Author Topic: Unplanned social interactions  (Read 2553 times)

mikescepaniak

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Unplanned social interactions
« on: July 04, 2018, 10:10:56 AM »
In reading MMM's most recent blog post, his comment about the importance of "unplanned social interactions" got me thinking:
Quote
According to people who actually study this stuff, the key to a really happy community and warmer friendships seems to be unplanned social interactions: you need to run into people unexpectedly every day, and then do fun stuff with them.

In the past, I've read discussions (both here and elsewhere) where people ask for- and give advice on how to foster friendships later in life. While housing would appear to be an important factor, so is lifestyle and what you choose to prioritize in your life. As is typical of others, I've been guilty of scheduling and squeezing friendship time into my life, to whatever degree that work, love, and family commitments would allow. But, now that the FIRE phase of my life is (hopefully) here, I'm looking to change that.

Over the course of the past 6 - 12 months, I've taken a few steps. I've been reaching out to existing friends and scheduling lunches/meet-ups/etc. And I've made a concerted effort to shrink my world, focusing on neighbors and others in close(r) proximity. But, I don't feel that those efforts have yet to catch fire. They're all very planned (by me) and structured. And so, I wonder...

Given the make-up of this community - of early retirees who find inspiration in the life philosophy taught by MMM - who here has found success in reversing the pre-FIRE pattern of withering friendships? Did you have to move to make that happen? Did you start "from scratch" or, rather, go back to previous friendships with non-FIRE types and strengthen them? Did it require joining/paying into something like the MMM HQ? I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts. Thanks.

rxfish

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Re: Unplanned social interactions
« Reply #1 on: July 04, 2018, 11:58:37 AM »
I don't have the advice you are looking for as I am a 25 year old about to graduate grad school and start my career. However, that quote from the latest blog post really stuck with me. The happiest moments in life are usually when unplanned social interactions come about/feeling of belonging to a quality community (and not having to drive so far or schedule appointments). I am craving this situation and looking into where I should move upon graduation.

Moustachienne

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Re: Unplanned social interactions
« Reply #2 on: July 04, 2018, 06:22:43 PM »
I definitely squeezed my friendship time while I was working, coasting on the friendships I'd developed earlier in my life.  It helps that I'm back in the city where I went to high school and university.

I had a lot of casual acquaintances through work, from colleagues to the lady in the snack shop who missed me when I didn't buy my daily Pocky sticks.  :)

In retirement I'm trying to spend more time with deeper friends, hanging out but also doing things together, e.g. taking courses together.

I've noticed that the more group things I get involved in, the more new casual acquaintances I'm making.  Volunteer work, courses, fitness classes.  I like to keep these local but even in my biggish city, I love how I run into people everywhere. 

On an individual basis, I have a number of people I see once or twice a year to catch up over lunch or coffee.  Very enjoyable.


Thanks for posting this question!  It was helpful to think through how and why I'm creating and maintaining connections of different types.

Moustachienne

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Re: Unplanned social interactions
« Reply #3 on: July 04, 2018, 06:32:02 PM »
And to answer your question more specifically, I'm generating a lot of the connections but I feel there's reciprocity too. I'm strengthening old friendships and developing new ones.  I think of it as "layering". :)

I think we do have to take an active role in all this but there does seem to be a tipping point where it does seem to be "natural".  Last week I bumped into an acquaintance I hadn't seen for several years and she invited me to a catch up dinner. It is nice to be the invitee!

mikescepaniak

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Re: Unplanned social interactions
« Reply #4 on: July 06, 2018, 10:00:55 AM »
Thanks for the responses. Right now, I'm focusing on current friends, rotating through them and inviting them to meet up every few weeks/months. While they all seem very appreciative of my efforts and eager to do it again, few/none of them have yet to step up and reciprocate. It comes down to me to circle back around and reach out again. While I'm OK with being "the organizer", that pattern doesn't smack of true, deep friendship to me. So, I suspect that I'm going to eventually end up looking for new "candidates". Fortunately, retirement is fresh enough to me that I'm still very busy and happy wallowing in my wonderful free time. So, I have time to let my current approach play out.

I'd love to hear other people's experiences in this area, though.

Malkynn

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Re: Unplanned social interactions
« Reply #5 on: July 16, 2018, 08:59:31 AM »
I moved around in my 20s and did a lot of school, so I have very few friendships from before I started working as a professional in my 30s. The majority of my current friendships are new within the past 5 years, so all have been built while working as a very busy professional.

I find it super easy to meet and make friends, and I don't really try to schedule too much. I tend to try and just keep in touch with them regularly and frequently invite people out for last minute things. I just simply refuse to move into this middle-aged, overly organized friendship kind of paradigm when I really like a more fluid, spontaneous, low-key kind of socializing.

The key for us has been to maintain a lot of open communication with our friends beyond getting together with them. We send them messages, articles, funny photos of our cat. We generally just try and keep the communication steady, which makes spontaneity a lot more natural.

DH's closest friend just texted him asking where to buy a nice shirt for a date, and I grabbed the phone and sent back a message saying "meet me at the Moroccan restaurant for lunch and shopping, and we'll do some date planning. DH is busy and I'm better at this stuff.".
I had a ton of work lined up for today, but I would much rather spend my afternoon helping a recently divorced friend get back into the dating world.

Friendships in school were easy to maintain because people naturally stayed in constant contact and didn't disappear into their little isolated personal world bubbles. Most plans were last minute plans, most conversations were just natural extensions of shared experiences. I try to maintain that kind of open, free-flow interaction with my friends even when I don't get to see them too often. I find that my friends with kids really appreciate this because they easily feel trapped and isolated needing a babysitter to be able to socialize, but when I stay in constant contact, it's easy for me to pop by their house for tea/wine, or meet up with one parent while they're out and about, and it takes the scheduling pressure off of them.

I have one set of parent friends whom I almost never see together outside of their home. Their special needs son is extremely difficult to get care for, so they rarely go out together and when they do, it's for a date just the two of them. They find it almost impossible to schedule social time with most of their friends, but I will try and visit them on their terms. Mom and I will go grocery shopping together and take our time chatting and picking out tomatoes. Or, I've met up with dad and kept him company in waiting rooms while his son gets speech therapy/OT/medical care, etc. We fit our friendship into the little spaces that life provides which would otherwise be boring.

Lastly, I just try to do a lot of not boring things. "I have 3 bottles of champagne in a cooler back pack and a backgammon board. I'm heading out to a tree fort overlooking a waterfall. If you want to join me, bring a cup." tends to lure people out of their respective hovels a lot better than the basic "let's grab dinner sometime."

If you want friendships like you had when you were younger, then you need to identify what structured those friendships that way and find strategies to mimic those social forces.

Vasilisa

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Re: Unplanned social interactions
« Reply #6 on: July 16, 2018, 02:39:29 PM »
Thanks for posting about this- it was something that had me thinking too!

I'm not FIREd but am living the unplanned social interaction dream- I live in a small mobile home community with some great neighbors, in a downtown area with some family within walking/biking distance. I tend to bump into people I know several times a day and it is awesome.

We share some community garden projects with neighbors which is great unplanned social time- you head out to check on your plants and an hour later you've swapped plants, produce or just neighborhood gossip.

I volunteer on a local nonprofit board (also within walking distance for most meetings) and often run into staff/board members/volunteers and it's great to catch up and hear about the latest events. @Moustachienne I completely agree- the more things I have been involved with, the greater number of casual acquaintances I have in town to bump into! Garden club, Parks and Rec classes, neighborhood emergency response team, local committees, all of those have been great social connectors for me.

Our neighbors have "scrappy potlucks" (a misquote of this article https://www.mnn.com/your-home/at-home/blogs/in-priase-scruffy-hospitality ) which takes the pressure off having a perfect house or 8 course dinners. It's given us an opportunity to get together more frequently with less stress.

I have had success posting and organizing in the local MMM meet-up forum. I've hosted some game nights/potlucks and currently we are organizing some hikes with local, like-valued peeps.

It does take effort to make those plans with friends and follow through. I have a couple friends who I encourage to get in touch when they're in the neighborhood- let's schedule a last minute walk or other plans and that's worked well for us both. I do find naming a specific plan or place to be helpful. Let's attend the free concert on this date, sort of thing. @Malkynn love your idea with the tree house and the waterfall- I'm in! ha!

I recently read about your choice to choose what you're struggling with- to me, making the effort to continually reach out to friends (even if I'm initiating most of the time) is worth it. Good luck in your process!

Serendip

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Re: Unplanned social interactions
« Reply #7 on: July 19, 2018, 09:16:24 PM »

Lastly, I just try to do a lot of not boring things. "I have 3 bottles of champagne in a cooler back pack and a backgammon board. I'm heading out to a tree fort overlooking a waterfall. If you want to join me, bring a cup." tends to lure people out of their respective hovels a lot better than the basic "let's grab dinner sometime."

If you want friendships like you had when you were younger, then you need to identify what structured those friendships that way and find strategies to mimic those social forces.

This. Why settle for general invites when you can entice people with something interesting?! Way more exciting, I agree @Malkynn

joonifloofeefloo

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Re: Unplanned social interactions
« Reply #8 on: July 19, 2018, 09:30:08 PM »
I adore both unplanned and planned social interactions.

I relocate regularly, without a "job as social hub", so start from scratch each time.

I find it easy enough to connect with strangers while out and about -conversations of two minutes to two hours about stuff I find interesting (vs small talk). Finding them again can be harder, but eventually I get to know some nearby neighbours as well as form ongoing connections through meetup-type activities.

I also invite almost everyone to everything, and that helps build things with some people.

It seems to me like everywhere has such great people, and I find that really exciting!

For planned, I far prefer group stuff. For unplanned, either.

maizeman

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Re: Unplanned social interactions
« Reply #9 on: July 19, 2018, 09:34:03 PM »
I suck at this, so it's fascinating to read others' posts on what works for them. After four moves to new states for education and later work, my in person social connections are pretty much exhausted.

mikescepaniak

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Re: Unplanned social interactions
« Reply #10 on: July 20, 2018, 07:40:50 AM »
Thank you to everyone for these great and thoughtful replies. I especially appreciate the concrete examples. To a certain degree, I feel fortunate to have grown up as part of a pre-"play date" generation. At least I can look back at my childhood and know what it was like to, at one point in time, call up a friend and ask if they wanted to get together and play. And then I would go walk over the river and through the woods to their house and we'd hang out for the day. Seems to me like today's kids don't have that. But, maybe I'm stereotyping.

Anyway, given the fact that I'm the one whose circumstances have changed, such that I now have the time available to be concerned about this deficiency/issue, I guess it's not unreasonable to expect me to be the one to goad others into increased action. But, at some point, I'm going to want to see this be reciprocated. Going beyond simple frequency of interaction, it seems a bit ridiculous for me to expect my existing friends to suddenly change their expectations of our friendships simply because I've situated my life in a way that allows me to change mine. In that way, I suspect that new friends will probably prove necessary for less scheduling and more spontaneity. But, if some existing friends end up fitting the bill, great.

I'm also sure that my lingering social habits and personality traits are probably an issue here, as well.

It seems like frugal living is both good and bad for socializing. On one hand, reaching out to friends to borrow tools, asking for help with DIY projects, and learning tips and tricks from others are all great opportunities to strengthen friendships. On the other hand, skipping outings because of cost, seeing people less because of excessive distance, and shedding of wasteful/expensive shared interests all serve to weaken friendships.

Malkynn

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Re: Unplanned social interactions
« Reply #11 on: July 20, 2018, 10:52:07 AM »
It seems like frugal living is both good and bad for socializing. On one hand, reaching out to friends to borrow tools, asking for help with DIY projects, and learning tips and tricks from others are all great opportunities to strengthen friendships. On the other hand, skipping outings because of cost, seeing people less because of excessive distance, and shedding of wasteful/expensive shared interests all serve to weaken friendships.

You can generalize that to any significant lifestyle change though.

Itís not that frugal lifestyle itself is weakening friendships, itís that having less in common with certain people will weaken those particular friendships, and thatís a totally normal part of growing and changing.

DH is one of these people who over valued long friendships until I pointed out to him that most of the frat brothers he was still actively friends with were the losers living in the past who hadnít grown up and moved on. The rest had their own grown up lives with new friends who had something other than history in common.

As your life changes, people will self select themselves in and out of your life according to how compatible your interests and needs are. If not spending on going out is really a top priority, then you will need to foster friendships that are compatible with this. The die-hard beers and wings buddies, or the passionate restaurant-going foodies might not make the cut if you have no other activities in common with them.

Life changes, friendships change, friends change, this isnít a bad thing.

joonifloofeefloo

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Re: Unplanned social interactions
« Reply #12 on: July 20, 2018, 11:03:22 AM »
I really believe that a suggestion for a spendy activity is a fabulous starting point for relationship. They are making a bid for connection. Take it. Transform it, though, into a nonspendy alternative.

Them: "I'm hosting an event...$55."
Me: "Oh, out of my price range for social stuff, but would you like to join us for board games at my place on Saturday?"

[^ Actual conversation yesterday.]

dougules

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Re: Unplanned social interactions
« Reply #13 on: July 20, 2018, 11:07:53 AM »
I volunteer on a local nonprofit board (also within walking distance for most meetings) and often run into staff/board members/volunteers and it's great to catch up and hear about the latest events. @Moustachienne I completely agree- the more things I have been involved with, the greater number of casual acquaintances I have in town to bump into! Garden club, Parks and Rec classes, neighborhood emergency response team, local committees, all of those have been great social connectors for me.

The idea of scruffy hospitality is really interesting.  I think my embarrassment about the house being a mess has really limited my social life.  We had friends over a few weeks ago and spent hours cleaning the house.  And they are among our least tidy friends. 

Vasilisa

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Re: Unplanned social interactions
« Reply #14 on: July 20, 2018, 11:34:49 AM »
@dougules Scruffy entertaining is awesome- it puts the importance on the important thing- seeing each other and connecting. I'd highly recommend extending an invitation as soon as possible to people you want to see and make it happen.

It's really strengthened my neighborhood friendships and added an extra flavor to my social life!

joonifloofeefloo

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Re: Unplanned social interactions
« Reply #15 on: July 20, 2018, 11:38:44 AM »
I'm generally hyperclean and hyperneat...and LOVE visiting messy houses :)
I do like them to be hygienic -clean toilet, sink, food stuff- but other than that, anything goes.

Bracken_Joy

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Re: Unplanned social interactions
« Reply #16 on: July 20, 2018, 04:06:25 PM »
I never replied to this. But I've come back and read the housing choices and friendship article multiple times. Still not sure I have any cohesive thoughts on it, but it's something I'm trying to grasp and sort out presently. Especially since we may be on the verge of moving, again.

mikescepaniak

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Re: Unplanned social interactions
« Reply #17 on: July 23, 2018, 05:05:22 AM »
Our neighbors have "scrappy potlucks" (a misquote of this article https://www.mnn.com/your-home/at-home/blogs/in-priase-scruffy-hospitality ) which takes the pressure off having a perfect house or 8 course dinners. It's given us an opportunity to get together more frequently with less stress.

This is a great read, Vasilisa! Thanks for posting. My SO and I aren't quite on the same page regarding it, but it has served as a good starting point for a discussion.

mm1970

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Re: Unplanned social interactions
« Reply #18 on: July 26, 2018, 07:42:52 PM »
I suck at this, so it's fascinating to read others' posts on what works for them. After four moves to new states for education and later work, my in person social connections are pretty much exhausted.

Me too and I've actually thought a lot about this in the last few weeks, unrelated to this post.

Most of my social interactions are planned.  And most of my life is planned.  Someone referred to is as a "middle aged" thing.  Yes, I'm middle aged, but I was a planner long long ago too, even in my 20s. 

So some of it is just my natural personality.
Other is most certainly my lifestyle.

I get regular, awesome social interaction at our Sunday potlucks.  It's kind of an alternative to scruffy personality. We wander up to the park at the end of the street.  We don't reserve a space.  We look for an open space.  We can end up with 2 families or 10 families.  There's no pressure to go or not go.  I love these.

I don't do many unplanned social things.  I have regular walk dates with one friend, and sometimes another.  I get social interaction on my run days.

One thing that has made me think about this is the summer.  A lot of my friends are having a blast this summer.  They go to the beach, they run off and go camping, they have BBQs, whatever.  I have three or four good friends with kids about the same age - and they just randomly do things together on and off. 

Why don't we do this?
1.  Our lives are scheduled.  Love it or hate it, we both work full time and we have kids.  We have regular work schedules and we have kids in school, camp, whatever.  So in order for us to work in the summer we need summer camp.  Our kids are very scheduled because we need to work.  So, if our friends decide on Tuesday morning to go the pool (where they all have a membership), they go.  My kids are in camp and I'm at work.
2.  We are away from the house all day.  So, we kind of like being at home.  Many of my friends who work at home or are stay at home parents are much more into going out at night - impromptu going to the beach to see the sunset, or going down to the concerts in the park.  Which...seems like a lot of work when you've been gone all day.

It's nice for me when I run into someone I know (like camp drop off, for example), but we aren't going and "doing" anything.

domo

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Re: Unplanned social interactions
« Reply #19 on: August 08, 2018, 11:06:22 AM »
The best "tribe" experience of my life was in college when all of my friends lived in the same apartment complex. I dream of buying a huge dilapidated apartment building somewhere and renovating it with my friends. As it stands, I live in a small but popular city and encourage friends to stay in our guest bedroom for free when they are in town or if they find themselves in between jobs and in need of a place to stay. Sometimes they stay in town and settle here.

AMandM

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Re: Unplanned social interactions
« Reply #20 on: August 09, 2018, 08:19:13 AM »
To a certain degree, I feel fortunate to have grown up as part of a pre-"play date" generation. At least I can look back at my childhood and know what it was like to, at one point in time, call up a friend and ask if they wanted to get together and play. And then I would go walk over the river and through the woods to their house and we'd hang out for the day. Seems to me like today's kids don't have that. But, maybe I'm stereotyping.

My kids have that, because several years ago we deliberately moved to a place that had a lot of congenial families.  Some friends of ours who lived there said to us, "You should move here! You'd love it!" and they were right.  We have lots of unplanned social interactions for both kids and adults, as well as some recurring planned but flexible ones.  Here are some examples, since I agree they are helpful:

Unplanned: kids get together to watch a movie in someone's basement, go bike riding together, ordrop in on a friend and bake cookies; or someone announces they'd welcome company this morning at the city pool/fishing at the levee/Shakespeare in the park.
Planned but flexible: a group of women meet for prayer one morning a week, people host potlucks, a guy will announce "Drinks with the Lads at my house this Saturday", someone will host a party to learn a specific skill (e.g., how to make lumpia from scratch). These events are open to all, but don't require an ongoing commitment.

The underlying requirement for unplanned social interactions is that people have interactions through more than one "role" in the community. For instance, I see my kids' karate teacher at karate class but also when she is the usher at church, the checkout clerk at the grocery has a plot in the same community garden as me. And in my experience at least, chrurch often provides one of the duplicate roles.

FInding_peace

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Re: Unplanned social interactions
« Reply #21 on: September 08, 2018, 09:05:59 AM »
One thing I've found is that you can artificially create more "unplanned" social interactions by planning to hang out at the same place on a regular basis. 

So for example, I first got to know one of my best friends because we both signed up for the same Intro to Rock Climbing course, which caused both of us to "bump into each other" weekly for a couple of months.  I've had similar experiences with other courses I've taken, e.g. swing dance lessons, sculling lessons, etc.  You can meet new people there, or also invite an existing friend you'd like to interact with more to take a course with you. 

It also doesn't have to be as structured as that.  When I first moved to my current location, I didn't know anyone, but I started bouldering at the local climbing gym a couple evenings a week.  Turns out a number of other people were doing the same thing on roughly the same schedule, and I gradually got to know some of them, my first friends here, some of whom I still have.  You can do this at any place where people visit repeatedly and tend to linger: gyms, makerspaces, community gardens, dog parks, pottery studios, cool coffee shops, etc.  Just show up regularly and you'll start to run into the same people and develop some connections.