Making friends isn’t an easy or mechanical process

Okay several weeks ago, I told you I was going to compare finding friendship to a salesperson generating leads. But when I sat down to write this, I realized I knew nothing about sales except what I learned from Alec Baldwin’s speech in Glengarry Glen Ross, and I remembered that that movie is literally about how hard it is to find good leads.

But I’m gonna attempt to make this work anyway.

I think it’s helpful here to talk about what a social opportunity is. Basically, when I talk about social opportunities I’m talking about any window or doorway that’ll lead you into a situation where friendships are being actively formed. Basically, there are places in this world where almost nobody is making friends. People aren’t making friends on the bus. They’re not making friends at protests. They’re not making friends in cafes. By and large, they’re not making in bars. They’re not making them in most meetup groups and in most workplaces.

And then there’re places where friendships do get formed: parties, conventions, some volunteer groups and jobs, some bars and cafes, concerts and festivals, classes, and many, many other far-less-formal groupings of people. Some of these places are free for anybody to enter, while others require permission.

The frustrating about my advice, I think, is that I can’t just sit down and tell you, “Go to this club” or “Check out this website” and mechanically follow these three steps, over and over again, and you’ll find friends. Because the truth is that finding friends isn’t like finding a romantic partner.

What I mean is that the internet has revolutionized the way lonely and/or awkward people find romance. You can go onto Tinder or Hinge or OKCupid or Match and just grind through your matches, following a few techniques to optimize your profile and your messaging style, and eventually you’ll probably find the love of your life (this is what I did to find Rachel, btw). I mean it’s not guaranteed to work, but if someone came to me wanting advice on how to find love, that’s what I’d tell them, because the alternative (developing the real-life ability to flirt, make good impressions, and approach the people you’re attracted to) is a very difficult thing to teach.

However I do not believe (and I am welcome to be proven wrong here) that finding real-life friends on the internet is a particularly simple or mechanical process. Can it be done? Yes. Of course. I know many people whose entire social life came from the seed of internet friendships. For myself, the internet has proven to be an invaluable tool in meeting some of my friends and in maintaining most of my relationships. Almost everybody all my friends in the young adult writing world started from a single: “Hey, anyone out there in SF or Oakland want to hang out?” tweet.

So it can definitely work.

Buuuuut…it’s not simple. There are caveats here. If you’re interested mainly in bonding over geeky or fannish activities, then you’d be a fool to not get involved in online fandom. The main source of entré into many occupational, hobby, or sexual fetish circles is also likely to come from involvement in online activities.

General Principle #3 — Making friends is not a mechanical or simple process, it requires you to build up a complex set of real-life skills.

Okay, so to get back to the main topic, which is generating social leads when you don’t have any, I’m gonna say this is one of the two hardest things for a lonely person to do (the other is turning a casual acquaintance into a close friend), and you’re going to run into a lot of failure here.

What I’m going to talk about in my next post is something that I think will crop up a lot in this series, which is the concept of “includers.” When you drill down deep into most peoples’ adult social lives, you will frequently find that, at their core, there is or was an includer.

But more on that tomorrow.

2 thoughts on “Making friends isn’t an easy or mechanical process

  1. the20somethingexistentialcrisis

    I’ve never looked at friends as sales leads — I’ve always looked at them as investments.

    Like, you have potential investments when you first meet someone — you check and make sure there is a good return value and then you can start pouring resources (time, energy, love) into the person, and get that in return. It’s a bad investment when the person doesn’t reciprocate — flaky, mean, jealous, petty, unstable.

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      Well the reason I refer to them as leads is because each friend is a potential opening into a new social circle and possibly a new life. Often a person can be potentially a good friend, but the thing they lead to isn’t exactly what you want.

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