“Why Are All Your Friends Women?”

by James Wallace Harris, 11/17/22

While my sister was visiting last week we socialized with five of my friends. At one point, Becky asked, “Why are all your friends women?” I answered defensively, “I have male friends too,” but actually not that many. Well, two, if you don’t count several guys I interact with on the internet.

I’m writing this essay because this morning I was reading Flipboard and saw another article about how modern men don’t have friends. That made me think about Becky’s question and wondered if I had more female friends than male friends because guys don’t make many friends with other guys. I thought of bull elephants and male orangutans that spend most of their time alone in the jungle. Is it just natural for males to lead lonely lives?

One reason I don’t see more guys I know is that I don’t like leaving home, and neither do my male friends. My longest-running friendship is with a guy named Connell. We met in March of 1967 when we were in the 10th grade at Coral Gables High School in Miami Florida. We struck up a conversation over science fiction and astronomy. I moved away from Miami in 1970 but have remained friends with Connell ever since. But we’ve both stopped traveling and haven’t seen each other in more than twenty years. However, we do talk on the phone a couple times a week.

I met my other close male friend, Mike, in 1980 at work. He lives in Memphis. Susan and I are friends with Mike and his wife Betsy ever since then. We used to socialize more with them, and even travel together, but both Mike and I have become homebodies, especially after Covid, but also because we’re getting old and our health is in decline. Only my wife Susan still likes to go out or travel. I’m quite impressed with her for that.

I had many more male friends, but they have died, moved away, or I just lost contact with them.

Somehow I’ve been lucky to make several female friends which I’ve known for over twenty years. I see and talk to them all fairly regularly. Counting Susan my wife, and Becky my sister, I think the number of my women friends is eleven. Becky got to meet five of them, not counting Susan. I guess that’s why she asked her question.

Several of my women friends I met through Susan. Susan was and is much more social than I am. She has run around with several social groups over the course of our marriage. For a decade Susan took a job out of town and only came home for the weekends, and sometimes not even that. This forced me into socializing again. I started going to the movies with some of her friends or having them over to watch TV, and they became my friends. Two of my women friends were ones I made at work before I retired. And two were ones I made on my own. Our shared friendships were mainly based on movies, TV shows, books, and liberal politics.

If Susan had never worked out of town, I don’t know if I would have made all those women friends. I guess loneliness is the mother of socializing. I do wonder now that I’m in my seventies and want to socialize even less if my women friends will still want to stay friends. When Covid hit we all stopped going to the movies and eating out, and that put a big dent in what socializing I had left in me. By then Susan was back home and we hunkered down keeping each other company for those social distancing years.

If I had never gotten married I would probably be an old guy like those in all the articles. I think some of my women friends were friends with me because they considered me safe because I was married and unthreatening. I think women also like me because I’m willing to listen, and I have a high tolerance for lady chatter. I know that comment will irk some, but I’ve known a lot of guys who told me they broke up with women because they talked too much.

I would like more male friends. Actually, I would like more friends of any kind who share my interests, but that tends to be old guys. Before I retired I thought I had several male friends at work that I would stay in touch with after retiring. But it didn’t work out that way. Some of those guys were just too busy with their families, or they lived too far away in the suburbs. And a couple of them I just stopped seeing when politics got too polarized. Guys love their hobbies, and unless you’re friends share your hobbies, we seldom make the effort to meet up. Many men are just not that social.

When I was young I joined clubs, like the astronomy club, science fiction club, or computer club, and I made casual friends. But I’m just not a hobby club kind of guy and dropped out of all of them. I might have stayed in them if the internet hadn’t happened. The internet is probably the biggest reason why so many guys don’t have friends today.

And when men are social, the driving force behind it is to get laid. Once I got married I began losing interest in going out, especially to parties. And I have to admit that I made friends with so many women because I was also attracted to them. Nothing happened in that regard, but I believe I enjoy the company of women because I’m programmed to chase after women and to consider them pleasant company. I’ve wondered if I would keep up female friendships if that programming had been turned off.

Unless we have a shared interest I’m not sure guys have a reason to get together. I’m not sure we crave each other’s company. We like to compete with each other, and we like to work together on a project, build something, be on a team, work towards a goal, or fix something together. Women seem to have the ability to just be friends without a purpose. To just hang out. All those lonely guys in the articles seem to be both unlucky in love and without a purpose.

I do have shared interests with all my female friends, but it’s at a smaller percentage than I have with Mike and Connell. Actually, many of my interests and all my hobbies bore my women friends. I wish my female friends had more male-like qualities. Probably all of them would call me sexist if I said why. But then I’m often called sexist by my women friends because I like to make generalizations about males and females.

I do wonder about all the men in these articles who can’t make any friends. Maybe they never leave their apartment. You have to leave the house to make friends. That’s probably why I haven’t made any new friends in the last decade. And I have to wonder why men don’t make more female friends. Guys who are married probably are like me and gave up socializing after getting married. But unmarried guys should be out there socializing – especially if they are under fifty and still want to find a wife. However, I’ve known a lot of guys who told me they don’t like being friends with women, and once they gave up on getting married or getting laid, just gave up on women.

The internet has allowed me to make a lot of online male friends. But that’s because I get to meet people who are interested in my exact interests without leaving home. For example, I like science fiction magazines that were published from 1939-1975. I and two online friends, one from Great Britain and the other from South Africa, created a Facebook group devoted to science fiction short stories and it now has 642 members. Many of them love the same old science fiction magazines that I do. I used to have two friends that loved those magazines that lived in town. One died, and the other moved away. Sometimes it’s hard to find friends with the same exact interest.

JWH

The Impact of the Like Button

PBS Frontline for 2/18/14 aired the documentary Generation Like about how teens are using the Internet to be liked, and how corporations are using this mass movement to their advantage.  To be honest, the report claims teens are quite savvy about how they are being manipulated by marketing gurus and feel they are playing the system right back at them.  At best it’s a symbiotic relationship.  The funny thing is the documentary makers asked many teens to define “selling out” and they couldn’t, yet corporations have a new mantra, “your consumer is your new marketer.”  This show is about the need to be liked, the need to sell, and how society is changing when everyone is selling themselves.

facebook_like_button_big1

I found Generation Like quite amazing, especially as a 62 year old guy who knows damn little about modern teens.  The change in teens thriving on the internet is as profound as the baby boomers experienced in the psychedelic sixties.  I’m curious how representative this report on teen life is to the average teen, and luckily at the PBS Frontline page provides some statistics at “What Are Teens Doing Online?

Even though Frontline does a fantastic job of covering the topic, I was left with many questions.  Is this melding of marketing to teens wanting to be liked while they struggle to find their identities an American phenomenon, or is it worldwide?  What impact does it have for kids who don’t get hundreds of likes, and what does it mean for popular kids with hundreds of likes to know that some kids gets millions of likes?  Has popularity ever been so quantified?  Is this the start of a hive culture?  And can a hive culture work when all the individuals are promoting themselves?  Are we at the start of a cultural transformation or a fad that will go away? 

Many of the teens talked about their talent, but weren’t specific as to what that was.  Others, like the 13 year old Baby Scumbag was quite aware of what got hits, and was expecting to make money.  If Hollywood was a driving force for fame in the 20th century, the Internet in the 21st century will be many magnitudes more forceful.  And these kids want more than 15 minutes.

I remember the pressure to be liked as a teen, or even to be popular, but it was nothing like this.  I was happy to have one or two good friends, and pleased when others knew my name and said hi.  From the outside looking in, it appears these teens feel like struggling actors trying to get noticed.  How is that changing the nature of friendship?  On the other hand, many of the teens profiled, helped each other in real life to create their internet lives, so they are still socializing in the old way.   

This documentary is the tiniest tip of the iceberg at exploring the new online world.  I barely know how to use Facebook.  I have a Twitter account, but I only use it to remember what I’ve read online.  And most of the other social media sites this film explored I’m clueless as how to use and what they do.  Will adults slowly absorb this Like Culture?  I do blog, and I do get Likes, but not many.  But then I don’t crave them like the teens in this show.  The show ended with this wonderful visual.  A young girl is all animated while producing her video for YouTube, but when she turns off the camera, she sighs, deflates, looks very bored, and the film ends with the sound of her fingernails clicking distractedly on the camera.  Will being on for the Internet become a kind of social crack, and normal life a kind of lonely withdrawal?

You can watch the entire film here.  See I’m doing the same thing as the teens.  I’m marketing for PBS, and liking their show.

JWH – 2/19/14 

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