Why are we so quick to segregate our social lives?

“You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family…”

— or so the saying goes. It might be easier to choose your friends, depending on how strict you are with your boundaries, but is it really as cut-and-dried as choosing them?

People come into our lives at all manner of junctures. So why are there so few junctures at which we choose to unite them? Birthdays, weddings…

That was supposed to be a list but I ran out. So, birthdays and weddings.

I started to think about this when a new colleague, having just relocated to London from Poland, said that she’d found it really difficult to make new friends, even though she’d never struggled to make new friends before. I was baffled, at first, before thinking through my own social patterns. Neat little prefaces have found their way into my social life. The words “school”, “uni”, “travelling” or “work” come before “friends” to make my social life a reflection of the places I’ve been, rather than the person I am.

I know I’m definitely not alone in this and I’ve come up with some theories about why people don’t encourage different groups of friends to mix more often. Are these legit or are they just excuses?

1. My friends won’t be interested in giving other people a chance

Misanthropy; the dislike of all other people.

We joke about it sometimes, but how much closer to this are we getting? With each rough, jarring experience with another person who seems to lack all the values we look for in another human being, we harden a little. We toughen, rear back a little in expectation that, chances are, there are many others like them hidden in plain sight. The idea that there could be more people we want to share our lives with, beyond those we already have, becomes less of a priority, and certainly not something actively pursued.

2. My friends will just think I’m being a maniacal matchmaker

The first thing your single friends will say if you invite them to a wider gathering is:

“I don’t need you to set me up, you know…”
(Even if, on several occasions, they’ve actually asked you to do just that).

They’re sick of Tinder and want to know where ‘all the good ones’ are hiding.

Nothing like racial profiling to make a good impression…

Could ‘all the good ones’ be hidden in the different compartments we’ve trapped our friends in? Eg. Uni, work, school…

One of the better features of Tinder is that you can spot when you have mutual friends with someone. In theory, there should be every chance of coming across these same matches during the course of your real-life friendships, but social segregation is making it even more of a rarity.

3. My friends only want to meet one-on-one or in small groups

I get this one, I really do. It’s hard enough to catch up with friends that, at times, you can go ages without seeing each other and when you do, you just want to focus on them. Before you know it, you hit a rhythm. Same people, same places. By the time you’ve finished making the rounds, it’s been ages since you saw the first bunch. On and on it goes.

4. I don’t think my friends will get along

Of course, there’s a chance they really won’t. And that’s fine, as having the same type of friend throughout your life can be negative. But perhaps the crux of this issue is that you will have to shine the spotlight on yourself. You’ll have to acknowledge that, at the moment they meet, you are the one thing in common between two people, and then you might have to look on as they fail to form a friendship.

This can throw up some difficult questions. Do I pander to what each different friend or group wants me to be, and that’s why we’re friends?

Nothing like holding a mirror up to yourself and having an existential crisis!

The (hor)crux of the issue.

Practical pains

So, you overcome whichever complex combination of these issues that you think might be holding you back. And what, they expect you to do all the work? Can’t you just invite everyone to the same place and let that be that?

Unlikely.

You’ll have to do a lot of introducing, social lubricating (depending on how it goes) and be ready to field pre-questions, whisperings in your ear during the event, and full post-match analysis.

Or, no-one could turn up. In fact, I had a go at this myself, and I managed to get three friends, all from the same group!

Nonetheless, I’m still going to make a conscious effort to mix things up when I’m making plans. Thinking about it from the other side, I really appreciate it when someone goes out of their way to include me, so rather than let misanthropy get the better of me, I’m going to stay open-minded.

Better make room…

“You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.”

With the Christmas holidays coming up, we may start to wish we had been able to choose our families. Why not make room for more freedom with our friends?