Diversify Your “Friendshipfolio”

I don’t do the stock market. I don’t get it, probably never will. But I have come to understand one or two concepts that seem to be important to people that are into it. And one of them is to keep one’s portfolio diversified.

In order words, make different types of investments in different sorts of things, so that the ups and downs of just one stock, or type of stock don’t make or break you. To be more quaint and cliche’ about it, have more than one basket for all of your eggs.

One of the things that I have learned the hard way in my life is that the same applies to friends. Because blog posts are always more fun to read when they contain at least one made-up word, let’s call our portfolio of friends a “friendshipfolio”.

Diversify this thing! In any way you can, as soon as you can. I don’t mean to go out and be friends with everybody of every stripe. That to me is foolhardy, and leads to superficiality. By all means hold on to your friendship standards. But put in extra effort to make friends within entirely different social circles.

Have at least two, and possibly more circles of any size. They don’t have to be huge, but make sure that they have little to zero contact with one another. Don’t invite all of them to the same parties, and don’t go out of your way to bring some overlap into the groups if it doesn’t already exist. I want you to diversify, not emulsify two groups that might not otherwise have mixed.

I advise this because I have more than once fallen victim to the instability of a stagnant friendshipfolio. I did it in college to a degree, and I have over the last few years done it again.

As I have mentioned before, I don’t go out just to “make friends”. I’m Too XYZ  for that sort of thing. So I make my friends almost entirely during events or projects with which we are both involved. It is through doing, and watching other people do that I feel drawn to new friends. (And they to me.) Which is why the vast majority of my current friends as as well as the majority of my college friends are theatre people.

As a result, back then, as now, when the problems I face are with my friends, or some demographic therein, I have had no place to turn in order to vent, or to get another perspective on things. Or another perspective on people. Everyone in my group of friends has often been connected to almost every other one of them in some way. I do have more than one group, but only one, huge, lumbering one that contains local people to whom I have any regular access. So getting an in-person infusion of new blood and spirit it very difficult. So the only other choice is to stay alone when things start to sour with the group. (As they are with mine, on many different fronts.) I am no longer willing to do that all the time. (No matter how introverted I am.)

Throughout my life,  I could have probably gotten better advice, learned more about myself, made it through some very painful stretches of time, gotten to different places, and just all around had a deeper, more connected experience to life had I had been in more than just the one social circle. Circles that are equal in a way, but separate enough from one another so that if things are on the edge with one, I could have support from the other.

Not to say that all the individuals within a social circle need to be the same. They don’t, and within my theatre circle they are not. But all being connected by such a common thread gives them a sort of nebulous group identity when it comes to the sort of obstacles I am facing lately. (My average “Friend in Common” number on Facebook is 25. And a few people I have close to 40 friends in common with! Those numbers are way too high for me. Too many eggs in one tiny basket.) So I long for another group sometimes, equally broad and diverse within itself, but not tied at all to the politics of the first.

Plus, sometimes I just act differently with certain groups than with others. I reveal different aspects of myself. All of them sincere. All of what I show is me, but I tend to be open with different aspects of myself with different people, and there are some aspects that just don’t get equal time because most of my friends are in the same social group.

(And no, Gen-Y, I don’t act 100% the same around everyone I come into contact with, even though you feel that you do, and that everybody should.)

This is one reason I dislike Facebook now. It takes friends that might otherwise have never connected or crossed paths, and puts them on the same platform. I sometimes find myself being bland to the point of stupid, because things I would say in front of the much larger group one would not be said in front of the smaller group B, but all of them are present equally on my Facebook, unless I make sure to block an update from each individual person before posting it. Which takes the fun out of it for me.

In the end, I must find other activities and projects in which to partake in the near and intermediate future, so I can in fact begin to form a second but local social circle. (In person contact is becoming more significant to me these days.) Because in the last two years or so large portions of my current one have begun to sour. (Or I have soured on them) and if the fruit from that vine shrivels, I will need somewhere to go. As it stands now I spend 85% of my time alone. I’ve been trying like mad to remedy that before it is too late. Which is why I am advising all of you, whoever reads or tweets this, to do the same thing.

Diversify your friendshipfolio.

Do you do this? Have you friends that don’t mix? Do you keep clear boundaries between the different social circles in which you travel, or do you prefer to have one big interconnected circle?

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5 Comments

  1. Great post!

    I've always struggled with the whole aspect of having different friend circles. Most of my friends I meet in upto groups of 4. I have loads of different groups as well from book club to choir, to fellow academics to writers. I have never tried to integrate them all into one big group; I haven't seen the need yet. I do like having lots of different circles because it gives me perspective and inspiration. Often, academics and artists will give you a different spin on something than say, that goof-ball friend you've known since highschool.

  2. Good comment as always, Mehnaz. And to an extent, I envy you your diversified friendshipfolio. At least it is more so than mine.

    Part of it is, as I said, I don't meet peopel in the conventional way. And part of it is, I am a jackass.

    Not really. The other part is I haven't found enough outside activities in my area to take part in. Even meetup.com runs pretty dry around here!

    Do you ever share the problems you are having with one group with someone in another?

  3. On very rare occasion when I've run out of ideas. But talking about one group to another is sort of like collective talking-behind-someone's-back. I'll talk to family about it, or very few close friends, but never an entire group.

    I think the key really might be to find people that might not share your interests sometimes. Oddly some of my best friends are athletic extroverts (not at all what I'm like), but because we're so different, things can be interesting. I should amend that and say that we share the same values and ethics most of the time as well, so that helps. The outer packaging is different 🙂

  4. I have a diversified 'friend' portfolio; and actually used to have an extremely diversified friend portfolio. Here is what I've found:

    When I was in college, I had 3 or 4 'groups' of best friends. They all 'knew' eachother, but did not hang out / were not that friendly. Once college was over, this remained the same, however I was making new friends in my new environment; work. It took me a couple years, but I realized I was SO concerned with keeping up with everyone and keeping all of these friends “happy”, that I slowly started cutting people from my life. I hate to be stereotypical, but…”all girls are bitches!”. Not really, but what I found was that if I spent a lot of time with one group of friends and not the other, the 'other' group would get angry.

    Once I moved in with my “now” husband, I realized that if he was going to be my priority, I would need to cut down on the 'friend' portfolio. I did this and have 3 groups of 'friends'; really, I have 3 “best friends” who are all in different groups.

    To your point, Ty – it is extremely helpful to have different people's opinions / different people to go to for different things. That said, 'friends' expect a lot from one another. It is sometimes exhausting trying to explain that I'd rather be alone / have alone time than be with my friends.

    I guess I've brought that on myself as I've always been extremely social and am now learning to love being a bit more introspective, but the more friends you have – the more you have to manage people's expectations.

  5. Thanks Jamie. I like to think that the people I end up calling my real friends don;t have too many unrealistic expectations on me, just as I try not to have too many on them. That being said I do still have a list of things that I do expect from friends, simply due to the fact that they ARE in fact my friends.

    And of course none of this means I don't require alone time. Being a Deluxe Introvert I certainly do require same. But like anything that is out of proportion and off balance, I get weary of being forced to be alone, because of the action/inactions of my one group of friends. (If in fact the would consider me a friend, which is far from certain in some cases.)

    And Mehnaz, I don't exactly mean convening a whole session with one group to bitch about another. Only that if one's problem at any given moment pertains to one's social circle, or the behavior of a certain member therein, it's healthy to have someone with whom you can discuss that, without fearing that you are going to pull an entire house of cards down upon yourself, should you say or think the wrong thing.

    Politics, etc. You can't avoid them totally, but you can spend more time in one group of politics when you tire of the other, IF you have more than one group.

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