It’s hard to recognise just how profoundly our friendships shape our lives.
As we’ve reported before:
Unfortunately, making new friends was much easier in grade school, high school, or college. Once we make it out into the adult world, it gets harder to befriend like-minded folks.
What’s fascinating is why that disconnect happens. Since the 1950s, sociologists have identified three factors that need to be in place for friendships to take hold.
• Proximity: You’re around each other regularly.
• Unplanned interactions: You see each other even without putting an appointment on a calendar.
• Privacy: You’re in a space where you can exchange confidences.
It’s hard to get all three.
Each has its own difficulties:
• Proximity is tough because we’re increasingly isolated from one another, often thanks to something as simple as geography. If two hip young New Yorkers live in East Harlem and Crown Heights, Brooklyn, it’s going to be a major schlep for them to hang out, no matter how good the banter is.
• Unplanned interactions are hard to come by since we’re all so insanely busy. It feels kind of ridiculous to book a beer with your buddy three weeks in advance; all that deliberation takes some happy out of the happy hour.
• Privacy can be impossible to find in the place where most adults spend their time: work. If your desk is in the middle of an open office, then it’s going to be tougher to form social bonds. As “Quiet” author Susan Cain told us, people use the “exchange of confidences” as a “currency” when they’re first starting to form friendships, and they will be less likely to do so when 20 other people can overhear their every word.
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