Self-Ethnography: Friends

Since moving back to Columbus, I have faced a number of frustrations: finding a job, getting a job, transitioning from the freedom of grad school to corporate life, getting my own place, and something I didn’t think would be an issue… making friends.

I have no idea how to make friends outside of the school environment. This has been pretty frustrating over the last eight months. I’m not the bar fly type, so that’s out. And the people who I would want to hang out with are probably already having the board game & crepe nights that I envisioned having with my new set of Columbus peeps.

My dad mentioned to me the other day that I might need to focus more in making friends in town. I have a number of friends spread across the nation, and thanks to Twitter, email, Facebook, Skype, and texting, I can stay connected with them. But I’m not investing in my current location; I’m missing the time I could be spending with them.

Last night, around two in the morning, I woke up and realized this is, in fact, a design problem. How does a young professional make friends in a “new” city? Is this problem facilitated or aggravated by technology?

So here I go, documenting my self-ethnography.


It wouldn’t be right without documenting my assumptions, right? I am assuming that in order to meet people, I need to…

  • Leave the computer.
  • Leave the apartment.
  • Introduce myself with a smile.

Initial Attempts

I’ll admit I haven’t been too keen on going out to meet people. I seem like a people person, but I get my energy from backing into a corner and reading a book. Being social is something I work at. So first, I am addressing my initial assumptions: that I need to leave my computer and  apartment.

I have, since moving to Columbus, joined:

  • as a way to find people with similar interests.
  • Swing Columbus so I know once a week, I am guaranteed to leave my apartment for an evening.
  • Lifestyle Family Fitness to deal with my increased seasonal affective disorder this year. It hasn’t been unbearable, but this winter has certainly affected my mood, which will have an affect on my ability to make (and keep) friends.

I am also spending more time with family. I’m very family-oriented, so I was surprised at how difficult it’s been for me to transition back from grad school. I try to spend at least one night a week with my parents. I find that if I don’t, I unhinge the same way I do if I don’t get my physical activity through lindy hopping or going to a gym.


As yet, none, really. I have my local BFF Adrienne to call on Friday nights for our dinner date, which is awesome. I met her through one of my students from grad school. So that has nothing to do with my current efforts. Still, it’s nice to have someone to call.

My frustration comes from not having a crew of friends like I did in grad school… yet. I assume because these are events that I go to… and not necessarily the type of thing where you invite people to hang out on some other day of the week.

Maybe this is an impossible task. Maybe this sort of gathering of friends doesn’t happen in the adult non-school world. I have no way of knowing because I’ve never had to transition to this non-academic life before. I’m also wondering if maybe I’m not investing in my current location because I don’t know how long I will be in this city. What if I leave in three years?

So now I put the question to you: those of you transitioning, or have transitioned, what are you doing to invest in your current location?

2 thoughts on “Self-Ethnography: Friends

  1. Binaebi,

    This is a design problem I have been studying for some time now. Albeit in a different context and for purposes that are some what different as well. Nonetheless, there are two principles that seem to reflect themselves well in my thinking and observation. Meeting friends often is a result of two major types of situation:
    1. Having someone do something for you.
    2. Doing something for some one.

    With the first the idea is that people often pay more attention to people who they have to do special favors or make exceptions for. I often observe that people try to subconsciously create a rationale for this special treatment in their minds. In doing so they inadvertently create some kind of latent connection with you. Your goal after this is to nurture the initial contact until it becomes something more and a friendship immerges. Although this sounds strategic it really is not. You are purposeful in seeking opportunities to be helped which means you are actually putting yourself in a vulnerable position. This is not easy but the rewards are fascinating.

    With the second, this is even more difficult in some ways bur easier it others. It is easier because it is easy to volunteer at a look community project that helps people. Whether it is something as simple as a once a month volunteer to help feed the homeless, or a habitat for humanity building project. Those usually involve people being more than themselves and is often a good opportunity to see people as their authentic selves. It is difficult because doing things for people can often be perceived as having some hidden agenda, this is difficult to convince people of otherwise. However, you are an open and honest person so this will help with this approach.

    Of course there are a lot of other ways to go about making friends and many more things you can try. But these two I have found particularly helpful as an academic and I think allows you to be the most honest and open. After all a person who seeks to have friends must show themselves to be friendly.

    Blessings, and do let me know how it progresses. I am always collecting more information in my studies….



    1. I believe time is also a factor, in conjunction with the two options you listed. For instance, I have been a part of the swing dance community since late August 2010. I began noticing a month or two ago that the conversations I was having with the regular attendees for the dances had shifted.

      We weren’t just talking about dancing anymore. We were talking about our interests. Turns out, I have overlapping interests with some of these people, and we ended up exchanging Twitter information. Eventually, I started friending people on Facebook to help me learn names. That simple act gave me context so next time I saw them at a dance, I could say, “Hey, so how did ____ go?”

      Building relationships of any kind takes time. Which stinks, because I’m impatient with that sort of thing. Anyway, it seems that time, and the act of sharing, goes a long way toward building such friendships.


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