Small scale collectives

June 25, 2022 — September 25, 2022

Figure 1

Nadia Eghbal, Friend groups:

Kevin Kwok has a schtick about how friend groups underinvest in themselves. A group of people with high mutual trust, shared interests, and low coordination costs have already solved for many of the issues that otherwise prevent humans from accomplishing great things.

I’ve been thinking about whether friendships could be described as having a purpose beyond personal fulfillment, and I think it shares some parallels with dating. One of modern dating’s great albatrosses is the hedonistic treadmill: the Tinder-induced “Welcome to Hell” of meeting, connecting, dating, and ghosting, repeated ad infinitum. Dating around is a perfectly good way to pass the weeks and months and years, but at some point, if you’re not committing to something—building towards a “we” that exists outside of yourself—the initial thrill of intimacy begins to take on a saccharine, artificial quality.

Similarly, there’s a version of modern friendship that feels like dating around, especially because it’s extremely easy to meet new people these days. Maybe it’s getting coffee with interesting people from Twitter, or grabbing a drink with old acquaintances to catch up and trade “life updates” every month or quarter. It feels good to meet people, swap ideas, connect on some superficial level, and perhaps even be a small part of one another’s lives, but if you never really settle down and commit to those friendships, you’re just collecting names. Over time, those names get replaced with other names, and the cycle begins anew.…

“Commitment” in the context of friendship usually refers to things like keeping your word or showing unconditional support. But I think there could also be a implied commitment not just towards each other as individuals, but to a shared sense of self. To try on a more normative version of friendship, perhaps we could say: “A group of friends who enjoy each others’ company ought to build something together.”