[Rant/Disc/maybe adv] Social Frustration

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Post by The Wisp on Sat Jul 25, 2015 11:46 pm

[Note: Maybe I'm being paranoid, but to head off possible misinterpretations, this post is not referring to any of the stuff I talked about here.]

I've been feeling a bit depressed lately about my social and dating prospects. I recently deleted my OkCupid profile because I was sick of seeing the same 20 or so women over and over, half of whom I'm incompatible with and half of whom I messaged like 6 months ago and never got a response from. The 15 minute crush I had with a woman in a class I has faded as quickly as it had come. Over the summer, I've gone to some social events through my friend A, which have been fun, but haven't done anything to lead to the strong social connections I still want. I don't really have much in common with his other friends, and he's a socially busy person and so it's hard to find one-on-one time to hang out with him (and he's currently on a three week trip to a third-world country and has no access to electronic communication in that time). I'm less optimistic that I'll forge a deeper connection with him at this point, which is fine in the context of our individual friendship but disappointing to me at the meta level of my entire social life (or lack there of). I've also been doing DnD with my brother and some of his friends which, like with A's events, is fun, but there doesn't seem to be any prospect for deeper connection.

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy that these social things are happening, but they still are lacking that deeper social connection I want and don't seem like they will provide it in the future.

And now, I came upon this old post by Scott Alexander at Slate Star Codex (yes, I know you all don't like him, but this piece isn't related to feminism or anything). This quote, in particular, pinged a lot of envy and jealousy in me:

Scott Alexander wrote:In much the same way, I used to think I disliked social interaction. I have since realized – and it blew my mind – that I only disliked social interaction with people who aren’t awesome.

I am leaving California tomorrow for the Midwest, where I have a four-year residency in one of the local hospitals. In a life that has seen more than its share of leaving places to go to other places, I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so reluctant to move on.

People in the Bay Area get it...

...I was privileged to experience a bubble within a bubble, the meta-bubble being the Bay Area “rationalist community”, ie a bunch of people who met through Less Wrong, the Machine Intelligence Research Institute, and the Center for Applied Rationality. One of my thoughts in designing Raikoth and other constructed societies is that if you collect nice people beyond a certain concentration it has unexpected emergent effects based on everyone suddenly realizing they can trust everyone else and voluntarily abandoning some of their hang-ups and defense mechanisms. That is exactly what happened in the Bay Area sometime before I moved there.

He goes on to gush about how awesome and liberating and comfortable the community is for him and thanks a bunch of people.

It also reminded me of a post by Clarisse Thorn I read a few years back that provoked a similar feeling (though I couldn't find it just now) where she talked about being a lonely bookworm who mostly played online games in high school, who then found fellow geeks like her in college and it was a social awakening for here. She's also wrote about how well she connects with and fits into social justice activist communities she's apart of.

Both also describe finally being able to date in these communities, and relatively easily, after a long period of not dating at all before they found the communities.

And yeah, I'm really jealous and envious of these two people. When they describe themselves before they found their communities, they sound a lot like me: socially anxious and awkward, introverted, never really connecting strongly with people. And yet, what they describe when they find their communities sounds like it's something that's straight out of my most over-the-top daydreams.

I get that these communities probably aren't as perfect and awesome as these people say they are. These people fit into them extremely well, so of course they will be biased towards the positive aspects. And I get, of course, that they probably don't connect with everybody or even most of the people in these communities.

It's not that I want to be apart of these specific communities: there are good reasons why I'm not a social justice activist or the "rationalist" movement. And while I have some pleasant interactions with college capital-G Geeks, like my brother's friends, there's no deeper connection there.

But, that gets at the problem, in a way. I don't know where I can fit in enough that I can be really comfortable as myself and forge deeper connections, and I'm not even sure I would know what such a place would look like even if it was right in front of me. It seems like Clarisse Thorn at least sort of knew what kind of people she would mesh with, but didn't realize so many people like that existed, while Scott Alexander just stumbled upon his community by accident.

I feel like I am just too weird of a person to strongly fit in anywhere. I'm not weird in the sense that any one personality trait or interest of mine is remarkable, but rather that I have a weird combination of them that makes me feel a degree of alienation no matter where I go. To use the already stated examples: there are many aspects of the interpersonal social values and subculture of both social justice activist communities and "rationalist" communities (at least, the ones described) that seem really awesome to me. But, then there's a lot of stuff that just really turns me off. The rationalist community has some weird creepy pseudo-cultish tendencies (though calling them a full blown cult is definitely too strong) and a bunch of weird philosophical and futurist beliefs. As for social justice activists, I am definitely not an activist in terms of personality type in any way shape or form, and I am actually triggered by certain aspects of left-wing politics. For the capital-G Geeks like Clarisse Thorn was talking about, I share some interests, to be sure, but I don't have the same degree of obsession or enthusiasm that people like my brother's friends do, and besides there's no interpersonal spark between our personalities that would lead to a stronger connection.

The school therapist I saw for a couple months (who I may start seeing for therapy again once the new semester starts, actually) said that it is always easier to focus on the differences between me and other people rather than the similarities, and that maybe connection would be easier if I just focused on the similarities. Maybe. I sometimes fear that this is what I'm doing, but I'm not sure I believe it. The reason is that there are definitely situations where I really really wanted to connect with people (like A's friends, for instance, and even A himself to a lesser degree) and it just didn't happen, or didn't happen to the degree I had hoped, and also because familiarity with people doesn't actually make this sense of difference go away. It often worsens that feeling, in fact.

And then, I worry that maybe there's just some subtle aspect of my personality so deeply entrenched, some sort of attachment issues or something, that means I'll never not feel a degree of alienation from other people and will never feel fully connected to other people, which is terrifying. I don't know what it's like to not feel some alienation and distance from other people.

I know I've brought this up before in different ways, but I really needed to just get this out there. I'd also be curious if anybody else can relate and if they ever overcame this alienated feeling (or not).
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Post by Guest on Sun Jul 26, 2015 2:39 am

I'd also be curious if anybody else can relate and if they ever overcame this alienated feeling (or not).

I can relate to the extent that I also feel like there are some really obscure aspects of the self that I'm unaware of and don't understand, and hence won't be able to effectively communicate that to someone who may be qualified to help.

Overcome? Hah..

How do you overcome something that seems to be beyond your understanding? I mean, aren't there people who do everything right on paper and still feel isolated?

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Post by celette482 on Sun Jul 26, 2015 8:42 am

Ah. High school.

Seriously. I don't mean that in a "everyone was awkward in high school and so was I" way. I had very close friends up to 9th grade... who then both, and at different times, moved to Kansas (to different cities, I might add- I had always sort of thought Kansas was a myth to fill in the middle bits, but there ya go)

I went to a k-12 school, and had been there for the long-haul, and frankly, I *knew* everyone. If I hadn't already been friends/friendly with people, there was no way I was going to be, because I *knew* exactly why I didn't like them- I had real experience. High school for me wasn't some dramatic, hormone crazed nightmare. I felt very much like an anthropologist. I might have thought I was better than everyone else, but mainly all I could feel was how incredibly Other their experiences were compared to mine.

So I figure, hey I'll just wait to go to college, it'll all work out. Ha. Not so much.

Well, first of all, I didn't actually know how to make friends, because I'd never actually had to do it? Second, I didn't know who/what I was or what I liked, because I'd basically just coasted through the last 3 years of high school (very little social interaction, very little non-school interests, basically I got up, went to school, did my homework, went to bed, for 3 years- did wonders for my grades though.)

So here I was, in college where everyone was supposed to be smart like me and where friends are made (The best years of your life!!!!!) and everyone seemed to have something not quite... me about them. I was looking for my people and that group partied to hard and that group spent their free time getting into in-depth discussions of Systematic Theology and that group was obsessed with the guys of that frat and those people spent all their time in the lab and those people smoked pot and sat around discussing "the meaning of life, you know? It's deep."

And none of them were *my* people and I always felt like I was standing on the outside, observing, or looking in the window like Peter Pan, watching a life I'd never get to be a part of.

But there were things I liked about each group too. Yeah, they all had negatives, but some of them had positives. And then I started noticing that some members of groups knew members of OTHER groups, and there were these group-connections that weren't immediately obvious. And then I realized what maybe they all already knew: no one group, or individual, could offer me *everything* I was looking for in a friend/connection. So I started showing up based on my mood. And I developed friendships, particularly with people who had inter-group connections, and those friendships grew into things that existed independent of the group. And some groups I fell away from completely because the negatives outweighed the positives. And I finally figured out that the reason I'd felt so alienated is that I AM alienated. No one perfectly matches my inner world. But there are a lot of people who mirror one part or another of that world.
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Post by Enail on Sun Jul 26, 2015 11:48 am

I can relate.  While I talk about having "found my people," that's sort of a shortcut term and not actually very accurate. I don't fit very well into any one community - I actually suspect it's a bit of a personality trait of mine to not fit. I doubt I ever will find one perfect place where every aspect of me slides easily into the norms of a large group.

What I have found is groups that meet certain minimal criteria for me to feel reasonably comfortable and appropriate being myself (things like it's okay to sound smart, creative projects are seen as a worthwhile pursuit, my sense of humour works reasonably well, not heavy on wild partying etc.). Groups that I can function in rather than groups I totally fit in. And by seeking out situations that attract those groups, I can have a decent chance of finding individual people who mesh well with me even if I don't fit fully into the group.  

I've also found that sometimes people who I don't quickly click with or feel like I have a lot in common with (but who do meet most of the minimal group criteria), can turn out to be good friends in the long run. A friend of mine that's probably the friend I'd be the most likely to talk to about deep feelingsy stuff, I met her at an activity group where I felt like I didn't have much in common with anyone, everyone was older than me and seemed sort of serious and had different taste in books, movies and pretty much everything from me, and she was actually the most not in common with me, but spending time together over a long stretch, we became friends somehow anyway. Close friendship sometimes happens very slowly, and without any kind of obvious click or belonging.
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Post by reboot on Sun Jul 26, 2015 1:04 pm

I think people finding one community that they click 100% with is rare unless you define the community very broadly (e.g. liberal in AZ, geek in college). I would bet that neither Alexander not Thorne was close to and clicked with everyone to the same degree in their communities and they both probably felt closer to some subcommunities than others.

I make friends easily and most people like me right off the bat, but I have never been in one group where I was close to everyone. Usually I would end up close to a handful of people and the rest I would chat with when I saw them but neither of us went out of our way to see each other. I would have a handful of friends in a bunch of different social circles because I have a bunch of different things I like to do and different groups suit my moods. Sometimes I want a paint this town red and puke all over it night and sometimes I want chill out and watch movies/play games. Different friends fit those experiences and trying to get people that are wired one way to do something counter to their personality never ends well, so it is best to seek different people.

Also, it is extremely rare to be able to have all the people you like like each other. Usually people can mix subsets of friends, but never all friends, so you automatically end up with different communities. I have close friends who have never and will never meet each other until my funeral because I know they would hate each other.
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Post by readertorider on Sun Jul 26, 2015 3:30 pm

I always felt like I knew bubbles of people in college--the people I lived with, the people in my <hobby> club, the people in my <sporty> club, the people in my project team, connections from classes, my volunteer group, the guys I hung out with on Friday nights, etc.--and these bubbles would grow or split or bump into other bubbles and stick or already be overlapping with another bubble I hadn't realized existed. And many of the bubbles seemed to be living in completely different mediums and likely to explode if they ever interacted. People liked to say that at <college> there were 2, not 6, nodes between the students, but that's not to say that out of every 3 people two would get along.

Because my school was relatively large, I did eventually meet a bubble where it felt like I was surrounded by (slightly different) reflections of myself. Certain parts of that were awesome, but for whatever reason I didn't become very emotionally attached to that group as to some of my other friend groups that I stumbled upon from assigned housing or random intro classes. Maybe it was because our friend groups were less fluid at that point, but I felt in a very isolated bubble there and rather redundant.

Basically I agree with everyone here that you find groups and some groups work out and some don't and most aren't exactly what you're looking for, but they work for you at different times and fulfill different needs. I do think though that finding people who are very close to you (in ideas/hobbies/experiences/appearance/whatever) isn't all it's cracked up to be after a certain point.
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Post by The Wisp on Sun Jul 26, 2015 3:49 pm

I can relate to the extent that I also feel like there are some really obscure aspects of the self that I'm unaware of and don't understand, and hence won't be able to effectively communicate that to someone who may be qualified to help.

This, exactly, is part of how I feel. I never feel like I can fully communicate myself to my therapists.

@celette: Oh man, sounds like we had very similar high school experiences. I had some friends in middle school, though in hindsight I don't think I actually like most of them as much as I thought I did, but I ended up going to a different high school than them. And I didn't really have many interests besides basically academics, surfing the web, and the occasional single-player video game.

What I'm getting from you all is that you found individuals within groups who you connect with, and that nobody will be everything to you. I get that. I guess I don't even feel like I can find those individual people. I definitely have activity friends: I talk philosophy with A and I play DnD and the occasional party video game with my brother's friends. But those connections don't run deep. I think I know how to build activity friendships at this point. But I don't have much of a desire for that and my needs in that area are pretty much met at this point.

I just always feel like I have to devote a great deal of mental energy towards censoring myself and controlling myself during social interactions to make them work, and I want to find people where I don't have to do that. I also don't have anybody that I connect with on a level where I feel like I would maintain much of a connection with them if I moved cross-country. Nor do I have people where I feel comfortable being very vulnerable with and giving and receiving emotional support. I get that I can't expect to find a group of people who are all like that, but I'm not even sure where I could go where I'd have a reasonable chance of finding one person who I connect with on the level I want to.
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Post by reboot on Sun Jul 26, 2015 3:56 pm

Deeper friendship grows slow and takes cultivation. Most of my closest friends started off as someone I chatted with at work/in class, activity partners, friends of friends, etc. and then the friendship grew from that point over time. It would be something like one out of every 50 or 100 people I got to know a little bit. It definitely requires work if building friendships does not come naturally to you.
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Post by celette482 on Sun Jul 26, 2015 4:42 pm

Reboot is right. It can take time.

Also, my closest friend is someone who is younger than me, who I started mentoring. We're now much more like equals, but that giving more of myself than I expected to receive in return was key to forming it.
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Post by jcorozza on Sun Jul 26, 2015 10:33 pm

This sounds weird, but something that really helped me pinpoint what made me feel alienated from a lot of people during my life (some periods more than others - college was rough most of the time) was figuring out that I have the least common Myers-Briggs personality type. So there are literally less people like me out there. On the other hand, I also found out what "type" I clicked best with (which matched exactly the type of my exes, and of guys I tend to find attractive). It also clued me in to why I might not get along that well with people even if we have a shared interest - I like playing volleyball and enjoy some other sports, but I don't get along that well with most athletic types - because I don't fit the usual types that are into that stuff. So sometimes you have to dig to find the people who share your interests AND are meshing personality types.
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Post by Guest on Mon Jul 27, 2015 7:28 am

I feel like there's something amiss here that I can't quite put my finger on...

I'm getting the impression that you guys found your close friends rather...by chance and organically because you guys seem to be more..'exploratory', or more accurately, 'outcome independent' in nature, if that makes sense?

Whereas, we seem to not find the people we're looking for because...we're looking for them? Which implies a "it happens if it happens" laid-back approach needs to be implemented, which is rather obtuse and not very encouraging.

And how does all of this relate to how you found your partners? Are your partners simply people who you felt could relate to very well AND found attractive?

EDIT: I've made it seem as if I've put in the effort to socialize and find people I enjoy being with like Wisp.

I haven't.


Last edited by HermitTheToad on Mon Jul 27, 2015 9:36 am; edited 1 time in total

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Post by readertorider on Mon Jul 27, 2015 7:55 am

HermitTheToad wrote:I'm getting the impression that you guys found your close friends rather...by chance and organically because you guys seem to be more..'exploratory', or more accurately, 'outcome independent' in nature, if that makes sense?

Whereas, we seem to not find the people we're looking for because...we're looking for them? Which implies a "it happens if it happens" laid-back approach needs to be implemented, which is rather obtuse and not very encouraging.

Like dating, I think there's a point where you can be looking too forcefully (i.e only talk to prospective friend at parties, give the impression you need a friend--anyone here will do) which can smother any incipient friendship. Not saying you're doing this, but it's possible.

I think there's a key here too in that the other person also has to be looking. At my college orientation for instance, very few people knew anyone so friendships were made and escalated quickly (for many people they also became distant quickly). Somewhere in the bowels of the CA forums there's a post about 'levels' of friendship and how to tell if someone is accepting of your overtures--running out of time now, but may try to find the information for you later.
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Post by celette482 on Mon Jul 27, 2015 8:03 am

Oh I was guided like an ICBM when it came to finding a partner. I was so serious about it, it's not even funny.

It was the summer between my 1L and 2L year and I had a low-stress position in the city of my law school, and I thought about what kind of person would give me the best chance to get to know them and decide if I liked them enough to make life plans within 2 years. I set a deadline for December (it was June). I settled on someone in grad school at one of the two universities in town. Not another law student (didn't want to marry a lawyer) and figured it would be hard to actually get a hold of the med students. (plus, I had one friend who was a med student, so i had a direct social-in).

I set up an OKC profile (mr celette swears it was match, but I don't pay for anything) and went trawling. I messaged everyone who was listed as a graduate student or in professional school, particularly interested in engineers of various stripes, anyone who wasn't likely to be going into academia. Chatted with a few, but I knew when I saw what Mr. Celette was into that we could be friends. End of July, we'd met and by the time school started up again, we were dating. We're not perfect matches when it comes to hobbies or whatever, but we liked sufficiently similar stuff that we could pick up each other's joys. And I wanted someone who would complement my life view, not someone who would match it, so I figured "engineer, that's like the polar opposite of lawyer."

I knew what I wanted. I figured out what type of people were the most likely to give me what I wanted. I then chose from the narrower selection right there.

All the real stuff about figuring out if we really worked as a couple, that came AFTER we started dating. Finding and beginning was pure and simple "Search and Destroy."

Note: Mr. Celette does not tell this story exactly the same way, because he initiated the date, but he will admit I messaged him first and he had seen my profile and was too scared to message me.

Note 2: I hated everyone who messaged me and had great conversations, and a few dates, out of everyone I messaged and got a response from. I also never got a response from some people, but that's cool.

Note 3: Yeah, I'm really that unromantic.

EDIT to add: I have major swings. In most things I'm super anxious and avoidant (job hunting has been a beast) but occasionally there will be something that I REALLY want and I just go all in (the college I went to, the law school I went to, Mr. Celette, and actually the job I am going to start in September). What's weird is that when I go all in, I always get what I want, save one time when I was in high school that I did not manage to get a position that I'd been dreaming about since I was 5 years old. (crushing, I'm serious, I cried for days). I can't figure out how to translate that, if I am successful because I go all in, or if I go all in because it's something that I really want and I am subconsciously selecting things that I can also get... But either way, I'm usually super avoidant and timid until The Thing shows up, then it's game on.
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Post by jcorozza on Mon Jul 27, 2015 8:19 am

I agree with readertorider - if you're both looking, I think it can be fine to be actively looking for friends. Most of my friend circle right now is from my meetup group - most of those people joined to make friends with a similar interest.
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Post by reboot on Mon Jul 27, 2015 8:47 am

Once I left home for college, I actively looked for friends since I had just moved to a place where I knew no one. It was the same when I moved for grad school and every work related move. Making social connections is number 2 on my to-do list after unpacking for each relocation.
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Post by Enail on Mon Jul 27, 2015 12:25 pm

When I've actively looked for friends, it's either been in a situation where everyone there is looking to make friends (first year of university) or in a situation where I'm there both to make friends and to do an activity. In the latter case, I am actively looking, but because not everyone there necessarily wants to find new friends, I keep it a little more low-key, and since I have another reason for being there, it's easier to stay a bit more exploratory/outcome independent.  I should note that I'm always moderately picky about who I'll be friends with, even if I very badly want to make friends, so I don't have the desperation mindset of taking anyone who'll take me.  

For me, I very literally found my wife the same way I found my friends, since we were friends first.
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Post by The Wisp on Mon Jul 27, 2015 6:42 pm

I am definitely selective about people I hang out with, like you, Enail. The difficulty is that I find going to social events where I don't know most or all of the people in advance decently well, are stressful and very draining. So I'm very picky, but I am also very poorly suited to playing the numbers game that is required to find people who I actually like enough to get to know (and how reciprocate that). I'm also really bad at putting in the work to build friendships in the rare cases when I want to get to know somebody better. My one philosophy friend, for instance, put in way more effort into us getting to know each other than I did  (though he seems okay with that as getting to know people and arranging events seems to be apart of his personality in general), and I still am having difficulty initiating conversations and hang outs and revealing stuff about myself to match the level he is.

ETA: I have also a random thought: I wonder if I should let myself be more uninhibited when interacting with others, which will make me more polarizing and lead some to dislike me, but may end up leading me to getting more of what I want? Or, maybe that would just make me obnoxious and alienate everybody?
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Post by Enail on Mon Jul 27, 2015 6:54 pm

Since it sounds like you're pretty reserved normally, I'd guess you could probably go a little further on the uninhibited side without getting obnoxious? It might also make it less draining for you, or at least I find social interaction much more tiring if I'm clamping down on my personality more.

Maybe you should focus a bit on figuring out what kinds of situations are likely to attract people you might get on with, so that you can maximize the amount of might-meet-someone-cool-ness to effort?
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Post by reboot on Mon Jul 27, 2015 7:08 pm

I vote being less inhibited. It may turn some people off of knowing you, but since you want to let your guard down eventually, you will want to weed people out anyway, so might as well do it before you invest too much time and effort in.
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Post by Perlandra on Thu Jul 30, 2015 1:20 am

I've had similar experiences in a couple of different (but somewhat overlapping) socially circles. I think I went into it before a bit, and it's still tough to really feel as close to people and have reciprocal levels of support, but I went from feeling like an outcast, not dating, etc. to a social butterfly with occasional cocoon moments. I agree with Reboot that less inhibited is generally better, though you don't want to go full on tactless either. Laughing I hope that the additional social opportunities lead to some more friends and friendly acquaintances who you are comfortable with!

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Post by The Wisp on Wed Aug 12, 2015 8:37 pm

Reviving this thread. I read this and it resonated. I tend to find group events less satisfying, and I want more of the deeper one-on-one style friendships. As I was saying, I'm not sure how to make these deeper one-on-one friendships. Nobody really taught me. My dad hasn't had any in my lifetime at least, and my mother didn't really for much of my childhood, so I didn't really have role models here.

For instance, hanging out with A one-on-one has been very difficult. There were a few times we did 3-4 months ago, and there was some disclosure, but then subsequently they just haven't happened. And those were more accidental than anything, where other people left and it was just us. There was one time I tried to arrange what I thought was hanging out one-on-one to see a movie and then maybe talk afterwards, but he brought like three people with him.

And more generally, I'm just not sure how these deep friendships form. Yes, it takes meeting a decent number of people and then time and self-disclosure, but that doesn't seem to be enough. A disclosed some things to me, and I to him (though more the former, admittedly), but it just stalled from there. I don't understand how specifically you get to that point where hanging out one-on-one and talking about personal stuff on a regular basis just starts feeling normal.

People mentioned friendships in a prime thread recently about people who they maintained contact with for years even when they didn't live in the same place, and these friendships meant as much or more than romantic relationships. That sounds really nice to me but honestly it also seems very mysterious. Friendship in my experience is very contingent and transient, even if there is some self-disclosure at points it never leads anywhere.

So, how do you do this? I'm particularly interested in this from a male perspective, though female perspective would be useful, too, especially if you can break it down. I do think there is a gendered component that makes this harder for men, and especially men with male friends.

Now that I think about it, specific examples would be really helpful, I think.

I'm asking because I'm really going to try to be more social this coming semester. I'm 95% sure I'm going to at least one Meet-up group in the coming weeks, and there are two clubs at school I have my eye on. I don't expect close friendships immediately, but I do want to know how I could build them going into these things so that I can take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.

ETA: And, relatedly, A has just now, for the third time, made an excuse to not see me (First two were back in late June and early July, before he went on a three week trip). Once again he has a legitimate reason, but if I was more of a priority he'd be able to make time I think. I fear he's pulling the fade on me Sad
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Post by Jayce on Thu Aug 13, 2015 4:19 am

I don't see the closest friend I have sometimes for one or two months, sometimes three, its not a big deal if you don't think its a big deal. He has his own life and so do I. I don't mind that I'm not a big priority for him and I don't expect to be. But when we do catch up we talk about a lot of things and have a really good time, and we do care about each other's wellbeing and lives. We just don't hang out every week or even every month. I don't know if he considers me his closest friend or whatever, and he has many friends, a few who he has known longer than he knew me and several who he hangs out with more often than me but I don't feel our friendship is meaningless. It is possible to build a deep friendship with someone you don't see as often.

How did my friendship form with him: we knew each other in high school since grade 9 in 2009, some same classes, we were in high school theatre plays together. But during that time we actually never hung out much outside of high school. I was really needy with every friend that I could make because friendship was a rarity and as someone that has suffered physical and verbal abuse from my parents and bullies I emotionally latch on a lot if I can make friends with someone, our friendship was never too close, it wasn't really healthy because of me, good thing is that he kept me at a distance during times, he knew I was suffering, and was never too bothered by it. We hang out a bit here and there. High school ends, we graduate. I feel really bad about high school and want to start fresh all over again. I go off to university and don't see him for a year. I learnt more social skills, then one day I decided that I have learnt enough social skills to at least try to be a good friend to some of the friends I made back in high school and start on a new slate. We caught up, had coffee, talked a lot, became really good friends, then from there we just hung out if we were free (which we weren't free often because we had a lot of other things to do). I make plans, sometimes he makes plans, we agree on a day to catch up, if we can't make it we reschedule. I guess we fit well together because we don't mind not seeing each other often but still can be good friends. We don't demand anything from each other, I don't mind if he dosen't feel comfortable disclosing anything to me and he dosen't pressure me to either.

Just my perspective, but I don't feel like deep friendships have to necessarily be based on how much of your issues you disclose to each other. I base it on the willingness to be supportive, sympathetic, and being accepting of your vulnerability.

Maybe he is fading on you, maybe he just dosen't feel like seeing you for a while, maybe he's really busy. He might have other friends that he considers to be a higher priority. If you want you can reschedule once again with him.

A lot of my friendships are more like The Avengers, we all see each other once in a while, there are times when we support each other, then we go off into our own other lives for a while, but my friendships are never so tightly knit like the way it is for Harry, Ron, Hermione.  

For me, I'm fine with hanging out once every two, three weeks or a month or even not seeing me for several months. I know people that really hate it when their friends don't regularly see them and that is ok too. Know what you want and find people that want something similar to you.

I have seen male friendships that are close and a common thread seems to be that they complement what each other wants whether that be drinking buddies, talk with each other often, gaming friends, magic the gathering tournament regulars, being a part of the same tight-knit friend group.  

I've seen that for many people its more about finding a group that you mesh really well with and then you go and form really good friends with some people of that group.

Hanging out one on one:

A good activity I have used in the past to build good one on one interaction: have you tried taking one friend to go shopping for clothes/beauty related stuff? Even though from personal experience it can be hard to take male friends cause of stereotypes, if you can make it work it is a really cool experience. At least it worked once for me.

Another  one on one activity is having coffee/tea with a friend.

Also there is an Australian tradition of having a couple of beers with a mate (Australian word for good friend), or having a barbecue at a park (that tends to be a group event but you can have a barbecue with two people).

I know guys that love going to the gym together, not only to spot each other but also to talk while training.

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Post by reboot on Thu Aug 13, 2015 9:49 am

This is not the male perspective, but it is how I became friends with a man when I was about your age.

During college freshman orientation, this guy said something sotto voce snarky and funny about all the "Rah! Rah! Go school!" stuff. I snort laughed and disrupted the speaker. After that, I decided that despite his über frat boy looks, he might be my kind of people. I sought him out during the campus tour and we were snarky together. Then we rallied a bunch of folks from the group and bought booze. After orientation, I did not think I would see him again and did not have a phone number he could reach me at (remember pre-cellphone, pre-email availability) and we went to a big public school.
During the year I lived in a co-op that threw big public parties with some great bands to make money. I was working the door at one of them and I heard my name. It was him and a bunch of his fraternity brothers. I took their cash (we were not that good of friends!) and we caught up a bit (e.g. where we were living, classes, jobs) and exchanged numbers. A few weeks later I invited him and a friend to one of our by-invite-only parties. He came, we hung out, hit it off, and then started inviting each other and friends to events. After a while we started doing stuff 1:1, first if we had no friends who wanted to come, then because we liked hanging out 1:1.
I think the first personal conversations we had were me griping about having to work two jobs to pay for school and my fears that the changed residency requirement was going to make me an out-of-state student, which would mean I would have to drop out. He helped me out by finding fraternity brothers that had taken my classes who would let me borrow their books for a semester before reselling. He first opened up to me about some dating/sex issues, not in a super intimate way, more "Fuck, we just had sex once and she keeps calling" kind of way. Over time, as in the rest of college we got more intimate. Then email became common, so when we both went to grad school back east it was easy to stay in touch and we were able to see each other occasionally since we were NY and Philadelphia. After that, we met up whenever we were in the same city or planned vacations together.

It was a very slow build, which is something I have noticed with the men I am close to. Fun and enjoyment of each other's company goes for 6+ months before any emotional sharing began or any more in-depth opening up. We became 1:1 hang out people for a while and then started being more vulnerable.

So not sure if the story helps since we are quite social people who had a bunch of favor sharing/party inviting going on long before 1:1 hanging out, which established each other as fun and reliable and not douchey. But there is the story.
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Post by AstralDazzle on Thu Aug 13, 2015 9:38 pm

From what I have observed, either through participating or knowing people who did, the following types of groups have led to the deeper-sharing opportunities which fuel good friendships among men: international student groups and campus housing (including facilitating multicultural friendships among men from the host/campus country), meditation groups,  humanist groups, and bands.  The structured activities of the groups lend themselves toward sharing experiences and feelings.  As people open up and find commonalities within the large structured group activity, they often start to suggest more outside activities as smaller groups which split off for a coffee, beer, smoke, meal, catch some music/go dancing, play a board game, have a backyard bonfire--depends on the interests.  This might start as a general invitation to the whole group.  Listen for it: it can be subtle (others may be nervous and unsure too!) and usually not specifically to you, which can feel weird to respond to if your cultural expectation is a direct invitation. Who shows up demonstrates who is interested in that thing or those people or simply openness to getting to know people better in general.  The smaller groups allow people to get to know one another better and you can gauge who you're more comfortable with and often you find that a couple of you will have another shared interest that the others don't, which then creates a natural opportunity to offer the general "We should go geocaching/start long intense game/go to the bluegrass jam night/brew beer etc. soon" and see how the other person picks up on it.  

As people move around, I've seen guys keep in touch over facebook. (I can see the FB stuff; I assume texting follows a similar pattern).   Once a week-month, they will refer to shared interests, games, inside jokes, post stuff on one another's walls, tag one another.   They keep the connection going until they're in the same place again and can meet up.  There are some extroverted guys who really like phone calls, but I don't think this is as common

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Post by eselle28 on Thu Aug 13, 2015 10:19 pm

First of all, I'm sorry to hear things aren't going as well with A as you'd hoped. I'm not really familiar with your school's schedule, but if he's not going to summer school, you might want to give it one more try or respond to one of his invitations once September or October comes around. Sometimes even people who stay in town for college summers tend to behave quite differently during them, and your friendship might solidify a bit if you continue hanging out in the coming year.

Anyway, I'm obviously a woman, but I have a couple of close long distance friendships (actually, both of my closest friendships are with people who live far away, and one is with someone who's always lived far away). One of them is also with a man. We bumped into each other on the guild recruiting forums of an MMO that was then in development. I'd posted a Looking for Guild describing myself and what I was looking for pretty bluntly. I got back maybe a dozen responses, but his stood out right away as describing the kind of organization I was looking for. I hung out on their forums, made some dirty jokes, and joined. We posted dumb jokes on our guild forums and got on voicechat to make even dumber ones.

We were both night owls and sometimes ended up talking one on one. [EDIT: Oh, and it sounds like this next bit took place overnight. It actually took place over about a year.] As we did we discovered we were both going through Big Unhappy Life Transitions (divorce and unemployment, realization temporary health problems were permanent and military discharge) and grew up in somewhat similar families (I sometimes joke that he's the little brother I always wanted, which he hates because while he likes the sibling analogy, he hates the idea of ceding his place as oldest child). We also figured out that we both loved dissecting plot and character in media almost to death and that he was really good at having brilliant cockeyed ideas and I was really good at asking critical questions about them. Once we got into the beta, we shifted to instead spending most evenings in a group that talked mostly about the game. We figured out we were actually kind of incompatible as fellow players and got along much better as game critics. We kept on with things until our big group got frustrated with or bored of game and splintered.

And then, because we had each other's phone numbers for arranging raids, we started calling each other. We sometimes still play other games in small groups with his wife, his bestie, and another dude we're both friends with from the old group, but we also go six months or so with no common game. When we're not gaming, our usual pattern is that we'll maybe have a couple of 45 minute phone calls a month when he's driving and I'm making dinner where we bitch about life, one 4-6 hour one where we get off on some tangent and talk until one of has to go to bed, and the occasional crisis call where one person talks the other down and/or affirms the righteousness of their upsetness. He calls me more for the everyday stuff than I call him because I'm the more negligent friend and he's currently a student whose schedule is hard to remember, but he also has more of the OMG This Is Awful and I Need to Talk Now calls by a good margin and it's kind of mutually understood that I'll be up for putting aside many things to take those ones. Oh, and we also hang out in person roughly 3 times a year now. We don't live close, but we try to attend some of the same events and visit each other when we can. But while living near him and his family would be cool, I don't really feel the friendship suffers for being long distance.
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