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Posts Tagged ‘busy’

A friend recently shared an article entitled “The Curse of the Connector.” Its tagline? “It’s easy to never be alone and yet very lonely.” The writer describes a glamorous Gatsby whirlwind of life in his social circle, in which everyone is supposed to always be doing something exciting and “crushing it.” But, he says, “The world desperately needs more “connections” to become true friendships.”

I live in the Silicon Valley, and I’ve experienced the culture the author is talking about. The “crush it” culture exhausts me because, on the surface at least, it seems to focus heavily on appearances. In addition, there is the “always busy” mentality. Meanwhile, we like to speculate on whether social media is making us more lonely. All of these ideas are interconnected, as they relate to the type and depth of connections with which we surround ourselves.

I’m going to rush right by the fact that the first mention about true friends in this article is that they make excellent personal brand consultants. (Really?!? That’s the first thing that comes to mind about friendship? Really?!?) At its heart, this article is about the realization that our lives are better when we have close friends as well as a large number of acquaintances, that friendship isn’t a numbers game or a mere ego boost.

Photo Credit: h.koppdelaney via Compfight cc

Yes, friendship takes time. Yes, it takes work. Yes, sometimes it can be quite difficult to find kindred spirits with whom to be close. Since last year was the Year of Friendship for me, I spent a lot of time thinking about these things, and now I have a few theories about friendship:

The Once a Week Theory: The more often you see somebody, the more likely you are to become close friends. Once a week or more is optimal. Once every other week is adequate. Less than once a month and the friendship probably doesn’t have the time to form right now. (For long distance friendship making, texts, emails, and Skypes can be substituted for in-person time. For established friendships, you can sometimes get by on less, but eventually you won’t be as close.)

It is no coincidence that many of my close friends get together every week for game night. I think of other close friends I’ve made, and there is generally either a concerted effort to see each other regularly, or a steady stream of texts or emails.

The One-on-One Theory: Sure, I can have good times with people at parties or group outings. But for me, a friendship becomes closer when I spend time one-on-one or in small groups (probably no more than four or five). The more one-on-one time I spend with somebody, the more likely we are to become close friends.

The Diminishing Returns Theory: Not everyone is going to be a perfect friend match. Maybe she’s too busy, maybe he’s going through a rough patch, maybe the two of us just didn’t click (or it was a one-sided click). Maybe there’s something in the friendship dynamic that isn’t working too well. It doesn’t mean you aren’t both great people, it just means you’re not going to become close. Happily, there are many more fabulous people out there who might become good friends. It works better to invest time with the people who will invest their time in you and can be part of a balanced and positive friendship. (Yes, friendship can be surprisingly like dating.)

Taylor’s Party Corollary: The closer the friend, the earlier you plan to arrive at their parties. It’s nice when a close friend arrives close to the start time. They can help set up, chat comfortably, hang out before the party picks up speed, or occupy early-arriving acquaintances and help the conversation flow. (Note: I am not good at this. I almost always arrive late to parties.)

How about you? Have any theories of your own about friendship?

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I had a topic all ready to write about today, but I’m throwing it out the window, and instead I’m going to talk about the recent New York Times editorial “The Busy Trap” that people have been sharing like crazy. Sometimes extremely busy people, which is giving the entire conversation an extra dose of (unintentional?) humor.

I am actually very torn by the idea of the culture of busyness that apparently is not just a Silicon Valley thing (although I can’t pretend to be very surprised it also lives in places like Manhattan). First off, the whole conversation automatically comes from a place of privilege–people who can choose whether or not to be busy because they have time that is not taken up with working to support their families or working insane hours so they will not be fired (and I’m sure there are other examples you can think of).

That being said, it’s still an interesting cultural phenomenon for many of those in the middle class. I’ve certainly seen it countless times here in the Bay Area. And on the one hand, I’m impressed by the busy (which is, after all, partly the point), while on the other hand, it irritates me to no end.

Busy busy.

Sometimes, after all, the busy is really cool. I admire people who have decided to embrace their passions, or go out and change the world, or meet tons of fascinating people, or travel around the world. Their social calendars sound exciting, and when you ask them, at the occasional party, what they’ve been up to, they always have something to say beyond, “Eh. I work. And then I don’t work.” There is a certain energy some of these people have that can be quite intoxicating, as they catapult from event to event and obligation to hobby. And I’m really happy for them and encourage them to follow their dreams.

But on the flip side, it’s hard to become Friends with a capital F with these busy people. Because all those activities take time, and it has to come from somewhere. And when you try to get together and have to schedule a month ahead…to have dinner…and there’s not even kids or babysitters or anything involved…and this happens every time you try to schedule…well, it becomes an obstacle. And it is difficult to build intimacy with local friends who you are not able to see once a month or so, at least during some formative period at the beginning of the friendship (honestly I’d say every other week, but Silicon Valley has forced me to adapt my expectations).

I am not busy. Not like that. I have my weeks that go off the rails, and I travel a fair amount, but here is my secret. I like not being busy. I like having time when I’m sitting around thinking. I like having lazy Sundays when I sleep in, take my dog to the park, read a novel, and maybe go out for sushi in the evening. I like having time to write this blog. I like having time to notice what’s going on around me, and I like silence, and I like days when I have nothing scheduled. And sometimes at parties, all I have to say is, “Well, I’ve been writing.”

Not to give you the wrong idea. I still have stuff I have to get done, obligations to meet, appointments to keep, projects going full swing. I vigilantly guard my writing time, even when I’m invited to do fun stuff. But it’s a very different pace. It is definitely a privilege.

And I have the time to appreciate that.

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