It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.
“The number of people who changed residences declined to 35.2 million from March 2007 to March 2008, the lowest number since 1962, when the nation had 120 million fewer people.” (“As Economy Slows, Americans Are Moving Less,” New York Times, 4/23/2009)
I guess it’s no surprise that Americans are moving less these days. It’s hard to sell your place in this market, and relocating’s a pretty expensive undertaking. Still, despite the research, I’ve gotta say, it feels like everyone is moving.
According to the 2000 census (and also common sense), the majority of people who move are in their 20s and 30s. No big surprise—moves come while you’re still figuring out your life. You relocate for love, a job, school. Before you grow up and decide to settle down. This is all well and good for the movers—I was one of them once—but it’s really rough on someone who’s trying to make new friends.
I can’t tell you how often I meet people who tell me they won’t be here much longer because a) they’re applying to business school, b) they can’t stand Chicago winters or c) they’re in a long distance relationship. I shouldn’t complain since I was a relocater myself not too long ago, but now that I’m feeling settled it would be polite if my new friends would just stay put.
A reader told me a potential friend once said to her, “Are you planning on staying here in San Antonio, or do you think you’re going to move elsewhere sometime in the future? Because if you think you might move, then I have to rethink being friends with you.” It’s an absurd question to ask someone you hardly know, but I can understand the sentiment. Making new friends takes a significant amount of time and effort. If a year later that person’s not going to be around, you have to decide if the work is worth it. Run that good ol’ cost-benefit analysis.
When someone relocates, it’s not like they die. You can still be friends, obviously. But who needs more long-distance friends? Really. All my BFFs are long-distance! That’s how we got here!
Unlike the San Antonian, I don’t write off potential pals who might move. I pursue, and then just say “moving is stupid!” like a ten-year-old and hope it charms them into staying nearby. But the prevalency of moving is the primary reason why, when all’s said and done, I’d like to emerge from this quest with a good handful of local best friends. I need a cushion when a few leave. Even if less of them are ditching home than used to.