Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Weak ties, strong passions.

I frequently tell people who don't live in the District that it's easy to meet people here, but it's not a good place to make friends. There are easy-to-list reasons for that: a transitory population, people devoted to a cause rather than to a community, and neighbors who are high IQ and high income.

I think there's more to it than that. My sense is that people who do well in DC are those who prefer weak ties to strong ones. A recent article in Wired by Jonah Lehrer discussed weak versus strong ties and community activism, noting that "weak ties play a seminal role in building trust among a large group of loosely affiliated members, which is essential for rallying behind a cause." Life in DC is all about being affiliated with some kind of cause, some passion. Nobody comes here just to hang out. (The people who hang out and do nothing else--the street-pacing idle--are largely natives who fall within the poverty demographic. I don't mean to sound dismissive about poverty, but that'll have to be another blog post.) People work, and work hard, at something they believe in. To gather a group together for a common cause, you need to focus on the work, not on the relationships. It's one of those commitment to truth things. Focusing on the higher ideal will carry you through the human messiness that comes from working with others.

No wonder I found DC to be an easy place to assimilate. I've spent my life making weak ties rather than strong ones. Anyone else do this?

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