We’re all Bart Simpson when it comes to friends

Jonah Hall:

How does friendship impact your life?  What kinds of friends do you have?  I think this would be perfect to discuss as a thread.  Feel free to forward this and reply to me.  I’ll compile it all and send it back to you if interested.


Lyon Keating:

I’ve been meaning to get back to you for some time about this article.  It was really good and actually sparked an awesome conversation among my family during Thanksgiving.  I, as always, have something to say about it.

I agree with Aristotle’s basic description of why we have friends (useful contacts, drinking buddies, and friends with similar virtues).  I always like to quote Bart Simpson when it comes to his friendship with Milhouse…”Milhouse, my best friend due to geographical convenience.”  I think this is the most important element of how we keep and maintain friends.  When we were little we had so many friends because we had so much free time, which is a whole other story, and could simply walk outside to knock on their door.  Playing and bonding with friends was what was in front of us at most hours of the day so if we didn’t partake we would be ignoring what was right in front of us.  It’s not too terribly different than how it is today.  If you live within 5 to 10 minutes of friends you will see them often, if not, you won’t and things can casually fade.  However with the really good friends you had in your life those will never fade.  Anything over about a fifteen to twenty minute drive usually goes in the can “as too much of a hassle” and being comfortable in your own dwellings often overrides the urge to see friends.  It’s one of the reasons that I crave, love, need to live in a community like the mission district with public transportation.  Public transportation takes the pain out of driving somewhere and a community like the mission where it is walkable makes it so you can enjoy the company, the friends, the community of people around you leisurely and with much less stress and time demands.  I know how I get along with many others when they don’t live in a community as such.  Usually it translates into not hanging out or staying at home because it is just too much work to go out to see friends.

Also as I mentioned above, as you age you have less free time.  If you have kids, forget it, if you have a girlfriend (even one that isn’t demanding) that’s going to cut majorly into your free “friend” time.  People get busy, people get caught up in their lives, something’s got to give.  We all can’t have a million friends around us at every moment so we usually resort to have 1 to 5 good friends that we see on a casual basis.  It’s hard for people to not give into the work work work mentality and expectations of getting older and having more responsibility.  The way I see it, though, is that you have to cut yourself off from this mentality at some point and remember to have at least some free time that isn’t involved in significant others, sleeping, working, working out, etc.  Pursuing friends, spontaniety, and free time will make you a better, more relaxed, balanced person in the long run.

The other part of this too is that people often don’t give the energy back in friendships that you give to them.  How many times have I set aside time to hang out with people and/or try to improve my friendships with someone and I get flaked on?  It happens a lot and the end result is usually something along the lines of “well, I’m just going to do my own thing then.”  This is fine and all but with everyone doing their own thing then it makes it even harder to have friends because the off chance that you have free time and somebody else does at the same time is very rare…The other side of this too is that if somebody already has five or so good, casual friends that they see then they don’t need more friends.  When making friends it has to be lucky as well.  Does this person have room in their life for another person?  There’s been many times where I’ve not pursued friends due to already having enough to do and there have been times when I’ve wondered why such and such wouldn’t hang out with me.  It gets harder to find these little niches where the time is appropriate for people to actually have a friendship, and many times it leads to people just giving up because it is too much work.

And this is where facebook comes into play.  It is so easy and you can log on to see your friends at any time.  You don’t have to worry about all the complications associated with where people live, what they’re schedules are, or even seeing them.  You can plug away at your online friendship on your terms and time, find out all the gossip and chat and make it seem like you’re caught up in someone’s life.  It’s so CONVENIENT!!!  And represents very well the modern age in how technology supposedly makes things easier and more manageable.  Plus, facebook is sort of like a bulletin board for events.  You can go here and hang out with this person on this day, or here to hang out with such and such on this day.  It really can lead to more opportunities to hang out and see real friends you know on a face to face level.  I use facebook and it is great.  The problem is that people end up only relying on facebook for their social contacts and get wrapped up in only communicating via facebook.  They morph into this surface level person and project themselves into this online world where people are judged and communicated with and pursued based on the amount of “pokes” they do, or pictures they put up, or “status updates” they let others see.  Most people are like this and it’s utterly disgusting.  I feel this way a lot when I allow myself to peruse too much on facebook.  I get all weird feeling and wonder why I’m checking out my sister’s husband’s best friend’s page.  At this point, I usually log out and not log on again for a week or two.

There’s a hierarchy of communication that people adhere too and this is what’s getting screwed up in modern times.  My hierarchy is face to face, phone call, email, then text, then social networking sites like facebook.  Many people would put these things in the exact opposite order and this is where the world is heading I’m afraid.

I thought it was interesting how the article claimed that women are better at friendships.  I’ve always felt the opposite.  I think women are better at figuring out social skills, personal skills and the technology tools used in the modern world in order to get what they want but actually getting along with people is a different story.  Most guys I know don’t have a problem going out in groups or throwing one back or just having a good time.  It’s the women who can’t do this.  Women have a much more adherence to having things a particular way or wondering why somebody looked at them a certain way and/or have problems with not being in control.  There is a reason why many women I know hang out with groups of guys because women can be tough crowd to get along with.  I know many groups of guys that get along great and among the many women I know, I know very few groups of girls that actually hang out and stay friends and not resort to extremely caddy behavior.  Many of them stop being friends with each other over the stupidest reasons whereas I feel guys just let things rub off their shoulders more and move on.  Guys are more blunt, girls are more passive and passive aggressiveness will work in the short term but most of the time produce a horrible situation that will make you come crashing down in the end.  Maybe women don’t have as many outlets as men in society to hang out and appreciate each others company (I’m thinking sports as an example).    Maybe I’m wrong but all my experiences have led me to believe that this article is completely wrong when asserting that guys are worse at making friends and keeping them than women.

The idea of marrying your best friend is something that I also think has spiraled out of control.  Yes, I will agree that for those very few couples that I see where it is clear that they are each other’s best friends and go around with each other and do everything together, it is truly one of the most special and unique things I’ve ever seen.  I cherish it and would love for it to happen to me, however, like I said it’s extraordinarily unique.  Most people try their hardest to force this to happen and believe that if we are each others best friends then we shouldn’t have to hang out with others.  Why would you ever want to hang out without me?  Or have friends without me?  This expectation is put upon modern relationships and it’s what kills them.  Fifty percent of people get divorced but how many of those marriages might have been okay if people let one another breath and allow for different outlets maybe found through friends to balance out their lives?  Maybe not as many as I think, but most people don’t have this best friend relationship with their significant other and NEED other things.  Everyone knows what they need and when they don’t get it, it only creeps down somewhere else to grow bigger and bigger.  It will bite you in the end and the longer you let it fester and kid yourself that you don’t need friends due to already having your bff then it seems it’s just setting yourself up for a huge breakdown.  Just look at the divorce statistics.

I do feel that the article is correct when asserting that friends are mirrors of ourselves.  When you’re around friends (good ones) they can question you, help you, be an ear, a mouth, provide an insightful comment, provide an incredibly stupid comment making you feel better about yourself, make you laugh, etc.  Having friends and being able to spend time with them has a direct correlation to your health and well being.  The moment you give up on making friends or don’t try is the moment that you’re dying a little more.  Just look at it this way, if nobody is around that knows you and you die then did you ever really exist?  For those of us who have public speaking problems, which is probably most, it’s a lot like raising your hand in class.  You would probably just like to sit there, not talk, and let others do it for you, but you have to try.  You have to force yourself to raise your hand sometimes and feel nervous and like whatever it is your saying is stupid and fumbled words, etc.  Yes it happens at times, but nobody ever really thinks whoever speaks up in class really sounds like an idiot.  They admire you and react to what you say and in the end it gets easier to raise your hand because you have more confidence.  Pretty soon you don’t mind talking to your teacher, your peers in class, and in the end in relates to talking to your neighbor, maybe people you meet on the street or in bars or other social dwellings.  The point is that talking to one another produces friends and having friends and allowing yourself the free time to make new friends as you get older can’t be overvalued enough.


Jonah Hall:

Good to talk today, Lyon.  I like your in-depth response, and I agree with much of what you say.  You made me laugh a few times as well (facebook overload).  I think we’re still communicating and have developed into friends because of the talking factor.  We sort of struck on random conversations during the program, and then shared interests and the fact that we don’t flake out have kept us in touch.  Tennis, baseball, substituting, taking over classes and temporarily becoming permanent teachers, relationships, and everything else.  The combination of shared interests and the ability to just talk and joke and be comfortable around each other means that I want to hang out with you!  You’ve also helped me out a few times when I’ve needed it with the airport and such.  That means a lot as well.

I agree that facebook moderation is important and I get a similar feeling when I’m around facebook-obsessed folks.  My girlfriend’s relationship to facebook has changed over the last few years, as more and more of her old friends who she used to be close with are active and that keeps her connected to her NYC past and other close friends.  She constantly communicates about getting together or going to the gym on facebook.

I appreciate facebook, but most of my old friends don’t use it much, and only a few of my newer friends are really active.  I think guys probably tend to use it less, and I think my old male friends tend to be all about convenience, as you said.  Maybe women are better about keeping in touch, but also hold onto grudges longer.

I have always had problems wanting casual friends.  I can enjoy a party from time to time, but I tend to like smaller groups.  Anything more than like 6 people, and it feels big to me.  Maybe that’s just what I’m used to.  I have a mom who was often on the phone with her friends, but didn’t like big parties.  I have a brother who is very internal, and not very social.  I like being social, often more than my girlfriend, but the busier teaching gets the more it’s nice not to have to make the effort except on the weekends.

Within the last few months, my girlfriend and I have made friends with a couple, really for the first time.  It’s hard to find other long-term couples (they don’t go out as much, like you said) and it can be hard to find people who we both like to be around.  We feel lucky that it’s worked out.  We met them at a wedding for a guy who I barely talk to anymore, and who is all about convenience.  He moved to Pleasant Hill (he used to live on California and 26th) and I was invited to his wedding and decided it might be fun.  It was all the way out in Chico, and we decided not to stay over there, so we pretty much drove all day to go and then come back, but it turns out we made some real friends by going.  We share a love of baseball, dogs, teaching, and generally just thinking about things.  It’s been great to stumble across some new people.  Unfortunately they live in Berkeley.  We’ll see how often we can keep connecting.  Going back to another point you made about the luck factor, it helps that many of these people’s friends don’t live nearby.  He’s been more willing to come out of his way to hang out,and we love Berkeley, so it’s a good excuse to head over the bridge.  Of course it is work.  We got stuck on Sunday heading across the bridge in the rain, and it took almost an hour and a half door to door.

Anyway, see you tomorrow, my friend.


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