Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

Post-college: changing nature of friend interactions

19 Post author: calcsam 09 January 2013 10:26PM

As a working professional a couple of years out college, I’ve been noticing how interactions with my friends has changed since the beginning of college – and especially since graduation.

 In college, my social groups typically formed around groups with common meeting places -- freshman dorm, newspaper, church, “draw group” (essentially a group of friends that ‘draw’ into the same dorm).

Because there was a common space where everyone could hang out, everyone else felt comfortable just showing up (at least at designated times), and so there were always people to talk to. No-permission-required-meeting was a self-sustaining norm.

With jobs and schedules, we shift to a permission-required-meeting-situation – you don’t just show up at your friend’s house, we say “Hey, what’s a good time to meet up?”

This adds an additional barrier to meeting, and so that happen less often.

People usually realize this at some level, and employ a variety of ad-hoc strategies to counteract this. These are usually well-deployed in our professional lives, but in our personal lives, there are some complications, and usually room for improvement.

  • Group meetings. There are 10 connections between five people, as opposed to one connection between two people. But generally – assuming people share fairly common schedules – it will take less than 10x initiative to get five people together as two

Disadvantage: Often most of our close friends don’t form groups. Only a small subset of mine does.  

  • Non-face-to-face communication. Christmas cards are a time-honored way of doing this. E-mail, like mail, is a no-permission-required system. Every year, I send out a general Life Update email to my old and current friends and family. My friends and I more frequently email each other interesting links. When I read something cool online, I often think “who could I send this to?”

  Disadvantage: for most people, compared to face-to-face interaction, it’s not the same.

  • Scheduling regular meetings: I live in CA and my girlfriend lives in NY, so for the last five months we have set aside 10am PST / 1pm EST to talk every weekday. For the last 8 months, I have met my friend Caleb* have weekly 1-to-2 hour meetings on Sunday mornings where we discuss how the last week went and make goals for the next week. We plan for every week, or day, and it happens 60-80% of the time.

 Disadvantage: The well-known “my schedule is too full to see you” is illuminated by analogy. In The Road to Serfdom (1944), economist FA Hayek discussed the politics of price and wage controls. These policies would shelter one particular group, he wrote, but at the risk of leaving everyone else out in the cold, and now slightly colder.[1]

Something similar happens with planning one’s schedule. Perhaps because I’m busy with the above and additional planned activities with my other friends, I don’t see my friend Christine* enough, and I rarely talk to my college friends Lina* and Maya* anymore

So Christine and I have decided to go running every Tuesday evening after work. Sure, I’ll be even more scheduled, and less likely to meet new, interesting people outside of my designated “meet new people” events.

But at least I’ll get some exercise.  

Commenters: really curious to hear additional tactics, improvements, or experiences!

*Names changed.



[1] Hayek warned that in this situation, each group would increase its clamor to be “let in,” but granting each seemingly-reasonable demand would lead one step closer to a planned economy. Meanwhile, the most vulnerable but ill-connected or ill-organized groups, such as immigrants or the non-unionized-working class, would be left largely out in the cold. 

Comments (8)

Comment author: drethelin 09 January 2013 10:58:50PM 11 points [-]

the best solution in my experience is to adopt or recreate common meeting places. I've met more awesome people at my friends' place because they deliberately welcome visitors and people to hang out who they like and are awesome, and it's a totally low pressure, fun environment. Not everyone is comfortable creating this kind of environment in their home but it works really well if you are, from what I've seen

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 10 January 2013 09:22:54AM 18 points [-]

Supposedly sociologists think there are three conditions necessary for making new friends: "proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other" (source).

Comment author: palladias 10 January 2013 06:00:41AM 6 points [-]

With individuals, I set up recurring commitments (i.e. dinner on the first Sunday of every month). If something comes up, we reschedule to a specific time, but otherwise that's the default.

To see everyone, I run a theatre outings listserv that anyone can suggest events to, and I regularly organize outings (or installments of the Sondheim Film Festival) and bake to sweeten the deal. Having content-oriented event makes it easier for new people to be integrated into the group, since they have some shared thing to talk about in a way they don't at generic parties.

Comment author: palladias 10 January 2013 04:36:14PM 1 point [-]

For more far flung people, we've done Google Hangouts linked to specific events (i.e. kibitzing after the VP debate). Pegging it to a specific event means we have something to talk about and that everyone is willing to accommodate a specific day, instead of dithering forever about the optimal time. After a bit of discussion, we usually end up generally hanging out and giving updates on our lives.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 09 January 2013 11:30:17PM 4 points [-]

BTW, your footnote links are broken.

Comment author: maia 10 January 2013 11:50:41PM 2 points [-]

The New York group seems to have done this by recreating a college-like environment, i.e., setting up a group house where they live with people they like. This seems like a really good way to do it, if you can find the right people.

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 10 January 2013 03:24:01PM 2 points [-]

As a parent, the playground works to some extent.

Comment author: David_Gerard 10 January 2013 02:51:12PM 1 point [-]

In practice I've been recreating these on Twitter and Facebook. This lacks a certain something, of course, but not everything.