The most important part about becoming closer to other people is enjoying the things that you do together. What makes hanging out with a variety of people interesting, however, is the fact that everyone enjoys different things. I was once able to become fully engrossed in a conversation about a specific game, system, or idea. Over time I’ve lost the ability to be so absorbed in just one thing. Maybe it’s because I can only dig so shallowly into ideas nowadays, but the discussions gradually lose their sheen as the same ideas reappear over and over again. I’ve recently been thinking, what is it that I enjoy about seeing my friends? Don’t get me wrong, I jump at whatever opportunity I have to hang out with my friends, but I just wanted to be able to quantify it to better understand myself.
There’s a weird paradox I’ve found that comes with hanging out with people. One has to balance similarity and difference. Common ground is one of the most important things to have in friendship. On one hand, I really like hearing about people with lives that are so completely different from the one I live. On the other hand, the lack of common ground makes it hard to find points of conversation that could lead to something further. Hearing what other people have experienced and comparing them with my experiences is what makes conversation fun, but at times it can be too one-dimensional due to the unbridgeable gap in understanding (such as talking about sports when you know nothing about them).
Beyond personal interest, there’s a balancing act between spending time with someone and not spending time with them. Not enough time together results in fewer shared experiences. Having interesting things happen while hanging out is a mixture of planning and opportunity, and simply having less chances to hang out consequentially results in fewer unique exchanges. In contrast, frequently doing things together leads to many more talking points. The whole idea of a movie + dinner date is built around this concept. However, the available activities done together are restricted by each other’s interests. The closer I am with someone, the more willing I am to go out of my comfort zone. But from the very get-go, unless I really like someone’s company, I’d be more concerned that the activity is a waste of time.
Despite writing all of this, I’d rather see my friends more often than not. At the same time, there is value in having some time for yourself to explore things that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to with your friends. One compromise between these two positions is maintaining a variety of different friends who share different subsets of your interest.