The other day, while stopped at a red light, I saw a flier on a pole advertising a new bowling league. It prompted a strange flashback: the first lonely weeks in 1996 that I spent living in Pittsburgh before grad school started. My mom said, “Why don’t you join a bowling league and meet some fresh faces.”
I never joined a league, either out of laziness or fear of the new or a remarkable talent for finding the gutter. I remember sitting around reading a lot, visiting every bookstore within 30 miles, lots of silent meals and longing for my college buddies. Once grad school started, I made friends — some of the best in my life.
The flashback stopped me because it got me wondering how difficult is it to make friends these days in the digital gold-rush era of friending people (on Facebook) or following them (on Twitter) or whatever (on whatever).
I racked my brain this morning and couldn’t recall making a single new friend — a real friend, with whom I could share secrets — in several years, though I have logged 414 on Facebook and 1,085 on Twitter during that time.
So here’s what I want to do. I’m going to start working on a major piece for the newspaper looking at friendship in the digital age, and I’m hoping to speak with people about the difficulty (or ease) of making new friends in a world where everyone seems to have their faces glued to a screen (iPhone, Blackberry, iPad, computer) hooking them up to their social networks.
There have been some fascinating academic papers published on this topic in the past year — some showing an actual increase in friendships among certain age groups — but I’m really interested in exploring the nature of friendship through real people.
Where does one make new friends these days, besides work or school? Has Meetup.com replaced the bowling alley idea of my past? I recently saw a sign for co-ed dodgeball leagues. Is it better to make a new friend while pummeling them with a ball? Feel free to write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment below. Let’s have a talk about friends.