Great thread from Alexander, as usual:
There’s lots of great responses that I don’t need to repost here. Instead, I’ll give my own take on it. Undoubtedly some of these reasons will repeat what others have said, so if it seems like I’m ripping you off, then forgive me.
This take is pretty spot on when you consider that there is a strong transition from the extended period of youth that men have in the west (basically, their late teens and twenties) to the more established “productivity mode” that defines men in their thirties. You go from a state of having lots of free time to socialize to a state where you have virtually no free time to socialize.
You go to work, work takes more time and energy than anything else prior, plus you need to get ahead to start making progress on your student loans, so you lose some social time. Building a serious relationship that turns into a marriage means spending time with that other person, and thus losing more time with other men. Finally, you start having children, and you have even more intense responsibility, along with an amplification of work and home life importance.
But was it always like this, and more importantly, does it need to be like this now?
The short answer is no. Men in the past put aside time specifically to spend with other men: the so-called “lodge” or “stag” culture that was popular with the “Greatest Generation.” At the same time, you had only one person out in the workforce, thus freeing more time for both spouses to pursue social relationships (kind of hard to ditch the kids with the husband as a wife if you haven’t seen the kids all day either). They also experienced a 40-hour workweek that was actually that.
But we should also consider that social time with other men – with friends – does not necessarily have to happen in the absence of children. My father spent time with his friends every single weekend hunting, shooting, and fishing, and they usually all brought sons or daughters along. We shouldn’t necessarily assume the mode of social interaction must stay the same.
But let’s go a bit deeper:
This is me, and honestly, lots of other men I’ve met as well. The friends I made in college, which some people keep for their whole lives, are mostly a wash. This is my fault – as a young man, I didn’t understand how to select relationships based on common values. Instead, they formed along lines of common interest – in this case, music, since that was my major.
I woke up to this reality before 2016, but that election really hammered home the reality that most of my “friends” from college hated me, and if they didn’t, it was because they didn’t know me. That’s perhaps the saddest idea of all: My friends didn’t know me. Either they never knew me on a deep level, or I had changed in such a way as to be across a great gulf from them. In all likelihood, it was both. I returned to faith renewed vigor after college and discarded the more liberal tendencies of my youth, which meant I stepped far away from the atheistic hate that took root in many of my peers.
Such changes are by their nature going to filter out a lot of friendships, making them truly past friendships, which means less friends as life goes on.
Beyond values, there is the problem of evolving interests and experiences. Half my friends from college got married and had kids; the other half have just… continued living their lives. At a certain point, our experiences have very little in common with one another. I have friends that are still, in their late thirties at this point, still trying to pursue graduate degrees in the arts. What do we have in common? What would we even talk about?
Going on, I think this perception is not entirely false, but it has to do with the different ways in which men and women maintain and experience friendships.
My wife doesn’t get to spend much time with friends, but she talks to them constantly on the phone. This is something I just don’t do much of. I don’t really think about calling people.
I think this is because men’s friendships tend to be both built and maintained by common experiences and mutual tasks, whereas women can maintain friendships purely through conversation. We make friends through work, through common activities, or through intense experiences like war. Likewise men maintain those friendships through mutual activity – going golfing, playing DnD, hunting, whatever.
When those common activities go, the friendships tend to go as well. I’ve seen it in my own life with the numerous friends I’ve made playing WoW and other games over the years. If I’m not logging in to play, there’s really nothing going on between us. I’ve seriously considered re-upping even though I do not like Blizzard Entertainment just to have a common activity again.
I’m serious when I call my WoW friends friends. We’ve vacationed together and gone to each others’ weddings. I’ve shared more insight and male intimacy over ventrilo than any other activity I’ve done with other men. Which brings me to my next point:
We are friends. Friendships in 2020, especially those built on common foundations of values as well as interests, are not necessarily bound by geography. There is plenty of meaning to be found even if nobody around you likes to do the same things as you.
In conclusion, it is easy to think we have lost something, and we have, compared to our parents and grandparents. The lack of male friendships existing in the same mode as our grandparents is a symptom of a greater disease, which is the breakdown of our communities and the atomization of the western man into a totally mobile economic production unit.
HOWEVER, we still have many opportunities to experience and build friendships, but we have to think outside the old boxes. We can make time like our grandfathers, but maybe it has to be at the computer, not at the lodge.
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