Things I Value In A Social Circle

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Things I Value In A Social Circle

At 29 years of age, having been to university and lived in several cities and being on average moderately extroverted, I have had the occasion to make different friends, and sets of friends, many times throughout my life. I also tend to have highly varied hobbies and interests -- for example, I am a software engineer interested in the nuances of Javascript and the best practices of engineering teams, while also being a Houston rap music fan, a BJJ practicioner and weightlifter, and a consumer of numerous comedy podcasts.

The following is a list of dimensions which I have found particularly important in a social circle. As you will see, as with any good set of principles, there is a degree of tension among and between them, and that's why having a perfect friend or set of friends is impossible.

Ambition and/or Having Your Shit Together™️

This one's pretty basic at face value: it's hard to be friends with someone who is dead broke or in the deepest throes of drug addiction. The tension here is with one's own moral guilt about things like class and illness -- and of course, you want to be compassionate and helpful to people who are down on their luck. But I like to think it's mostly about having friends who are self-reliant enough to hold down a job, work on themselves and their craft, seek higher purpose and goals in life, and so on. I come from a pretty humble background so I don't mind being friends with folks who aren't Scrooge McDuck or an aspiring CEO, for example, but I highly value people who recognize that hard work and achievement (even if it just means on personal side projects or artistic outlets) is important -- and I find that when people aren't that way, they often fill the gap with unhealthy habits.

Open Expression

Not to be an Edgy Contrarian Millennial White Guy™️, but I personally value not having to worry about if what I'm going to say is going to offend someone deeply when we're in the comfort of our own private hangouts. Of course, everyone has their red lines and is soft to certain things at times, but generally speaking I think conversation with friends should be a laboratory for experimentation and fun, and the rate of forgiveness for exploring topics or saying silly shit — the benefit of the doubt given — should be high.

The tension here is that some people truly do cross the line into extreme edgelord contrarianism (or genuinely holding disgustingly reprehensible positions), and you want your friends to be able to shape up and perhaps be less edgy in situations where it matters to you (around your family, or that new girl you've been dating, etc.)

This also bleeds into enjoyment of things like literature and media -- I recall watching Chappelle's Show with a pretty woke date a few years back who had never seen it, and I am pretty sure she was horrified.

Flexibility

It is nice when a group is pretty flexible in terms of what they're down to do. As mentioned, I've got a broad range of interests, and it can suck when a group only wants to drink or only wants to play video games, unless you're all bonded over that same activity (I've definitely had great friend groups where e.g. Magic: The Gathering was the central activity, but even then a lot of folks tended to be down to explore other activities like trying new local restaurants etc). It's also necessary for friends to be able to sync to your tempo -- if you work a lot, they need to be understanding to the fact that you can't make it out to the bars every night.

But even if a person doesn't absolutely love film, it is nice if they'll spend some time watching your favorite movie with you, same thing with food and trying new restaurants, and so on (side note: it is super alien for me when someone doesn't enjoy exploring and eating a wide range of foods, but a fairly common trait in America at least).

Specific Interests

Of course, there are specific interests that are nice to have. If a group is hyper-centric on football, I probably won't be super amenable to that group. The tension here is that it is also nice to be introduced to new hobbies, adjacent hobbies to your own, as well as fun one-off activities; but I find as I get older and want to delve deeper into the hobbies I currently have, my desire to randomly pursue something like a weekly game of kickball instead of something I'm already invested in, like weightlifing, diminishes.

Final Thoughts

Of course, I haven't and continue to not find a group of friends who are perfect, and that should not really be the goal per se. But it is helpful to recognize the dimensions that are important to you.

Upon reflection, I believe that these dimensions -- and the principle of not realistically being able to find everything you want -- are also applicable to dating and finding a partner(s). I also think that finding a partner can be helpful because they may be able to fill certain "gaps" that your social circles can't. If you can scratch your itch with a movie-loving partner, you may not need to bug your friends as much to watch Bladerunner 2049 with you. But I will anyway.

GPT-3 summarized this article as:

I value ambition, an understanding that expression is central to healthy relationships, a group that is flexible, and a group that is accommodating to my tempo and interests.