Hello! It’s been a while. Since the last time I wrote here, I have eaten at several trillion more restaurants, finished a helluva a lot of crosswords, and not set eyes on Manhattan for what is quickly becoming a record number of days.
I recently read this article about the importance of weak social ties–not your best friends for life but your colleagues, your bartenders, the person in your apartment building you exchange greetings with when you walk in the door. Studies show that people are happier when they engage in this kind of social contact, even with strangers.
Of course, these days weak ties are hard to come by. And that’s what I’ve found really hard about social life in these pandemic times. My previous life was absolutely awash in weak ties. First, take the workplace. Last year I moved from a job in a large office to a much smaller one. Turned out the job was not a good fit for me in large part since I missed working on a team. At my old job, to which I returned just before the whole office started working from home, I felt like the mayor himself. No matter the kind of day I was having, I would inevitably engage in some sort of interesting conversation, with good friends, acquaintances, or people I’d never met before. It was like being back in college, or what I imagine the full-time grad school experience would have been like. A lot of good work as well as good morale arose from this happy circumstance, and I was excited to be back. I am so glad to be working with my colleagues remotely now, but of course it’s not the same.
Or take restaurants and bars. Many a time I have felt miserable and grumpy and dragged myself out to one of my regular spots, or somewhere I’ve never been, and method acted my way back into being a human by engaging in conversation with bartenders, waiters, chatty strangers. Hell, I had a lovely exchange with strangers last year where we all tried tastes of one another’s drinks. That’s not the world we live in anymore, to put it mildly. But even just saying hello, please, thank you to other people is a good way to feel more connected.
Now all these opportunities are gone, and with them, the way I used to understand and move through the world. I am pretty damn lucky, I think, even now. I am not an extrovert but I get along with a lot of people (not everyone, of course; who among us). I have a partner, and family, and some friends I talk to on quite a regular basis. But everything feels so different now since so much of my social life, and a part I had not realized was so valuable, is lost. The way that people interact now is not my forte. I don’t really relish the idea of one-on-one videochatting. The groups of people I have virtually hung out with, while lovely, are not who I would necessarily spend time with normally. Most of my favorite social interactions did not used to be parties or large get-togethers. I miss running into my colleagues in the elevator, saying hello to my bartender at Hunky Dory or Oxalis or the Owl Farm, showing up at a political meeting, and low-key days hanging out with a variety of people.
On the flip side, I have done a better job at talking to my strong-tie friends who are farther afield, since we’re all everywhere and nowhere right now. I’ve been on a trivia team with a friend in California, played a board game with people in Pennsylvania and Arkansas, and emailed and talked with friends in all corners of the country.
But I miss the way things used to be. So, hello. With this blog post I’ve tried to take up a few of the suggestions the authors of the article made to better maintain weak ties. I know things are hard but if you’re reading this please know I’m glad you’re out there.