Monthly Archives: April 2012

Man Vs. Machine

I realized today that I seem to have gone on a temporary, if not intentional, social media break. I used to fire up the Twitter pretty often, checking in on my virtual friends, posting my latest TV and movie thoughts (Shaq and Cee-Lo should remake Twins!), and saying hello to those readers posting about MWF Seeking BFF.

And then last week I realized I hadn’t checked in on Twitville in a while. The same was true of Facebook. It seemed I was forgetting to post my usual stuff: book news, blog posts, birthday messages. Around the same time, my social calendar had really picked up. For whatever reason, I had a number of new friend dates, old friend catch-ups, and that in-between thing where you try to turn a new friend into an old one.

What I’ve been thinking about (and this is a “duh,” I know) is that there’s only so much time. Even I, who touts the importance of friendship at every turn, also have a career, a marriage and a family to attend to. And now that there seem to be one thousand different ways of socializing–in person! online! via text! via Scramble!–to keep up with, it can all seem to much.

My official ruling is this: Make in-person mandatory, the rest can come and go.

I’m not promoting a social media boycott, or cleanse, or protest. I’m simply saying that when I moved to Chicago and had few local, face-to-face friends and lots of online ones, I was still lonely. But over the last month, while I’ve had tons of friendship face-time and not a lot of online interaction, I’ve been totally socially fulfilled. I haven’t missed social media. I hardly even noticed it was gone.

Online socializing is fun and effective. I’ve connected with new pals I wouldn’t have known otherwise. But it’s extra.  The face-to-face is where it’s at.

I’m going to get myself back in the throes of Twitter and Facebook asap. It’s not going anywhere. But I’ve made my choice: In the battle of man versus machine, I choose man.

What about you?

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The Hard Facts: It’s What You Know, Not Who You Know

It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.

“It looks like the American Dream – which promises that if you work hard and use your brain, you can find success – is alive and well. After a 25 year study that followed over 2,000 Americans, researchers have demonstrated that it isn’t your connections that determine your professional trajectory, it’s your intelligence.” (“Research Proves It’s Not ‘Who You Know,’ Intelligence Is The Key To Success” ; TheGrindstone.com 3/31/2011)

One of the great things about making lots of connections and having lots of friends is that you might know people in various different fields. In my year of making friends I met consultants, teachers, bridal consultants, caterers, writers, actors and more. In a job market like this one, having a vast network that spans industries comes in handy. If I have a friend looking for a job, I almost always have another friend in the same field who is willing to at least answer some questions or make an introduction.

But if you’re still starting your BFF search, or it’s a bit slower going (after all, who else in their right mind would go on 52 friend-dates in a year?), never fear. The latest research says that whether you have lots of connections or not, they whole “who you know” mantra is a myth. Even being a Trump or a Wayans doesnt guarantee you success: “The researchers found that while a well-connected and socio-economically stable family could help young professionals score a high-paying entry-level position, it couldn’t help them move through the ranks of their company.”

I used to hear especially connected people who wanted to prove their own merits say, “I don’t want to use my connections, I want to get it on my own.” I’ve always thought that was silly. In a world where jobs are scarce, reaching out to contacts is part of life. My response is usually this: Having contacts won’t get you a job, it will get you an interview.

Companies aren’t going to hire someone who is incompetent and lose a lot of money. They are willing to spare the time to meet someone, though. At least that’s what I’ve always thought. It’s always nice to get this kind of scientific confirmation. “Once working, brainpower was the true indicator of a person’s advancement. Those who scored highest on standard Army intelligence tests were promoted quicker and reached higher pay levels in the end. Their abilities helped them to leave even their well-bred peers in the dust.”

Obviously nepotism, or being the boss’s best friend, can come in handy sometimes. But the good news is that overall, connections aren’t the whole deal.

Of course, with this, as with pretty much every other aspect of life, having more friends and social connections is more likely to help than hurt. If you ask me, it’s what you know and who you know.

What do you think? Is being connected the fastest route to getting ahead? Or do you agree that “who you know” can only get you so far?

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Can You Be Too Fabulous For Friendship?

A lot has been made of a recent interview with Angelina Jolie in Marie Claire. In it, Angelina speaks of her relationships with other women. “‘I don’t really have girlfriends in movies, if you’ve noticed,’ she says, suggesting that the same is true off-camera, as well. She quickly corrects herself. ‘Well, I have a few girlfriends. I just … I stay home a lot. I’m just not very social. I don’t do a lot with them, and I’m very homebound.'”

She’s said it to Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN, too. When asked who she confides in, Angelina said “I don’t have a lot of friends I talk to. [Brad] is really the only person I talk to.”

It doesn’t particularly shock me that Angie might not have a ton of gal pals. When you’re drop-dead gorgeous, insanely successful, and Mrs. Brad Pitt, you can be, well, intimidating. And whether it’s fair or not (I’m thinking not), I’ve heard that it can be harder to make friends when you’re extraordinarily attractive. Women sometimes steer clear of their powerful or beautiful peers because it’s assumed they’re  bitchy, or there’s jealousy. In Angelina’s case, there’s probably the added difficulty of strangers thinking they know you. When your life is played out in the pages of Us Weekly, people you’ve never met develop strong opinions of you as a person.

It’s sad, though. Angelina isn’t necessarily one to inspire pity (I’m sure plenty of us wouldn’t mind trading places with her), but hearing her say over and over that she has so few friends reminds me of something: It’s lonely at the top. And, also, even when it seems someone has it all—she might not.

It seems unfair that women might have to choose: powerful career, or friends? And looks aren’t even a choice. You’re either blessed with them or you’re not.

I have a friend who is stunning. Her mother once told me that she is grateful her daughter has such good friends now, because in high school the other girls assumed she wasn’t nice, or was out to steal their boyfriends. The mother didn’t explicitly say it was the case because her daughter was a beauty, but it was understood. And it seemed so crazy, because my friend is awesome! Not the type to swoop in and steal anyone’s man or engage in mean girl antics.

I’m not about to write here, thank God I’m not drop dead gorgeous! I work on looking my best just like anybody else. But who are we kidding? I don’t scare anyone off with my fierce Angelina face and body. And I’m glad for that. Making new friends is hard enough as it is, without people making early judgments of your personality based entirely upon your good looks or successful career.

Since we’re all anonymous here, sound off: Have you ever been written off because of good looks or extreme success? Do your looks prevent you from making friends? Or, admit it, do you steer clear of female friends who are just a little bit too pretty?

MWF Seeking BFF is in stores now! Interested? You can:
Order a copy
Read an excerpt
Get the book club guide

Watch the trailer

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