate because of the variety of things lög could mean. "They laid laws" or They laid layers" or "They allotted lots" are all viable translations. My overall translation would be:

They allotted lots,

They chose lives

for the sons of men,

They uttered fate.

Irrelevant and pedantic point here, but I would suggest it's more like telling someone they need to not have an ice cube in their scotch, very few scotch snobs would argue pro-ice :)

Just a transparent way of telling me you know how to drink Scotch. Damn knowledge snobs!

Actually despite being a scotch snob who spends a lot of his money on really nice bottles... I do enjoy it chilled sometimes (though a friend got me "whiskey stones" for Christmas, so I use them instead of ice!) I'm a snob to what I consider bad whiskey, not to what might be considered a bad whiskey drinker :)

If we're going to be Old English, there'a a damn more about the nature of hospitality and guest-right that's important to know.

Back then, these things were evidence that the other guy wasn't going to knife you in your sleep.

This is reasonably true. But there is also some likelihood that the hospitality and guest-right system was not only very old (since it is found across many other Indo-European branches as well) and part of this. Isn't there an episode in one of Homer's poems or something (I don't have my library with me in Indonesia :-( ) where two people are fighting on the battlefield and discover that one of their ancestors gave hospitality to the ancestor of the other and so they have to quit fighting?

Oh yes. Hospitality is the central theme of Genesis 19, for instance, which definitely predates The Wanderer. I feel a little bad now, because I can't provide you with a solid set of sources, but every culture all the way back to the earliest stories we have will give references to the obligation of a host, the duties of a guest, and how gift-giving plays into that. The whole point of the Trojan War wasn't precisely that property had been stolen, but more importantly that it had been done by a guest to his host. (As modern readers, we recognize a breach of private property more clearly than we recognize a breach of hospitality.)

It's the earliest form of debt-as-community-glue, really. It only survives today in the habit of bringing a bottle of wine to a dinner party, and in the handshake. We mostly rely on codified laws of hospitality instead (which govern restaurants and hotels).

"You like your friends; you like the rich guy's money."


So you think that there aren't a large number of rich people that are interesting and have achieved something which is the reason they are rich? And it would be great to spend some time with them?

Steve Jobs was rich and had power and fame. So the only reason anyone would want to be around Steve is because of the money, the power and the fame? Or Larry Ellison? Or Warren Buffet? Or even Paul Graham? He's doing ok and I'm sure he would be interesting to be around even for people who have no interest in the startup scene and nothing to gain by knowing Paul.

But even if someone was born into money for that matter then as a result of having money they also could be interesting and nice to be around for exactly that reason. Or at least entertaining (the Kennedy's come to mind..)

the only reason anyone would want to be around Steve is because of the money, the power and the fame?

You completely miss the point- it isn't that nobody could like Steve as a person. It's that, how can Steve tell who likes Steve and who just likes Steve's money?

That test really only happens in truly-down-in-the-dumps or life-and-death situations.

That would kinda be the point.

How so?

Because it is during those periods when you need your friends the most and when it is most inconvenient/difficult for fake friends to come to your aid. It is naturally the most effective way to separate the wheat from the chaff, even though it may not be a nice process.

It's easier to demonstrate a counterfactual than to prove the theorem. Therefore the burden of proof should be on you to demonstrate the counterfactual.

I don't think you're wrong, I'm just asking for some elaboration.

Are you being intentionally obtuse?

You were talking about "wanting to be around because of a person's fame or money" being just another reason to be around. The "You like your friends; you like the rich guy's money" is just a way of restating your apparent original claim.

So coming back and saying, well, Steve Jobs is interesting, is missing by a mile what you're responding to.

Sure. You can like a rich guy independent of his money. But if his money is the basis for the friendship it's not really a friendship, IMO.

The value of friendship is to understand and to be understood. Every other motive (rightly) feels like a cheap plastic substitute.

Obviously there are people who can't do this (Zuckerburg, and plenty of much smaller examples too) but I don't see why, if you have the choice, you'd let people know how rich you are. Of course, unless you live the life of someone much poorer people can always guess ("hey, nice house you've got there..."), but people who talk about how rich they are, or show off with the money... just seems stupid to me.

He didn't realize it would be a problem in the beginning. After that I think he was just afraid to move away from the people he knew.

I've thought a lot about what I would do in that position, and came to the same conclusion you did. The right thing to do probably would have been to move far away, live simply, and take up a hobby so he could meet people on an equal footing.

Of course, it's easy to decide how other people can fix their lives :)

"move far away, live simply, and take up a hobby"

Why not just live among people and make friends with people in the same income bracket or assets or higher?

That's a possibility too. I was thinking it would be more difficult, since he might have run into the whole new rich/old rich thing. He would have been perfectly happy living in a suburban tract home, and that's the type of person he grew up with, so I was thinking that would be the easiest.

Besides, you have fewer choices if your pool of potential friends is rich people.

"you have fewer choices if your pool of potential friends is rich people"

How many friends does someone need?

I don't see any evidence that wealthy people or upper middle class have any problems friend wise.

Not only that but nothing prevents them from mingling with anyone even a lower "status" if you want to call it that.

How many friends does someone need?

About 150: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbars_number

But they don't all have to be real friends. The interesting thing about Dunbar's number is that it also suggests that people strive to make these 150 relationships even when there are not enough people around (i.e. that's why some people care for celebrities and forge online relationships when real life friends are not enough)

Dunbar's number isn't that simple. It's more like you have an upper limit of 150 person-sized points. You can allocate 50 to one person and only have 100 leftover for more casual acquaintances, for instance.

Dunbar's number refers to group sizes, not friend counts.

Dunbar's number is an upper limit. What's the lower limit?

From zero to one is a quantum leap - you go from "alone, no one to talk to" to "can talk honestly and frankly with someone". That's the biggest step. Beyond that, of course it enriches your life, but the first friend is the most important.

I don't suspect the earlier poster meant that the person should move to the wilderness, just far enough away to "make a new start."

That's what he said, you simply didn't read to the end

  so he could meet people on an equal footing.

"you simply didn't read to the end"

I did.

He said:

"The right thing to do probably would have been to move far away, live simply, and take up a hobby so he could meet people on an equal footing."

The fact that the above sentence says "live simply" and "take up a hobby" seems to contradict the notion that he should try to take up with people who are equal in wealth which was the issue being discussed.

I said

"live among people"

which is not the same as

"move far away"


"live simply"

is not the same as

"make friends with people in the same income bracket or assets or higher"

It's the taking up that's being done on an equal footing (i.e. the friendships are free from the wealth-disparity baggage); it's not that the people have the same amount of wealth.

Or get a normal day job, even if you don't need it. It provides social comfort. It works.

do you think he had aspergers?

I'm curious why you ask this question. What would either answer imply?

It's going to be hard to fairly tease the effects of having Asperger's syndrome on making friends apart from the effects of wealth, fame, and power.

No idea.

Not that I've ever had much money, but let me provide some thinking of why this is the case.

When you have a lot of money, you are used to getting anything you want, since everything has a price. Want a hotel room overlooking Times Square for NYE? Sure, maybe it'll cost you $25K, but you can probably get it (I'm just guessing here). Want Madonna to come sing at your barbecue? Sure, that'll be a million bucks (plus incidentals).

So when a rich guy is without friends, his first reaction is "how much will it cost?". The moment he flashes his money, all sorts of "friends" come out of the woodwork, happy to be his chum. So, in the short term it looks like it's working. But these aren't friendships; these are hired companions. Just because you can hire a hooker to have sex with you doesn't make her your girlfriend.

One only has to look at the myriad NBA/NFL players out there who, despite having earned 100s of millions of dollars over their lifetimes, end up broke shortly after retiring (and this does not include child support). It's mainly because their wealth attracted the leeches who sucked them dry.

Speaking of Zuckerberg: I find it a good move to avoid gold-diggering that he married his college sweetheart.

Check back on that in 10 years.

But, generally, yeah.

I have a couple of wealthier friends and one that is getting wealthier by the day.

The way I solved this problem between us is that I refuse to accept "mercy" gifts. I will accept an earnest gift when It is presented out of kindness. Also I demand that our financials be thoroughly transparent with me covering my fair share.

It works exceptionally well, allowing for our friendship to develop at its own and sincere pace. Besides, being around him and having such a friend/mentor is a gift that keeps on giving, more than a paid this or that ever could.

They're lucky to have you as a friend. But the friendship started before they became wealthy, right? That way they'll never have to wonder if you're working some kind of long angle.

No, not really.

Regarding the long angle, of course I am working the long angle. As I said, these people help me move along, just not in a way where I would be a mere client.

If I am not interested in having fish caught for me - that doesn't mean I am not interested in learning everything I can about fishing.

The "Rich guy not made happy by wealth after all" story is so old that I am surprised anyone is still surprised by it. Every other novel they made me read in middle/high school had this as its message. I am very reluctant to use the term "smart" for anyone that runs into this problem.

What struck me about the experience wasn't the "Rich guy not made happy by wealth after all" part, but that he was so desperate for friends and just couldn't make them. That's why I thought it was relevant to the topic.

Ya allah! And the solution was so simple, too: invest his millions and live off the interest/dividends, which would be a modest income. A more modest income would have kept gold-diggers away, and he would have figured out that while the security of a personal trust fund is nice to have, you don't need millions to make friends.

> Thayer Prime, a 32-year-old strategy consultant who lives in London, has even developed a playful 100-point scale (100 being “best friend forever”). In her mind, she starts to dock new friend candidates as they begin to display annoying or disloyal behavior. Nine times out of 10, she said, her new friends end up from 30 to 60, or little more than an acquaintance.

Whoa. I would never want to be acquaintances with this person.

And yet that's not too far off from what I - and I think most people - are doing. Sure, I don't have a scale. But I'm sizing people up. If I had that cynical, narrow-minded approach back in high school, I don't think I'd have the life-long friends I have now. I'm working on shutting that inner voice up, but I think it's something that slowly creeps in over time.

But that's just part of the problem - the other is that, especially with big moves, there's no obvious support structure for making new friends. Having moved across the country a few months ago, I'm still trying to figure this one out. Any idea HNers?

"Whoa. I would never want to be acquaintances with this person."

Thinking of specific numbers is very cynical indeed, but I agree with the point made though.

For example, there's a former colleague I've had a few lunches with, every 3-6 months or so, since the startup we were working at folded. We clicked well when working together and we enjoyed talking about ideas. However, during the past few lunches, I've been more and more annoyed at the fact that he's been mostly interested in talking about his own stuff, not caring at all about mine. (granted, I've wondered if I could be just like him, since I want to talk about my stuff… :)) Overtime, I realized that I won't be seeking lunches with him anymore.

So unconsciously, every bad interaction kind of knocked some points off.

Friendship is really like any kind of relationship: you're expected to give and to receive. If it goes only one way, it will eventually stop going any way at all.

>Friendship is really like any kind of relationship: you're expected to give and to receive. If it goes only one way, it will eventually stop going any way at all.

The whole area of transactional psychology is based on that idea. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transactional_analysis

> Having moved across the country a few months ago, I'm still trying to figure this one out. Any idea HNers?

Take up a hobby, more or less unrelated to what you do for a living. Maybe it's rowing or rock climbing or fencing or writing. Find something you think you'll enjoy that draws in people from all walks of life.

I think it's especially important now, when the only thing in your life is your work, to avoid trying to make friends there. In my mind deep friendships start with sharing personal things, which starts from sharing everyday things. Someone you're around all the time will share just enough experiences that you won't be able to talk long enough to open up.

When I read this, I honestly wasn't taken aback by it. Rather, it seemed to me a pragmatic realization that often, our friendships are self-selecting. If someone doesn't call you back, you naturally won't get closer to them. If someone does call you back, you probably will naturally get closer.

I guess so, but is there really a need to explicitly quantify that?

What purpose could such thinking have?

Ever use numbers to help you make a decision? Enjoy rhetorical questions?

It's definitely challenging.

One part is actually meeting people with whom you click. Unless you go to a lot of meetups and similar events, overall, you won't be meeting that many new people besides co-workers. And meetups tend to have a theme other than just having fun, whereas that's what most college activities are about. So you meet people in a serious context, and you need to bring the fun with you.*

So, you first need to come across someone with whom you click, and then you have to fuel that relationship. What's difficult there is that you need time. Once married with children, grabbing a beer after work is not as simple. You also have that awkwardness as pictured in "I love you, man" (and I believe a Louis CK sketch in his TV show): you have to acknowledge pretty fast that there's something going on and that you feel you could indeed become friends! It's one meetup, you're awkward now with that guy who seems cool, or you might never see him again.

But as you grow older, you also lose a lot of that casualness that you had before: you don't just invite them over after work to play video games. Now that you're a "grown-up", it's "a dinner". And since you're a grown-up, your home has better be somewhat clean, and you can't just serve pizza. What was a spontaneous interaction before is now a whole event that needs planning, some cleaning, some cooking, etc. (until of course, you become real friends) So these happen less, and friendships can be like making mayonnaise: if you don't make it go right now, you'll never make it go at all.

* I'm not saying meetups are no fun, just that it's not the end-game for everyone. Some people are there only for "professional" reasons and you need to figure out what people are looking for.

> But as you grow older, you also lose a lot of that casualness that you had before: you don't just invite them over after work to play video games. Now that you're a "grown-up", it's "a dinner". And since you're a grown-up, your home has better be somewhat clean, and you can't just serve pizza. What was a spontaneous interaction before is now a whole event that needs planning, some cleaning, some cooking, etc. (until of course, you become real friends) So these happen less, and friendships can be like making mayonnaise: if you don't make it go right now, you'll never make it go at all.

That is so frustrating to me. I don't really want a Do when I get together with people, I just want to kick back.

Aren't quiet pubs/bars for that? Or say you've had a busy week but how about takeaway and some trashy TV in the background? Been meaning to try some local restaurant, you guys want to see if it's any good?

I find the value of a good pub is vastly underestimated these days. I suspect a combination of American college drinking culture and abstinence style drinking education in public schools ("you can have more fun without drinking!") are to blame.

Pubs are too damn loud. That's my problem with them. There's very few quiet places to have a drink. Many of the ones that do exist are upper class targeted.

Go to a different pub. There's always that slightly dorkier place that you can adopt which doesn't have live bands every Friday and get overrun with the in-crowd. Might be a bit tragic, but who cares.

In the US try the local microbrewery(s) for relief from a loud bar/pub. Unofrtunately, in the bay Area these may be upper class targeted, but in other areas you get a great mix of townies and beer fans.

Perhaps I'm odd, but I like hanging with friends at homes - its where we live. It's a lower energy drain for me than to go to a restaurant. Plus, homes stock games, music, wifi, etc, it's set up by one party or the other for their particular comfort. A restaurant doesn't really target specifics, and certainly won't have our favorite (niche) board games.

Going out also costs a chunk of change, and snarfing a grocery pizza will cost a lot less. :-)

Sorry, I thought that if you wanted to kick back and relax, you also didn't want to clean up the house and so on (but that might've been the commenter above you). OK, so you can just invite people around for takeaway ("had a busy week; you guys OK if we go with takeaway?") removing the expectation of three courses with matched wine. Easy.

Another option to frame it casually is say "X and I were going to get Thai and play some Fluxx. Seriously, nothing elaborate. You're welcome to join us if you want?"

I agree with your description with how a lot of people feel, myself included, especially the part about meetups. However, 'you' don't have put up with grownupness and dinners and clean houses and fancy meals if you don't want to. If you like the grownupness then by all means get into it, but you make it sound like it is a required pain ... If you don't like it find friends that also don't like it.

I think the issue is that before you know enough about the other person you have a lot more chance to ruin the friendship with the cheap meal in front of the TV than the well planned and prepared one.

This is an interesting point, but I wonder if it is an opportunity. If everyone expects a college-style beer-and-pizza party, why not? Maybe something you can do with some existing friends first, and then start inviting new people over? Something like "Hey there's this crazy thing some of my friends and I do. Want to come to the next one?"

Just going to share a little anecdote here.

I moved to Los Angeles in 2004. The next year I organized a softball team, mostly coworkers at the time. There are six of us that have been playing since we started, going on seven years now, even though we've almost all since changed jobs. Even though it's "just softball" (and our league is about as uncompetitive as possible without being totally beer-league), we've all made attempts to make it to games that bordered on absurd. I'm talking like, having a game end like 90 minutes before a flight I had booked, so I brought my luggage to the game, planned for a cab to arrive right as our game ended, and changed in the back seat of the cab on the way to the airport. Sure, I could have just skipped the game. I don't know if it's as contrived as "not wanting to let the team down." But these guys were my friends and I wanted to be there. Outside the six of us, we've had countless guys come in for a season or two, and then kind of fall off and stop playing. Almost all my post-college "good friends" -- the kinds of guys I invited to my wedding, for example -- have played on this softball team.

So I've thought about this a lot. I guess I've concluded that male friendships in particular are more easily forged in some environment of "commitment." In the "you've been there for me, so you're a good guy, so I can feel comfortable about opening up to you about subjects you only bring up with your good friends," sense. Also, I don't think this happens overnight, at least not for me. We were playing for two years before we'd do something like get dinner after the game. It was another long while before we'd talk about deeper friendship stuff like career advice, girlfriend problems, etc.

Hopefully I'm not making this sound like you can only make friends when you're a "bro" who plays sports. When we're younger, these organizations exist everywhere: high school, college, school clubs, sports teams, whatever. Just any place where you're expected to give more than what may be convenient and everyone else does the same. Going back to the softball team, let's say I get two emails the day of a game. One guy says, "hey my boss wants to pull me in a meeting that probably run long, I managed to tell him I have a hard stop at 7:00pm, but I may be like 10 minutes late to the game." Another guy says, "hey, I had a big lunch, I'm gonna skip the game." Which guy am I going to end up being friends with?

So I suppose my conclusion, at least for me personally, is that it's usually not enough to find people I have something in common with, but something in common that we're both committed to. It's tougher to find that after high school and college, but it's not impossible.

Something similar is bar trivia leagues. I see people weekly that I wouldn't necessarily without our team.

Our quiz team is a pretty good source of friends. People bring in their own friends and workmates so we get to meet quite a few new people.

I've honestly never heard of this pastime. Is this a non-US or east coast thing? Can you elaborate on what goes on?

It's very common in Portland at least. Any night of the week within any three mile radius there's a bar somewhere hosting trivia.

It's just people who come to a normal bar once a week and play trivia. Think Jeopardy with teams and booze. Sometimes there are prizes for winning/losing. There is an entry fee that goes toward the prize pool and compensation for the person running the trivia.

I assume you mean the Portland in Oregon, not the one in Maine? ;-)

I wouldn't doubt that Portland, ME has plenty of bar trivia too, I've never been to a city that didn't

I've lived on the east coast, the west coast and inside the US. I have ALWAYS been near a bar-trivia night, somewhere. Look around dude

AFAIK, it's bigger in the UK and Australia than the US. I'm from Portland, currently live in SF, and know of a handful of bars in both cities (also Davis, CA) that do trivia, but not as many as in Sydney, where I studied abroad.

I live in SF as well and have noticed bar trivia picking up a bit. I think it's starting to catch on as companies spring up to provide trivia nights (there's one I just read about called geeks with drinks or something)... And just a small plug, my friends gf hosts one Wednesday nights at Zekis in Nob Hill around 8 if you're interested.

Yep. I found most of my non-tech friends from Pub trivia when I moved to SF a few months back. Kind of refreshing to meet people who by the virtue of the fact are not in tech have different aspirations, perspectives on life.

The bar you go to makes all the difference. You are more likely to see Quiz Night at a Mom & Pop sports bar, a place where loud noise is acceptable. The quiet, little pub you go to for ale/stout and quiet conversation or a folk/jazz bar not so much.

Completely agreed with this. My best friends from High School and college were those I was doing something with, not just hanging out. I'm still friends with those folks and have tried repeatedly over the years to capture that feeling and turn it into an application that would solve this problem for folks, especially in new towns. The problem seems to be that doing something meaningful but still organic is very hard to replicate. Good on you and your teammates with the softball team.

Same story but the game of talisman and a much smaller group.

Edit: Unfortunately not that many meetups in the summertime. ;)

This makes sense to me even though I am not involved in anything similar, wish I was though

protip: meetup.com

It may not fill the cockles of your heart with technical wonder, but like Craigslist for classifieds, it's where the "market" is.

Beyond the juvenile stage men can't bond through "play time". Men bond through shared struggle and purpose. You aren't going to make close lifetime male friends at some stupid beer centric sports league.


I think it's an interesting distinction that this is not really true of women. Women can get close over various shared interests and activities.

Yeah, I read Fight Club too, dude.

We could have a much deeper discussion on the evolution of society and how the gradual reduction of physical survival difficulty has eroded a lot of the male bonding development that used to exist. But a lot the OP was about difficulty making friends even when people had a lot of things in common, so I was sharing an anecdote on how a shared activity and commitment, even for a mostly trivial hobby, still led to what I considered good friendships.

You may consider bonding through my softball team "play time." I posit that it's better than not bonding at all, but if you really want to dismiss my friendships and suggest the only way to forge lifetime male bonding is to form an underground anarchist militia and make bombs out of soap, I'll take that under consideration.

I wonder how he'd respond to a non-aggressive, benevolent shared purpose and struggle. How about a mainstream charitable organization that makes soaps out of bombs?

Yeah, I wasn't contradicting you, dude. Maybe you'd make more friends if you chilled out.

How are you not contradicting him? He said he made some great friends through casual sports, and you're saying that lifelong friendship cannot happen through casual sports. You are directly disagreeing with him about how deep his friendships are.

Based on nothing more than armchair psychology!

I dunno, maybe he's saying that if you take casual sports as seriously as the first guy evidently takes his casual sports, they count as a shared struggle, etc, etc.

Methinks "How To Win Friends and Influence People" hasn't made it to your reading list.

Or his goal in this discussion isn't to win friends and influence people.

Maybe he's trying to gain entertainment.

Just because someone isn't getting X now doesn't mean he doesn't know how to. Maybe he's after Y.

I read that as the "shared struggle and purpose" being the softball team..

Then what is 'play time' if softball qualifies as 'struggle and purpose'?

Best troll ever. Love your work man.

Not always true either. I spent some time in the military in South Africa during the bush war. I can without a doubt say that I've never felt closer to another male as I did then.

However, 23 years later and I only have contact details for one of the 8, and even though he and I are friends on Facebook we never exchange more than the annual "happy birthday". Back then all 8 of us were in the same hole. Today we have different lives, with little (if anything) in common. Anything we have left for each other belongs to another time, and place.

A softball team is going to provide far more rewarding and, importantly, long-lasting friendships than "shared struggle and purpose".

I got the impression the Band of Brothers Easy Company guys basically didn't talk for 20+ years after the war, except odd pairs and small groups that stayed in touch. People went back to school, started careers, families. Then they reconnected and ended up forming a strong social network, even though they had very different backgrounds and life paths. Stephen Ambrose was between projects and came across them, and the rest was (literally) history. They were an elite group and some were very successful, others were wounded, others ended up going through what I might have considered stereotypical Vietnam Vet experiences, even though WWII veterans are not associated with that. I suspect a critical mass of people working to keep everyone connected and provide mutual support makes all the difference.

I recently connected with a close friend that I hadn't seen since high school (20 years ago). We talked about common friends, etc. and it was as if the intervening 20 years had never happened. There were seeds of trust and companionship that had survived the 20-year drought.

My hunch is (and excuse me for suggesting this, since I don't know you at all) that if you ever got in touch with any of those 8 again and spent some time with him, you'd be able to reconnect very quickly.

This is going to sound grossly presumptuous, because it is: Please find these men you served with and give them a call, or write a letter, while all of you are still alive. The thought of you guys drifting so far apart with so little contact is making me sad.

Speaking as a fellow (?) South African, albeit younger (too young to have been involved in that conflict) I feel it's worth pointing out that their drifting apart may very well be by choice, or rather: simply not making an effort to stay in touch.

In high school I had two teachers who were involved in the bush war or 'spent time on the border' as it is often referred to, both of them clearly very scarred by their experiences. One of them outright shell shocked.

I'm guessing that there may be some level of self preservation in leaving experiences like that in the past, reconnecting with your life and getting on with it.

It may very well be that they decide to forget that part of their lives.

I cannot imagine how some kind of reunion would be good for remembrance:

"Do you remember that time when we got a granade and almost died?" "aaah yes... bad times"... "Or what about when corporal Jones was blown into pieces" "aaah yes... that morning we played poker toghether".

At first glance, I totally thought you were linking to a book by Jack Donaghy.

It doesn't hurt the man-cred, does it?


There's none of the financial worries, pecking orders, or time constraints of workplace friendships, plus more of the freedom. You do it, supposedly, once a week, or more. There's no pressure to make small talk because you're there for another purpose as well, so if you get uncomfortable, you can just leave. As you get more involved, you start joining committees, planning events, coaching teams, going on retreats, leading the local Boy Scout troop, participating in Bible studies, etc and are able to bond with adults there. As long as you're set on your denomination, there's no reason to leave while you're still in the geographical area. Your kids can encourage interaction with other parents, and if they stop being friends, they'll probably still be forced together through sports/school/service events. And you're operating on the same general life philosophy as all of them--supposedly.

When my parents moved, their "friends list" literally became a subsection of the church directory.

Church literally fills every requirement in the article, since it's a very social event with a purpose besides being social for its own sake. I'm amazed the author didn't mention it. Well, not too amazed, since there's nothing more socially unsexier than church groups. I know most people here aren't too warm on religion but it sure knows how to built community.

From the US by any chance?

Of the few hundred people I've met past casual acquaintance here in the UK, only a couple have ever talked about going to church as if it were normal. Even as a fairly passive atheist these days, I wouldn't be able to go, it'd just be very disingenuous play acting.

In the spirit of the comment I agree that something needs to replace church in secular societies. In fact, I think this is the root of the problem, there's not something to force you to see neighbours regularly any more.

There are certain activities that seem to fill the "church gap" for people. The two that I know of are surfing and whitewater kayaking.

When you're on the water you are not worrying about finances or work or the rat race. Everyone is there to surf or paddle so there is little social pressure. You have freedom to go where you want, when you want, but you still find yourself constantly running into people you recognize or know. And if you want to "get involved" there are all sorts of events, committees, volunteer opportunities, schools, etc.

On top of all that surfing and kayaking have the ability to create spiritual experiences. Catching a great wave, or having a great run in a rapid, can create a sense of peace and bliss. The environment around you instills awe. Those sorts of shared experiences help bring people together and create friendships.

Speaking of peace and bliss, I think singing is one of the best parts of religion (for the musically inclined).

Instrumental and a cappella groups are great for making friends, although I'm kind of worried where I'll find such groups after graduating college.

Any hobby really, there are squash and tennis clubs round the corner from me for example, they both regularly hold socials. I should join :)

These are some of the reasons I enjoy sailing as well.


I don't know much about religion in the UK; here, it revolves very much around what sort of circles you move in. Plus what region of the country, and whether you're in the suburbs, inner city, or country.

But hey, that's what you guys have pubs for, right?

I think the main problem is that we live in an increasingly secular society, but nothing has actually replaced church. And the people who are still at church, at least at many churches, are right-wing nutjobs.

Have you been to a Unitarian Universalist church? Definitely not right-wing.

I've also read about left-wing Catholics and Baptists (two cases where the main organization is generally seen as right-wing, but there are significant left-wing groups within them). I'm not a church-goer myself, so I don't have any suggestions on how to find a church you're comfortable with.

> Have you been to a Unitarian Universalist church?

No, and statistically, neither have practically any church-going Americans. Yes, I was talking about a generalization, I know there are liberal churches.

> I don't have any suggestions on how to find a church you're comfortable with.

For me personally, I don't think it's possible. I'm an atheist, and any church that's liberal enough to allow atheism frankly doesn't have enough verve to really hold my interest as a church, you know?

Depends on what you mean by verve, but I know some atheists who are perfectly happy with the Unitarian Universalist church they go to. Plenty of interesting people, a variety of social activities, a good place for their kids. They love it.

I know some other atheists who go to a weekly Buddhist meditation group and they are pretty involved with that community as well. I went by for a couple of sits and it seemed like a great place to meet people. They were all quite sincere and passionate about what brought them together. More so than in many Christian churches I've visited, where a lot of the people are more Christian-by-default than in any particularly thoughtful way.

I was raised Catholic. Without a heavy dose of serious ritual and theology, I can't take something calling itself a "church" very seriously. There has to be something more than a social club.

Paradoxically, I can't find my way through to agree with any kind of traditional Christian theology either, so I will remain unchurched.

Too bad there's not an American/Western equivalent to Confucianism. Some sort of deistic civic faith that is less about faith than it is about ritual, philosophy, and social relationships. That seems like something you might be interested in.

Some sort of deistic civic faith that is less about faith than it is about ritual, philosophy, and social relationships.

You're described the Unitarian church.

Not really. Confucianism is ingrained into Chinese society in ways the West can't comprehend. UU is a 19th century offshoot of NE Congregationalism.

Oh, I agree. I guess I'm riffing off of superficial similarities. I think some of the Founding Fathers would have tried to create an American civic religion akin to UU, however. (Not necessarily as a conscious decision, but they would have been more comfortable with such a creed in comparison to Puritanism or the sort of revivalism that led to the various Great Awakenings.)

What kind of rituals does the UU have?

From the perspective of a former Epsicopal turning Roman Catholic .. they don't have _any_.

I was raised Catholic. Without a heavy dose of serious ritual and theology, I can't take something calling itself a "church" very seriously. There has to be something more than a social club.


You might try a Zen center, then. They have plenty of ritual, and are very serious about what they do.

And I think that problem will continue for some time, since a replacement for church would require frequent socializing in a comfortable environment not aimed explicitly at socializing.

Unfortunately we need to replace church with something that people can do together for the point of being together.Church may still have a role in the US, but over here in Europe it's hardly an option anymore.

Could there be a startup opportunity in this space?

Relevant: http://www.ted.com/talks/alain_de_botton_atheism_2_0.html

I've heard that in Scandinavia, a lot of people still go to church for social contact even though most of them are agnostic/atheist.

I would assume most church-goers know this already. Doubt the rest of us secular folk would ever go to church to make friends..

But of course, there are other groups than "church-goers" and "secular folk," like the moderately religious and nominally religious, who just aren't involved in their churches.

Churches are an amazing way to meet people. When I moved abroad for a while I went to a Sunday service, immediately got introduced to a few people who I ended up becoming good friends with. I didn’t make any friends outside of church and wouldn’t have known where or how to. It was a small city with hardly anything but pubs and churches.

Yeah, but everybody you'll meet will be religious. I often think that "atheism" needs to set up structures to care for the lonely, too. Basically I think that is what the church is (among other things), they are a company catering to lonely people.

Of course lots of my friends are (moderately) religious, too, but it always leaves me uneasy. Because the things I am really interested in (evolution theory, science, artificial intelligence, science fiction, economics...) are incompatible with their beliefs. So I'll never even try to start any deep conversations with them.

There are humanist churches too that you can get involved with ... if you don't want to deal with the crazy dogma that is.

1. It helps to volunteer regularly for a non-profit cause that you believe in, or at least approve of. You likely will get to know some "nice" people; once you establish that you're actually committed to whatever the cause is, and not just on the prowl, then you can establish lifelong bonds.

2. It also helps to be cheerfully unembarrassed about taking the lead in organizing groups to do stuff. People are often secretly grateful to be able to follow someone else. They'll often reject you. They'll say yes but then flake out on you. You'll feel mortified; you'll be certain that everyone else thinks you're a dork. That's OK; keep at it. (This is good practice for customer development and sales work, come to think of it.)

3. A lot of churches and synagogues have active single-adult programs. I grant you, tech people often don't go for religious dogma. Neither do I.

I've been fairly happy in the Episcopal Church (I "married in") for reasons described at http://www.questioningchristian.com/2005/05/why_i_call_myse..... Among other things, that post recounts how a priest's citation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, in a discussion about my inability to assent to dogma about God, had a real impact on my religious views, such as they are.

It's funny that you felt you had to couch the church thing this way. There are more "religious" people on HN than you'd think, but they're mostly closeted. Unlike the real world, where concerns about "a war on Christianity" are entirely hysterical, there is a real intolerance towards it here.

Despite incredible advances in connectivity over the last 20 years, I think you'd have a hard time finding thinkers who believe we're less isolated now than we were in, say, 1980. Part of that is economic, but I'm sure a good chunk of it has to do with the role churches used to play in our social lives and don't so much anymore. Fear of isolation and alienation and loss of fellowship might go some way towards explaining why religious people are so jealously defensive of their churches: no matter how deeply they believe, the church probably plays a huge role in their day-to-day life.

That's not a religious sentiment, just a statement of (maybe) fact. People used to build barns together too.

I am, by the way, a sucker for stuff like this:


More theology from startup people, please!

(I'm the worst Catholic on HN; Christmas & Easter, CCD the year of First Communion and, I suppose, Confirmation. Church is not a major part of my social life, at all.)

  > they're mostly closeted
Probably because they end up eliciting comments like the one you've elicited from winter_blue. There's nothing wrong with someone being religious, but this isn't the forum for an essay quoting Bible verses.

Not that I think that was a great comment or anything, but you guys sound like 8 year olds watching a grownup movie with their parents. Ew, kissing! Yuck! Turn it off!

My honest response to people who quote religious text's regularly is vary similar to people who talk about what 'the voices' told them and or convoluted conspiracy theory's. Still, people can function in society with surprisingly deep psychosis, because there are accepted patterns for dealing with such people. The most useful approach being simply avoiding the subject, thus many settings have formal or informal rules prohibiting such discussions and HN is probably well served by having such an agreement.

PS: Emacs vs VI vs VIM rarely brought up, but it's hard not to think the site would be better off without the OS wars.

I'm not a fan of overt proselytizing on message boards, but you realize that calling religion a "deep psychosis" is its own form of proselytizing?

What I had hoped to convey with my original comment was:

* Religion used to play a powerful role in people's social lives, and does so less now, and perhaps the fear of losing those social connections drives some of mainstream evangelical Christianity's defensiveness.

* 'dctoedt wrote some interesting dissections of Christianity, and I happen to find the way "startup people" (D.C. is a lawyer, not a hacker, but he's sort of a startup lawyer) engage with religion to be fascinating, in that critical thinking and faith is an interesting dialectic.

What I did not hope to convey with my comment is:

* Let's have a big religion vs. atheism argument on HN.


* Wow, boring.

To clarify, I did not say that religion was a "deep psychosis" rather the overlap from the set of crazy people AND the set of religious people make religious discussions on an open form problematic. It's not hard to find crazy nut job Atheists. My point is when you find a crazy nut job Atheist it's better for most people including Atheists to avoid the topic.

PS: Now, I did suggest backing up an argument with a lot of religious text was not a good sign that someone is rational. But, that's stems from the idea that when someone does not believe in your religious text then quoting it to them is of little value. Ed: Of course in another context say a religious form then such things become reasonable, but again it's the failure to understand context that's the issue.

"Backing up an argument with a lot of religious [references]" is one thing. Backing up a casual comment with a lot of anything references. is another.

According to this unscientific poll, the vast majority of HN readers that answered the poll are non-religious/atheist/agnostic: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1486594

I actually think 1/3 of respondents being religious is "more 'religious' people on HN than you'd think" considering the demographic of people here.

I think if you asked people familiar with HN to guess what percentage of folks here were religious, you'd get a much lower response (personally, I'd have guessed maybe 10%, which is obviously incorrect).

Oh! He meant, "no, even fewer people than you'd think on HN are religious". He overestimated how many people I think you think are... ahh, forget it.

but...but...I had to do math to figure out that number. No fun.

Absolutely unsurprising, but obviously "atheist" doesn't equate automatically to "antireligious".

And to add to that, it's possible to be "antireligious" without being rude to people who are religious, without feeling the need to bring it up every time you find out someone is religious and without it meaning you can't be friends with someone who is religious.

Depends who you ask, it is always the insecure "religious" people who tend to perceive other people's lack of superstition as threatening, hence antireligious.

Yeah I've seen that phenomenon, oh, about never on HN.


The other important point is that those terms are only "the same thing" to atheists. Non-religious and agnostics don't identify with atheists at all really.

Actually religious groups can be great. I am a Neopagan, formally polythistic with pantheistic undertones, and open generally to the ideas of pantheism, autotheism (is this a form of atheism?), and agnosticism.

However the nice thing about escaping the circle of Christianity and affected religions (Orthodox Judaism, Islam, Sikhism, and spinoffs of these), is that religion ceases to be about what you believe (or more cynically what you say you believe) and rather about ritual, tradition, and what you understand. I have religious students who are atypical atheists, and this is just fine. I don't care what opinions they have, just that they make their own sense out of (and find meaning in) the tradition. You can't do that by simply copying the opinions of someone else....

Many of my deepest friends arise from my religious work. These are often long-term very stable friendships brought about through respect for eachother's intellect and character. And many of those friendships I made as adults. There is little greater friendship that those who mutually inspire eachother.

If you want really good theology I would recommend Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis: http://www.amazon.com/Mere-Christianity-C-S-Lewis/dp/0060652...

I'm a Christian myself and have been one for nearly two two years. I came from a more or less non-religious background growing up and today Christ is of utmost importance in my life displacing everything else.

I look forward to ultimate redemption of mankind - basically a time where every problem in the world will be solved and there will be no suffering. It will be a time when humans and their creator (God) will dwell together and Christ will rule over them with justice and love. I believe there is no human description of this supernatural world, what I assume is that it will be filled with unfathomable joy and splendour.

A few verses from the Bible about it: (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Revelation+21...)

(Please bear in mind most of this is symbolic as is the rest of the Book of Revelation)

"Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away ... 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life." - Revelation 21

Most importantly of all, the price (or ticket) to enter the Kingdom of Heaven has _already_ been paid; by Jesus on the cross.

The core Christian belief is that _all_ humans are sinner (or evil) and that none of us are deserving of anything but death. But God so loved us (his creation), that he decided to save us by taking the penalty of our sin (which is death) upon himself on the cross. (Jesus is an exact representation of God - http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Hebrews+1%3A3...). He intends to eventually fix everything; this world, and unite us with himself. The good news is that He freely offers us his salvation and all we have to do to receive it is to believe in him.

This oft-quoted Bible verse summarizes it well: "16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+3%3A16-17&#...)

Hi! Former Christian here. I don't mind the idea of proselytizing -- if you genuinely believe the stuff about salvation, then it's practically your duty to proselytize -- but your methods leave something to be desired! The main problem is, that wasn't persuasion; it was an infodump about basic Christian doctrine and eschatology, couched in vaguely Biblical language. That may sound good to you, but to people who don't already believe the same things you do, it sounds like a concentrated load of crazy. I'll give an example:

The core Christian belief is that _all_ humans are sinner (or evil) and that none of us are deserving of anything but death. But God so loved us (his creation), that he decided to save us by taking the penalty of our sin (which is death) upon himself on the cross.

That's weird! That sounds like some creepy human sacrifice cult thing. If there's some context which makes this sound reasonable, then you need to include that context if you want to avoid turning people off. And that part about how we're all bad people and deserve to die? I would be insulted, if I thought you could actually believe something so horrible. I think you're a nicer person than you pretend to be, though! Here's a smiley face to soften the blow of my words! :-)

In other words: know your audience. And, I guess, try not to spring such aggressively creepy-sounding beliefs on people without some justifying build-up.

First off, I agree with others that this isn't appropriate for HN. The topic was about making friends, and as such discussion of religion's place in our society can be, and was in others' comments, relevant, but explaining why you believe yourself correct in your religious beliefs is not.

Secondly, since you brought it up, whether you're reading for your own pleasure or with the aim of converting others, I can't help but feel you should look to a nicer version than the NIV. Personally I'm a fan of KJV.

Thirdly, since you brought up Revelation 21, I feel I must link to Bainton's anthem with these words - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ncAo_jRTkQ

(I'm actually an atheist, and have been my whole life, but you can appreciate great writing and beautiful music without believing it.)

> I'm a Christian myself and have been one for nearly two two years.

No one preaches more fervently than the newly converted.

ugh the last thing we want - Christian (or any other religion for that matter) dogma and evangelization on HN. What's next? A discussion of the Occultation of the Hidden Imam?

This stuff on HN needs flagging.

Personally, I'd find that discussion very interesting.

For anyone else who is unfamiliar with the term: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Occultation

A dispassionate intellectual discussion relevant to the topic at hand would be one thing.

If the poster rambled on about his personal belief of how Shia Islam is the One True Religion and blather about what you need to do to go to heaven, quoting the Quran at random, and proselytizing and so on, that would probably be equally inappropriate (on HN) and flag worthy (on HN).

PG talks about the kind of response plinkplonk came up with in "What You Can't Say": (http://www.paulgraham.com/say.html)

We have such labels today, of course, quite a lot of them, from the all-purpose "inappropriate" to the dreaded "divisive." In any period, it should be easy to figure out what such labels are, simply by looking at what people call ideas they disagree with besides untrue. When a politician says his opponent is mistaken, that's a straightforward criticism, but when he attacks a statement as "divisive" or "racially insensitive" instead of arguing that it's false, we should start paying attention.

Me too.

I find it fascinating that pretty much every religion has a messiah theme. The big three of course, but also Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and ancient religions like the Mayans and Persians.

It's such an out there idea - that of a saviour to return to impart perfection - but so prevalent that I'd love to see a more intellectual exploration of the topic.

Now that you mention it, I did once read a book that discussed how the idea of a saviour is present in many cultures (many more than you'd think).

The author was writing from a Christian perspective - he believed humans (in many disjoint cultures) somehow innately come to know their need for their saviour - and he attributes it to God putting it in their heart.

One Polynesian culture that was completely separated from the world for centuries even came up with the idea of the Creator coming to earth in human form and rescuing them.

If you're interested and want to read more, the book's called Eternity in Their Hearts: http://www.amazon.com/ETERNITY-THEIR-HEARTS-RICHARDSON-DON/d...

As I said, it is written from a Christian perspective. I don't know of any books that tackle the same issue from a secular/non-religious viewpoint. Often times it's hard to get purely unbiased opinion, I've skimmed through books by Christopher Hawkins / Richard Dawkins and these simply hate on religion. They actually sound a lot more "religious" (in the sense people use it these days) than you'd think. They're often a tirade of rants against Christianity and religion in general with no call to reason or any honest examination of the deep questions at hand. (meaning of life, problem of evil, ...) I've found C.S. Lewis to be much more intellectually stimulating in this regard. Even though he takes a Christian stance, his reasoning/logic quite dispassionate/unbiased compared to what's out there. (at least in Mere Christianity).

I've also found discussion groups useful in this regard. My college and Church had discussion groups led by professors and department chairs (who were Christians) which turned out to be quite helpful/constructive. I know there's organization called Veritas Forum (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veritas_Forum) which tries to bring such discussions to colleges.

I am not familiar with those religions, but aren't they monotheistic?

Because I don't recall Old Norse mythology as having any saviors (though the gods were supposed to fight the evils after Ragnarok).

Hinduism is not.

Ragnarok is eerily close to the Armageddon story however, complete with monsters and beasts, darkness and destruction of the planet by fire from the heavens. It's also very similar to the Mayan and Hindu "rebirth following destruction" theories.

I'd posit that the "saviour" component of later religions is perhaps just a development of the darkness in the rebirth narrative.

HN discussions are different from other communities. I don't mind threads that veer off-topic, religious or not.


The downvote button is a short ways to the northwest. HN's content should be self-selecting.

1. A lot of people do this stuff purely for the social aspect.

2. Agreed.

3. We have poor intuition about the way the universe works. And not just on the big or small scales. Your average five year old has probably seen black lines when looking at a light source though there nearly touching fingers, but nobody they know can tell them why that happens. However, religions tend to have vary good answers in terms of how people think. And I don't mean that in a bad way, even if they are gibberish they still add a level of comfort that the universe works just like how they think it does.

PS: As to thermodynamics sunlight renders most simple arguments meaningless. If you find comfort from the ideas great, just don't look to deeply for there be dragons.

>> 2. It also helps to be cheerfully unembarrassed about taking the lead in organizing groups to do stuff. People are often secretly grateful to be able to follow someone else. They'll often reject you. They'll say yes but then flake out on you. You'll feel mortified; you'll be certain that everyone else thinks you're a dork. That's OK; keep at it. (This is good practice for customer development and sales work, come to think of it.)

This is exceptionally true. I moved from Boston to Beijing a few years ago (and in with my girlfriend at the same time) and essentially had 0 friends for about six months. I'm not naturally very social, so of course, I became extremely depressed.

At some point, though, I got through it and realized that I needed to meet more people. I started a "Beijing Coworking" email list for anyone who was working on a startup or freelancing to meet in coffee shops every day. I literally planned out which restaurant I would be in every day for a week every sunday and emailed it out to 100+ people. Only 3-4 people came regularly, but some of them are now among my closest friends.

I also learned from one of them how to turn acquaintances into friends. She had an email list of cool people she knew, and would schedule random events a few times a week. She didn't care at all if people came or not.

She's since moved away, but now every time I meet someone, I add them to my contacts and invite the whole set of Beijing contacts out whenever I go to a concert or out to eat, etc. People who don't come to anything in the first three months get dropped, but even so, just losing the embarrassment of inviting people means I naturally give them a few more chances to become a friend.

Believing in God - not because you think it is true - but because you are lonely and believing allows you to meet people is selling your soul to the devil.

When you get to a point where the question of whether somebody starts believing in God or not has very little to do with critical thinking and a lot to do with emotions I become uncomfortable. It's like the people are being taken advantage of.

When somebody starts believing because he is lonely, it feels like religion is a virus, taking advantage of a weakness in somebody's critical thinking systems in order to infect their brain.

We are not completely rational beings, we don't always need to focus on evidence and occam's razor and strip all spirituality from our life. It's fine to be religious. That is a choice everyone makes for themselves. I believe that, and it still makes me uncomfortable when religion seeks out to lonely people. It feels a little like looking for a soft mark.

The point is that churches attract people who think they are doing good, and each church attracts local people. So you have a group of people who like being good to other people, are local, and some subset of that also enjoys activities centered on the church. (The rest just show up for services and then go home.)

This is a group of local people with a common cause, and that makes a good place to meet friends. If you're already religious, then you can easily go to church, join the activities there, and make friends.

As the article says, it is not hard to MEET people - I meet plenty of people mostly through work and a few through book clubs, running clubs, bike clubs or just at the coffee shop. And a lot of them are actually legitimately cool people that I would have become friends with if I met in college or grad school.

The challenge is converting those people into FRIENDS. Basically you have to hang out together a ton in order to build that comfort level and familiarity. And modern adult western life simply doesn't facilitate this very much.

The one exception I can think of is a small town or village where people bump into each other all the time without having to consciously plan to do so.

So it is a bit paradoxical: Living in a city there are a ton of interesting people to meet, but precisely because of the density it is unlikely for you to randomly end up spending enough time with someone for you to become good friends.

It won't be long until gaming is mainstream for adults. It makes striking up a conversation pretty casual. "Dude, you gotta help me kill these zombies. And let's talk about those Q3 results..".

Thats an interesting paradox. Hadn't thought of it like that.

This rings very true. In fact, I turned 29 eleven months ago and I moved here (to another country, albeit culturally similar) eight months ago.

I have zero friends.

My coworkers are vastly different from me. I work with two people the most; one is a younger guy who goes clubbing and is interested in getting laid, and the other is a 40-something woman who is most likely menopausal and hates everything in her life.

I'm married to boot.

All my friends and wife are back home. My immediate family is here but we couldn't be any more different. My situation is complicated, but for all intents and purposes, you can say I was adopted.

I moved here for a better job, yet it happens to be a city I hate; a city in which driving and huge cars is a fact of life, yet I absolutely despise cars. I am used to taking public transport, cycling, walking, and even running. I run 5 times a week. The air is so bad here I had chest pain yesterday after running. I still do it.

I observe the people in this dreadful city and feel they are either extremely superficial, cliquey, and stereotypical or go-getters who do nearly anything to go up the corporate ladder in a dog-eat-dog 'world'.

Where is the substance?

If you've not guessed already, I'm trying to get out of here, but it would be nice to have meaningful conversations or form some type of meaningful relationships along the way.

Most Americans (and maybe Canadians) will guess what city I'm in, and as others have mentioned, the American west coast just works differently, especially the southwest. It's definitely not me.

(Sorry if this sounds like a soapbox, corny or like I'm wearing my 'heart on my sleeve' - I know it's not a social norm. It wasn't my intention and I hope someone can extract something useful out of it.)

So, I see you're enjoying LA...

>The air is so bad here I had chest pain yesterday after >running. I still do it.

Pro-tip: Don't run in the streets. Try the trails in Runyon Canyon, Lake Hollywood, Griffith Park, Dockweiler Beach or the Strand in Venice.

Thank you. This is a great tip. I am training for my first half marathon and I've been running really early in the morning before work or after (around 6pm), but sometimes it gets too hot or I can't make those times and end up running around 11am on weekends. Yesterday was the worst I ever felt.

Do you know how accurate areavibes.com is? I'm trying to move to a city with cleaner air within the incorporated or unincorporated LA area.

Thanks again for the suggestions! I will have to check them out!

And a very specific suggestion. Pasadena. One loop around the Rose Bowl is 5k. I run it every night. Don't break the chain. I also do the trails of the San Gabriels.

Come do some 5k loops with me.

I grew up in la. My best advice for someone like you is to move to San Francisco. You'll be much happier here.

I despise cars too (which definitely makes me an oddball since I'm Canadian and live in a mid-sized city), so I sympathize with you. North America is obsessed with cars, and has caused a lot of pollution and havoc on the landscape.

But I digress. I just wanted to let you know there are others that feel the same way.

Thanks. I moved from Vancouver. A couple people I talk to love to point out my 'Canadianisms'.

When I first moved here, people were surprised I wasn't into cars and told me, "Don't worry, give it a few months!" And I just smiled and said, "I don't know!"

I love Vancouver and would hate cars if I lived there too. On ever visit we get a hotel a bit out, but still accessible to the sky train and have enjoyed the transit immensely.

What made you leave, out of curiosity. I've told my wife many times that I'd love it if we moved there (we live in the Seattle area). She's a PT and worried about getting paid less there because of the health care system. (I know they get paid well, and tried pointing this out - I've looked it up)

You mean physical therapist, right? I don't know much about that. I do know people in healthcare generally get paid less in Canada, when compared to the States.

As for living there, it depends what part of the city you'd like to live in and what vibe you like. Generally, housing in Vancouver is expensive, but the rule of thumb is the more east you go (Lougheed area, Burnaby, New West, Surrey, etc.), the cheaper it gets to buy. My wife and I live a 5-minute (Sky)train ride from downtown. Buying in and close to downtown can be cheaper than or the same as renting. We've not bought a condo because we didn't know where we'd settle.

I moved to LA because of work - that's it! The job market for my specialization in Vancouver is really bad (I have an Arts degree and do copywriting/content writing). The LA weather is a nice bonus for me, but I really couldn't care less about it. My worldview and priorities are just vastly different from the Southern Californians I've met thus far, minus the obvious (desire for safety, a family, a good group of friends, etc.).

It's funny you should ask, actually, because I will know by the end of this week if I am moving back to Vancouver. If I do move back, it will be by the end of the year.

My wife studied Computer Science and we have a lot of CS friends. All of them are doing well, for the most part. But I think that sector has its own set of problems, which were recently talked about in an HN post titled "Canada's vanishing tech sector". Most of our friends are doing well, though.

But yes, I miss my Vancouver life dearly; my wife, my friends, our hangouts, taking the ferry to the Island, wild salmon/fresh fish, hiking through forests, the fresh BC air - too many things to mention.

Mind you, if I go back I'd still take my car up there, but we plan on only using it to get away during the weekends or holidays, but we would still bus and/or take the train to work.

LA is a big and highly diverse place. Maybe move to another neighborhood?

But isn't the weather nice in Los Angeles?

I actually miss the bad weather of other places I lived. One reason for that is I'm just weird, but another is that the common struggle of shitty weather leads to interactions with strangers. There was the time in college I pushed my neighbor's car out of the snow and she asked for my name, or during the great NYC xmas blizzard of a few years ago, where waiting for a very late bus led to friendly grousing with a stranger. Or even as a kid in Virginia, checking up on neighbors during storm power outages. Now I find in LA there's no real need to ally with others. It's just one person per apartment, per car, gliding smoothly from place to place, alone.

I just moved to LA from the east coast, too. I miss thunderstorms and rainy days! I find them quite relaxing and rejuvenating.

You don't even need to me approaching middle age. I'm in my 20s and moved halfway across the country recently, and am continually amazed at how hard it is to make good friends of the same gender. Given all the websites/events/groups dedicated to meeting people to date I've found it far easier than ever to get dates, but more difficult to make friends. It's a weird reversal. There's probably an opportunity for a little business there, but I haven't quite worked out how it would work.

I've found it far easier than ever to get dates, but more difficult to make friends

That's interesting and kind of profound.

I guess when you're arranging dates on match.com, the intention is clear. You're out to meet someone for a relationship. It's the goal.

A meetup to discuss Ruby on Rails or something is all about the subject of the meetup. Most are there just to talk about Rails and get help with a bug, not to make close friends.

How would you find activities where the specific goal is for people new to an area to make friends, or maybe for people who aren't new to an area but they want to make friends?

There's probably an opportunity for a little business there,

There has to be someone already doing this... maybe?

I've found it far easier than ever to get dates, but more difficult to make friends

People have ridiculously high standards for friendships than dates. This sounds weird, even writing it, but I've found it to be true again and again. Many many people would have no problems dating absolute jerks, but wouldn't hang out for 15 minutes with a genuinely nice person (of the same gender). May be people are just desperate to hang out with people of opposite gender? I dunno.

There's probably an opportunity for a little business there,

I doubt that. How could you do this as a business? Arrange volunteer activities/"friend dates"/hang-outs with the primary aim of making friends? Make a website like lookingforfriends.com (just made up the name)? Most people just can't be bothered to spend 5 minutes getting to know another person, unless there is something in it for them (that is why it is easier to get dates, than friends). It just boils down to, people are just plain selfish, at least most of them.

May be people are just desperate to <strike>hang out</strike> <i>have sex</i> with with people of opposite gender

> A meetup to discuss Ruby on Rails or something is all about the subject of the meetup. Most are there just to talk about Rails and get help with a bug, not to make close friends.

You can sometimes make friends in such settings if they're regular enough, informal enough, and smallish groups. I initially met one current friend via the SF Wikipedia meetups, for example. But they have a somewhat deliberate "social outing" tone, where it's expected some Wikipedia business will be discussed, but not in any organized way.

A friend used to say that OkCupid sucks for dating, but is great for finding friends.

It makes sense as most people want partners that complete them but friends that are like them.

That's the premise of Grubwithus - connecting people over meals so you can get to know new people in a casual environment where the focus isn't an activity where conversation is sort of restricted to that event (like most Meetups). Have you tried one out?

Ah, that looks very interesting. The ones currently closest to me seem about an hour's drive away in LA, but I'll keep an eye on it.

And yeah, that's the thing I've run into with Meetups. Great place to find a particular activity, harder to find people looking to meet people beyond just the activity.

I'm older now and I have been going through the same thing.

I made a lot of lifelong friends when I was in the East Coast. When I was in my late 20s, I decided to move out West. My friends were my support system back in the East Coast and now I don't have them.

Starting over when you're older is hard. Most people my age have established their own circle of friends. It feels out-of-place trying to join an existing circle.

There's another factor. In my observation, people on the east coast make truer and deeper friendships than people out west. I'm a lifelong westerner and when I first started spending time in the east I felt, in this respect, like I had come home for the first time. People I met (socially, not on the street) would actually do things like make eye contact, listen to what each other said, and respond to it. They were noticeably more contactful.

On the west coast, things don't work that way. People seem nicer on the surface but it's a cool sunniness. They don't really mean the friendly things they say and they shy away from deeper connection. It's an alone-together vibe. The social ecosystem is less hospitable to bonding.

That may be less a West Coast / East Coast thing and more a California thing in particular. I say that because my family hosted a couple of exchange students from France who were really struck by the veneer of friendliness here, and the very real distance that people maintained beneath it.

Later, when I went to France, I found that there was an initial aloofness that I mistook for vague dislike. But after a while, this went away and what I found instead was a much more substantial and very real affinity.

This is sometimes called the Peach and Coconut model (1). As a Brit living in Cali, I subscribe to the idea. Have a nice day!

1. http://martinsbusinessenglish.blogspot.com/2012/02/small-tal...

It's not just a California thing. We have the exact same thing here--we call it the "Seattle freeze".

Apologies, accidentally down voted you on my phone..

Anyway, having grown up on the east coast then spending time both in Seattle and back east off and on, I can vouch for the Seattle freeze being rather real.

And to a certain extent I actually find myself liking it. Moving around too much makes forming deeper relationships risky, they end up being more baggage. I see the freeze as a sort of defensive mechanism against that.

I'm not sure how general my experience is (Santa Cruz is the only place I've lived in California, and it's a bit odd). But I tend to think of it as being about compartmentalization more than veneers. There are a reasonable number of people I'd chat with semi-regularly because we were both regulars at the same coffee shop, for example, but we didn't regularly socialize outside that setting. It wasn't superficial interaction in the sense of chatting just to keep up appearances or be polite or something. There is also some of that that goes on, but the people I chatted with regularly were because I actually enjoyed our conversations, and found them personally and/or intellectually fulfilling. I might even look forward to them, or visit a particular coffee shop more often if there was someone I found particularly interesting who frequented it. But I was fine leaving them at that; coffee-shop conversation partners who occupied a certain niche in my life, which didn't necessarily need to get all mixed up in other niches (and vice versa).

It might be a San Francisco thing. I moved to California (Los Angeles) when I was young, and recently moved to the East Coast (New York). I don't have many friends back home, but we(~6) keep up with each other (especially back home) on all sorts of events/happenings. I actually had problems when I first moved that while I was sincere about being friends, people (on the east coast) did not believe I was serious.

Or maybe my circle of friends are not the norm in Cali.

Damn, I missed my chance to add that this distinction was captured perfectly by the late great John Callahan in his cartoon "The Difference Between LA and NY":


... except that that's a censored version. In the one I remember, "Drop Dead" was "Fuck You", as it should be.

You mean that's the whole West Coast? God, I thought only Seattle was frozen-hearted.

my solution: travel

1) you meet a lot of people while traveling (quantity)

2) you and them are out of context (and out of existing social circles)

3) all are a little bit more relaxed

4) you start pretty fast talking about things that are interesting without (social circle / insider) background information - you can filter them for quality (if they are interesting enough for do friendship follow ups)

from the last 5 years about 80% of the new people i now call friends i met during traveling

The issue with this, and I've moved around like a gypsy, is that while traveling, your new friends are either traveling too or you are meeting them where they live. I've made great friends in my travels and through moving a lot but they are only great when they are with me. After they move or I move it becomes "that time in our lives". There are so many variables for friendship that it really is amazing when things fall into place with any one person.

I've met friends travelling but the problem is I ended up making friends in cities outside of the one I moved to.

Traveling is impractical for many people especially when they have wife and kids, and even if they did, it might be hard to have interactions with people like you mention when you're with family. A simpler step would be joining a gym, or a yoga class or any other physical activity in a group setting.

I'm in the bay area in my mid 20s, and it's quite the opposite for me, lots of same gender friends, not a lot of dates.

Any chance you're in the Bay Area? I just moved out here from Philadelphia and am stuck in the exact same situation. Either way, feel free to shoot me an email (in my profile).

Meetups? The vast majority of them are not designed to find people to date.

you should make dates with prospective friends. we fall in love a little with guy friends, so instead of the outcome being 'let's explore a romantic chemistry' it is 'let's explore a friendship chemistry', but the mechanics are the same: one on one meetup with a stranger.

At first I and my best friend regarded each other as assholes, but we were forced together by a casual bridge game. One afternoon I arrived at his house to discover the game was off -- he'd been accused of date rape and he and his housemates were processing the news. He'd slept with a friend of his girlfriend and this story was her excuse to the girlfriend.

I remember leaving the room, looking out a window and thinking "This guy isn't as big a prick as _that_." (I had seen something like this before.) And I went back in and said, "what are we going to do about this?" I had enough standing among this larger circle to help slow down the rumors and witch-hunting until things got sorted out, which happened quickly after Friend of GirlFriend admitted it was just a lousy story. (He was never accused of this again, and never had been before.)

We ended up living together for years, and I helped him move to university for his masters. It turned out that we had similar interests and enjoyed similar arguments and enjoyed picking stuff up off one another. He introduced me to all sorts of music, and, a Jew, learned from me to give up ice cream for Lent. (I got more from this friendship than he did.) When a friend's boyfriend moved into town for her, we took him as a roommate, and cut her out when she dumped him two weeks later -- we hardly knew the guy, but she had friends in town, and he didn't. There was the day he yelled at me for suggesting something _he_ did all the time, because it wasn't something _I_ believed in.

Unfortunately, he was killed in a freak car accident, returning from completion of his masters'. That was a long time ago. I've never come close to anything like him.

In your twenties you live with more drama. You're figuring yourself out, you do stupid things, people do stupid things to you. It's easier to see who and what people are, and you need people more to bring you through all the noise. As we age as we figure out our basic choices and move on from there. The drama recedes and the volume goes down. We get more complicated and it becomes harder to read us. Confessions that made sense as we were figuring stuff out start to seem a lot more demonstrative and overwrought. Let's face it, many of us make soul-deadening choices and become much less interesting.

As we "grow up" the stuff that was questioning and exciting starts looking like instability. The raw threads of personality that can be woven into another person get woven up into others and ourselves and tucked out of sight. For lots of people this is actually good, there is less chaos and more enjoyment and more creativity. But it does become harder to make friends.

tldr; Cherish your friends. You can lose them, and they're very hard to replace.

Let's face it, many of us make soul-deadening choices and become much less interesting.

Wonder what could be done to break that vicious cycle

Continuing a ridiculous amount of drama into later life. Strong personalities multiply personality conflicts. If you want a peaceful workplace, most people will have to be much less "interesting".

You can be interesting without forcing your perspective on others. You don't have to tell other people they're wrong in order to tell them how you feel, though it often happens with nerds like us.

If you're really passionate about something and motivated to change the world, and you meet someone passionate and motivated about something that conflicts, there are not many peaceful outcomes. Basically either one person gets steamrolled so bad they have no power left, or one (or both) simply defer to the other.

I still think you can have professional disagreements and make a compromise without being uncourteous and unprofessional. Of course, it's harder when the other party isn't being professional, but it's still possible.

Uh. This nice story got unexpectedly dark. Sorry for your loss, bro.

A while back, I came across this advice below (which could touch a nerve with some of you - because you may reject what it implicitly is saying - that you need to put yourself out there - be willing to be rejected):

"It takes relationships to make relationships. And, in general, to make relationships, you have to allow vulnerability. Vulnerability is the difference between a conversation that starts, "How about this weather we're having?" and a conversation that starts, "Oh my God, let me tell you about how I just fell in a puddle in front of a group of nuns." The former is so boring that it makes listeners want to crawl under a table; the latter creates a spark and a list of follow-up questions. These are two extreme examples, but generally, the more of yourself you put out there, the more others will have to connect with.

As for your list of "nevers": they may feel big to you, but in the scheme of things, they get a shrug. Each of us is on an individual and separately-terrifying trajectory. Ultimately, you are not behind. Self-discovery is vital at any age. A lot of people couple up, get married, and have kids without ever having to look inward. Those are often the people who cave later in life. Get that introspection out of the way now, and you'll set yourself up well for the future — angst-Tumblr or no...

Pursue activities you are passionate about: passion is an attractive quality, and others will pick up on it...

Friendships will be made when your attention is elsewhere."


It's a cynical, 'sharp', critique of 'modern' social struggles; written for people who wish to think of themselves as cynical, sharp and modern. A cookie cutter article describing a very common social ailment (loneliness) in a way that panders to people's sense of self importance and social status.

In reality, to make a friend - you simply need to reflect what you feel honestly in the company of someone else who's doing the same. Do that enough, and soon enough you'll find someone who thinks in a way that meshes well with your own mode of being .. and at the risk of making a NYT journalist's 1000 words redundant, that's actually as difficult as it gets.


I hadn't really ever given this much thought, but now if I categorize the overwhelming majority of my friends, they fall into the following buckets:

High-School Friends (who I still stay in touch with, although only peripherally, as I don't still live where I grew up)

College Friends (which includes a subset of High School friends, who I do a better job of staying in touch with, but who also mostly live back where I went to school)

Work Friends (the overwhelming majority of my friends are people I've worked with at one time or another. Reservations about mixing work with pleasure aside, people in my line of work tend to have a lot in common)

Photography School Friends (I suppose similar to college, but they are more recent, and local. This group is unusual in that the entire class ended up becoming really really close)

For whatever reason, I've never had trouble meeting people. What has proven to be a lot of work is actually committing to spending time with people (as my natural state is to never want to leave the house under any circumstances).

I've found online presence exacerbates that, as it's easy for me to convince myself that I'm being social merely by responding to people's Facebook posts (which doesn't really cut it).


my natural state is to never want to leave the house under any circumstances

Coincidence? :)

The name was suggested to me many many years ago on IRC, but I'm sure it resonated at least partly because of the way I'm wired. ;)

The why is so much more interesting. Part of it is a product of topology, visualize this pattern: home, car, work, car, home. There's not a lot of surface area in there to meet someone. This is a product of America's lack of streets, we have roads not streets. Roads are for cars, streets are for people. Some good reading on this subject is, "The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community", and of course "Streets for People, A Primer for Americans".

"home, car, work, car, home."

This is a problem, that's for sure.

Although I can't count the amount of times I've seen people say it's "creepy" to talk to strangers in the street.

You make friends the same way you meet someone to date - by doing something.

You will not make friends sitting at home. You will not make friends at a bar full of people.

Join a club or sports team. I've met most of my adult friends through ski club trips and sailing teams. Or join a volunteer organization, or attend local meetups, or take a photography/art class.

It is difficult to make friends at work, but not impossible. You have to find common ground outside of work, because no one wants to hang out with people where the only topic of conversation is work. I surf with one guy from my office and ski with a few others.

The friendship is not from the activity - the activity could be solo (like surfing). The friendship comes from the 3 hour car ride up to the mountain you share BSing about stuff. Or hanging out in a bar after racing sailboats with the rest of the crew. Or looking at the surf forecast in the office all day hoping its good that evening.

Somehow the conversation grows from 'what mountains do you like to ski' to 'man I'm having X, Y, Z problems in my life'. That doesn't always happen, but I've probably met 15 people over the last 2 years that I regularly do things with outside of work and I'm actually friends with 3 or 4 of them.

I've long been of the opinion that the decline in local socializing (in the physical realm) is due to the advent of air condition, radio, and later television.

Previously people sat on their porches in the evening to escape the heat of the house and thus saw their neighbors nightly. Now we're all in our climate-controlled cocoons.

After moving to this city a few years ago where we had no friends or family, I just started stopping at neighbor houses when I saw them working on something and offered to help. Establishing this pattern of behavior triggered most of them to do the same not only to me but also to other neighbors and now we have a very tight-knit group of people whose only real initial "shared interest" was physical proximity.

When one of the neighbors was diagnosed with terminal cancer, some of the others were wondering what we could do to help. I suggested we ask him what things he wanted done for his house so that he could not worry about such things and focus on his last months with family. So we spent a lot of summer weekends painting, roofing, doing general house repairs. Along with that his teenage boys got to hang around a group of men in a setting where we would naturally banter and tease without any social climbing or the like. Close to the end of his life my neighbor told several of us that he was happy to know that there were going to be men around his family that would take care of things and serve as role models for his boys. I can't think of anything that would give me more comfort if I was in his position.

So basically, get off your butt in the evenings and walk the neighborhood. Look for someone doing something and offer to help. If nothing else you'll feel good about being able to help someone out and it just may start the chain reaction necessary to build an entirely new social group.

The above comment should be read and thought about a bit.

I wonder how much of the challenge of making friends as an adult varies by the city you live in...

I moved to NYC last year from Rochester, NY and have found that people in NYC are so "busy" all the time that it's much more difficult to make new friends (the recent NY Times article on HN called "The Busy Trap" summed that up perfectly). People in NYC also seem to treat new connections from the perspective of "what can you do to help me advance somehow."

In Rochester, people seem to live more balanced lives (for example, they generally leave work right at 5) and therefore have time to make new connections. They're also less on guard about people, which could have a lot to do with the size of city compared to NYC.

Granted, this is just my observation of the differences between one small/mid size city and a very large one, but anyone else notice this as well?

I completely agree. A lot of this is part of living in NYC as opposed to somewhere else. I lived in LA for 7 years and did not experience the same aversion to making new good friends there. I think there are some missing components to this regarding location and local culture that the author didn't seem to be aware of

This reminds me of a time, last year, when I needed to fill out some paperwork that asked me to list four friends and I couldn't list one (I ended up listing my wife's friends instead).

Sadly, these days, I don't often meet anyone with similar interests. The people who I do meet and find interesting are often female, which leaves me confused about how friendly to get without causing people and my wife to think I am cheating.

This definitely used to be easier.

This is much better than the average lifestyle piece, or at least I guess it is. I couldn't read it - it's too painfully accurate. I'm very sad that our society works this way.

I think I'll go walk the dog.

This is a real problem that should be tackled in itself, rather than suggesting friendmaking as a side effect of joining a class or sports group etc. There's a prevalent view that people don't make friends when older because only children and young adults do that. That's so wrong it's sad, people shouldn't be shy to say they want to make friends. There used to be institutions and venues that made it natural for people to bump onto each other again and again (from the church to the pub to the barber), then modern life, competition and individualistic culture came along and now people only listen to their i-pods. It seems to me that this is a transitory (lonely) period until we find our new social venues.

I think part of what makes it harder to make "true friends" when you're older is that everyone is more independent and it takes a lot of work to get a person to consider you for a true friend.

What I mean is, when you're in high school and college, everything just seems bigger, and any help from anyone counts a lot. Helping someone pass the exams, get a girlfriend, restore their dad's car (which they wrecked :-) can be instant reasons for that person to start considering you a true friend, and that sticks around for a looong time.

When you're an adult, you support yourself, and it takes much more to get to that point: heck, I don't even know what it would take to make a best friend - help him/her get out of jail, get a green card, buy a house or something?

Everything else are just little things that don't count for much in the minds of most adults...

I wasn't very good at making friends as a kid or a college student. I think some combination of my natural introversion and moving 50+ times before graduating high school combined such that I never really learned how to move a relationship from "acquaintance" to "real friend". Adding in "real life" (eg jobs, significant others, children, etc) makes it just that much worse.

Social networks have actually made things worse for me. It is a constant reminder that other people manage to have these close relationships and I'm on the outside looking in.

I'm still looking for the "make a friend" startup that actually works. :)

Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra. - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darmok

Do things that challenge you with other people, and you'll have no trouble making friends. Play it safe, and friends will be hard to come by.

Sorry, I don't agree with the premise of this piece. I'm finding it easier to make connections and friends since I've left school and the place I grew up. Are these BFF-type connections? Not yet since they haven't had the time to really flourish. But with time, I anticipate they will since we share common goals & interests. When you're in your teens/early 20's, you're at the mercy of a small pool of individuals (classmates, neighbors, people in town) that you may have absolutely nothing in common with other than sharing the same space or a passing interest in the same music, tv show etc. These passing commonalities aren't indicative of a friendship that will last.

Maybe I've just always been pickier about who I've associated with. I don't know.

I also think it's got the vibe of one of those pieces that make you feel guilty for getting older, i.e. the nonsense of entrepreneurial "peak ages"

There's definitely an inverse effect in the "when you grow up, move out, and search around on the Internet, you'll find Your People" phenomenon. Not sure that's exactly what you're referring to, so maybe there's a third one.

Do note: the article provides several anecdotes to your one. :)

Wasn't there a movie with Paul Rudd based on this premise?

"I Love You, Man." Good movie.

Yeah, and it's pretty good. We should grab a beer and watch it sometime.

I have been thinking about this as well. I often wonder that it is not only my friends that I got pickier, as the article suggests, but I also changed, became more withdrawn, more introverted, and thus maybe less fun to be around.

Then of course there is the problem of time. That coupled with priorities, make it very hard to balance friends with family with career. After having children, I just want to spend more time with them than making friends, even though I might say that "yes, having more and better friends would be nice" my daily actions and attitudes probably don't reflect that.

I have also realized that being friends with co-workers doesn't work. They switch jobs or there is often competition for the same bonus pool, same cool projects and this turns things sour

The article is spot-on, but I'd boil it down another way: relationships are investments. Investments in time, emotional availability, mental state, etc. And financial, depending on the circle you run in.

When we're young, we have things like time and emotional state and such available in quantity, so we can form those relationships. As we get older, those things start to dwindle in supply. As such, our mental ROI for relationships formed later in life needs to be higher in order for us to make that investment.

I'm much more interested in quality relationships now than I was in my younger days. Quantity is easy to come by, but the really great ones are just harder to come by nowadays.

I know this answer might get looked down on here, but I've made a few good friends thanks to FB. The OP is right that it's harder to make commitments to new friendships...and that starting step is so energy-demanding that you'll more often than not skip it as an adult. But FB allows for some low-energy engagement...this often leads to shallow acts of friendship but allows you to passively attract acquaintances who share the same interests without you having to call them...because when would you ever just call up an acquaintance to find out more about them?

If passively sharing engagement with people who share similar interests is the only point, I think HN is the logical conclusion down that road of thought.

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