Friday, October 22, 2010

Friendship Tribes

I read a great article in The New York Times today about the changes in society that have created friendship tribes (I love this term!). The article discusses the revolution under the umbrella of latest wave of television shows, which the reporter calls 'flock comedies.' The author, David Brooks, compares the direction of these new sitcoms to the past focus on family comedies. Has friendship replaced family in my generation?

The beginning of this compelling article breaks down why and how this shift took place and what impact it's having on the current programming line-up.

Last week, in a discussion with friends I caught myself passionately talking about a television program for the first time in years. I was just wondering why I have finally fallen back in love with prime time television (particularly Modern Family, Chuck, and Glee). Well now I understand, and can celebrate the fact that they are a reflection on my generation and my life choices. For the last few weeks I thought my new appreciation for prime time television was the slow fall of reality TV and invention of Hulu, which allows me to avoid commercials.

As a thirty something girl (I'm still avoiding the word woman), who focuses on finding the most intriguing friends, work, adventures and experiences in life, I can proudly say I have an awesome friend tribe. My friend tribe has experienced countless explorations, and adventures with me.  Perhaps it's because I found the love of my life 10+ years ago, but I'm not in a huge rush to take on the responsibility of a family. I'm certainly not running from it, and look forward to it one day. But my responsibility to volunteer in my local community, plan parities with friends and create the damn best NYC sightseeing list ranks higher on my personal priority list for now.

While I don't agree with Brooks description of "flock friendships" which are more heavily weighted in networking relationships and loose acquaintances which he calls "group relationships," the full article is well worth a read.  And, while I may have created my own definition of friend tribe I don't think I'll ever use flock friendship in a dinner conversation with friends.

Brooks blames the shift to "flock friendships" on technology and the evolution of social networking, which everyone does.  And, while I don't try to pretend I understand the 20 somethings who have 500+ friends on Facebook and swear they would invite every single one of them to their mom's house for dinner, I do know enough of them to understand plenty of them still value one-on-one individual relationships.

Luckily I have,"the long, uninterrupted bonding experiences that they (most people) no longer have time or energy for anymore," in my life.  I don't long for the friendships on these sitcoms, as Brooks suggests, but relish in the fact that there are writers, or characters, out there experiencing the same thing.  As society continues to evolve and change, there will always be naysayers and frustrated outsiders. 

But, hell, if it's finally making television enjoyable to watch again....maybe it's worth it (mwhahahahahah -evil laugh).

Check out the full article:

The Flock Comedies -
"These flock comedies serve an obvious dramatic function. In an age of quick cuts and interlacing, frenetic plots (think “30 Rock”), it helps to have a multitude of characters on hand zooming in and out of scenes.

But the change also reflects something deeper about the patterns of friendship in society. With people delaying marriage and childbearing into their 30s, young people now spend long periods of their lives outside of traditional families, living among diverse friendship tribes. These friendship networks are emotionally complicated and deeply satisfying — ripe ground for a comedy of manners."


Anonymous said...

It is understandable and a little scary that my television watching patterns are in part a reflection of my relationship with people and my view on society. I hope that doesn't hold true for the shows that I occasionally watch like The Event, CSI, or from even way back when the cartoon Transformers.....but if Optimus Prime were real, that would be cool

Lost in Harlem said...

Agreed! It's scary when you realize you're confusing a character on your favorite tv program and your cast of friends. Hopefully it's just a reflection of good programming. And, heck yay, I would totally hang with Optimus Prime if he came to NYC!