“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

Am reading a book called The Tipping Point. It's about fads and epidemics in fashion, life, health, etc, and how they differ from the ordinary. In particular, it mentions how people can have an influence on when things explode or implode. It's a fascinating read, and have done a lot of reflecting on myself while I've been reading it.

'Most of us don't have particularly broad and diverse groups of friends. In one well-known study, a group of psychologists asked people living in the Dyckman public housing project in northern Manhattan to name their closest friend in the project. 88% of the friends lived in the same building, and half lived on the same floor. In general, people choose friends of similar age and race. But if the friend lived down the hall, then age and race had a lot less importance. Proximity overpowered similarity. Another study, done on students at the University of Utah, found that if you ask someone why he is friendly with someone else, he'll say it is because of similar interests. But if you actually quiz the two of them on their attitudes, you'll find out that what they actually share is similar activities. We're friends with the people we do things with as much as we are with people we resemble. We don't seek out friends in other words. We associate with people who occupy the same small physical spaces that we do.'

I thought this was so interesting. It made me think of relationships and how we (I) look for perfection in our partners, but are they indeed truly the one, or does the situation just fit at the time and then we adjust our lives and personalities so that it continues to fit? I thought of all my friendships and how true this is, which perhaps explains why often we drift away from each other. But, as is says in the next quote, I'm someone who still considers friends friends even if I'm slack about keeping in touch with them.

'Six degrees of separation doesn't mean that everyone is linked to everyone else in just six steps. It means that a very small number of people are linked to everyone else in a few steps, and the rest of us are linked to the world through those special few.'

'Most of us shy away from (a) of cultivation of acquaintances. We have our circle of friends, to whom we are devoted. Acquaintances we keep at arms length. The reason we don't send birthday cards to people we don't really care a great deal about is that we don't want to feel obliged to have dinner with them or see a movie with them or visit them when they're sick. The purpose of making an acquaintance, for most of us, is to evaluate whether we want to turn that person into a friend; we don't feel we have the time or the energy to maintain meaningful contact with everyone.'

The Connector Impusle: 'Horchow (and myself!) is quite different. The people he puts in his diary or on his computer are acquaintances -- people he might run into only once a year or once every few years -- and he doesn't shy away from the obligation that that connection requires (oops...). He has mastered what sociologists call the "weak tie", a friendly yet casual social connection. More than that, he's happy with the weak tie... He sees value and pleasure in a casual meeting.' Traits: versatility, good luck, different worlds, curiosity, self-confidence, sociability, energy.

'When Weisberg looks out at the world, or when Roger Horchow sits next to you on an airplane, they don't see the same world that the rest of us see. They see possibility, and while most of us are busily choosing whom we would like to know and rejecting the people who don't look right, Lois and Roger like them all.'

I guess I empathized with this "Connector" person, who knows everyone a bit, and few really well (as few know me really well). I only have a small group of loyal friends, and of them, I have an even smaller number would probably call me their good friend too. This is not self-pity, but the reality of changing worlds constantly and moving around. I have always wondered how I can possibly find a nice young man who could fit into all my different worlds. I have so many and I am comfortable and at home in them all, but they are just so very different, and there is no one who is just like me (not that I want there to be), with my peculiar collection of interests.

If I took a typical kiwi guy to meet my college friends, the flirts, the exes, the wild and the calm, how would he react? If I took any western guy to meet my Moroccan or Filipino or Kenyan friends, could he deal with the cross culture? If I wanted to spend an afternoon having tea with older lady friends, would that be boring? If I wanted to go out and spend an evening on the town, would that be too wild, or too much of a typical thing (i.e. expected all the time)?

1 comment:

Rama said...

whereas I would prefer a man that doesn't fit into my world... interesting theories... I'll have to pick up this book. (and I consider you a close friend)