It still feels weird to say it: I live in the suburbs. No hate for the 'burbs; cities have their ills. Part of the weirdness is releasing my identity as a city dweller, and very specifically as a New Yorker.
I’ve clung to starting my day with my NYC ritual of going out for coffee. Today, one of my favorite baristas, Daniel, reported that he had heard of many cancelled and postponed holiday celebrations. Really? I asked. He explained that many had cited Covid and RSV.
This is not a view I’m seeing anywhere else. Daniel chats with hundreds of people every day in the drive-through, so what’s not to trust about his insight?
A friend (and reader) recently asked me what I’m seeing out there, and tbh I stumbled around as I answered. Circumstances still feel so pandemically fluid, to me. It's hard to know: am I seeing a pattern? Or, am I seeing my own experience, and inferring the world?
One thought in that conversation was not a well-honed insight. It was my feeling that the half-life of a network, or my network, has been decreasing at a rapid pace.
A moment on networks and “networking.” For some time after bschool, I became The Person to call if someone couldn’t reach a classmate, or wanted to know if another classmate had changed jobs.
People started telling me, “You’re great at networking.” Ugh. I wasn’t “networking.”
I enjoyed staying touch with classmates — I liked (most of) them. Also, when I heard about a new baby, or a move, I simply remembered. Networking was for mercenary careerists. I actually cared; wasn’t I just having relationships? While I still feel this way, I've been mentored/coached to think more expansively about networks and how they work.
So yes, I have a network. Right now, I'm looking at how many people in my network have dropped away since early 2020. Yes, networks evolve. People move away, change careers, update their priorities.
For me, life in the pandemic-to-date seems to have accelerated these natural changes. Once-weak ties are simply gone. In my closer circles, I can’t reach some people at all; others respond summarily, such that they’re functionally not present, not now. One good longtime friend falls into this category. This is heartbreaking.
Yet who wants to push? Everything is not about me. Non-responsive people may be deep in grief, illness, caregiving, job search, or something I don’t see or understand. (That said, I’m not for everyone.)
Faced with a complaint from a teen, one of my family members will sometimes quip, “That sounds like a You problem.” Maybe the feeling of accelerated network decay (lol not trying to coin a phrase) is an Anne problem. If it’s more than an Anne problem, these more-rapid changes affect our workplace dynamics, and how we grow in our careers, and how we work.
What's in your periscope view? About your network, or otherwise in your circles? I'd love to hear from you.
Weak ties, social media and office space
I am not active on Linked In. When logging in, I’m usually looking for contact information. Forget the ads, much of what rolls across my feed is irrelevant. The algorithm has always felt off, and it has not improved. For me.
RIP Twitter, though, once home for (my) weak ties. Some of these ties on Twitter matured into real-life friendships and business relationships. Others offered information, reading recommendations, and other ways to deepen my knowledge or interest in a topic. Yet, long before leaving Twitter, I wasn’t seeing tweets of people I had routinely interacted with. At the time, I didn’t realize that the algorithm would obscure many of my weak ties, and thus erode my network.
Presence in the office is another source of our weak ties. I'd love to learn more: do you know of anyone who’s taking a rigorous and nuanced look into the effects of remote work on our networks?
Many thanks for reading another one of my Warm Takes, this one written during our first snow. It's beautiful!
I'd love to hear your thoughts, questions, comments and/or suggestions. If you're interested in exploring BlueSky (not perfect but better than what used to be Twitter) I have more invite links, send me a note. If you're already there, I'd love to see you there.
I'm sure as soon as I send this out, which I'll do after one more edit, I'll find more things to fix and edit, and I will do so, on the Internet.
May you, your loved ones, and everyone in your extended circles be safe, healthy, and free.
Links (ok, a link)
50 years on, Mark Granovetter’s ‘The Strength of Weak Ties’ is stronger than ever, Melissa De Witte at Stanford News, July 24, 2023. This seems like a good linky explainer on weak ties, meaning and history. I'm not a sociologist lol, and as always, consider the source.