Please help me rationalize the decision of not becoming friends
April 23, 2015 10:26 AM   Subscribe

After a lot of inner turmoil and stress and hair pulling, I've come to the conclusion that I don't really want to hang out with a group of people that I feel like I'm expected to be close friends with. Please help me rationalize/justify OR change my mind about this decision because I think I'm going mildly crazy over it.

I've come to you before about a question regarding dealing with "mean girls" in my graduate school cohort. I received a lot of helpful advice and I've been trying to follow it! I've stopped running too many favors and errands for them and tried to hang out a little less with them.

As a result, I tried to get to know other people in my very tiny program cohort. I found a couple people I sort of clicked with, which was an encouragement for a bit. But I realized that many people have buddied up and I haven't really found anyone that I truly click with like I did in undergrad. I also have realized that those two girls from before are much more influential in our cohort and have become the main organizers of events. Even if someone else organizes an event, everyone is invited (of course! we're a small cohort and it'd be really rude not to invite someone) so it's inevitable that everyone will be there.

Side note: I've really tried to change my perspective on the two girls who gave me the most grief and now I've just settled on they're more aggressive and competitive in comparison to my personality, and that's just why I feel uncomfortable around them. They're good people, we're just different. I'm gonna stick with that, otherwise I would be catty complaining.

Anyways, I've slowly come to the realization that hey, I don't exactly click with anyone in my tiny program. What the hell is wrong with me?! I get along fine with everyone, but I don't feel any kind of connection to them (and I hate to compare to old friends, but I just had so many people I connected with back home, I'm thinking something must be wrong with me up here.) It threw me in a depression and spiral of self-loathing and that contributed to my feelings of lack of connection. It stressed me out to be around my cohort beyond class and casual party settings. As the year comes to a close, it's gotten a lot more competitive and there's a lot more one-upping in conversations and compare-and-contrast people's strengths and lives kind of thing. This has not really helped my stress either, even with redirecting to a different topic.

I've talked to my roommates (who are in different but related programs) about my feelings of hanging out less with my cohort because I feel less stressed when I'm not around them. They think I'm crazy! "These should be your close friends, the people going for the same dream, you'll get serious fear of missing out, you'll be working for each other, etc." I feel selfish and like some inept socialite.

I think my cohort will do wonderful things in our field. They're generally nice people and I get along with them fine, as far as making conversation and telling jokes and talking about school and our jobs. But I don't feel much connection with them (as I am expected to?) and it's sort of driving me crazy on top of all the inadequacies that I feel in grad school. In my heart, I feel like I would be reducing stress levels by just hanging out with them in class and some parties and functions, but not every weekend like I'm expected to (and basically have been doing). I'll take my roommates' advice and of course not shut them out of my life, but I want to try to make other friends outside my program and not feel so obligated to fit into my cohort. That almost pains me to write that. I'm not going to sever ties (although, maybe hanging out with them less will sever ties inadvertently. The one girl who doesn't hang out AT ALL with us, because maybe she has her own established life, is really, really looked down upon. Like half the cohort talks crap about her just based on her not hanging out, which I think is a bit extreme.) but I just want to save my mental health.

And I know, you might say that we're in grad school and have no time to socialize, but our field is sort of built on socializing... We do have some time to have parties and what not on the weekends (not every, but people make time for down time in our programs). I think we're the most social program that our school has had in a while! There is some *heavy* pressure to be friends with everyone and be at every single event. It's like a networking competition. As a note, most all of us are straight out of undergrad or in our late 20s and first years.

tl;dr sorry for coming off as this anxious worry wart, but am I being selfish/wrong/stupid for not wanting to fit in and hang out with my cohort as much?
posted by buttonedup to Human Relations (31 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You're an adult! Who cares what your roommates think, you have agency over your own life and should not have to hang out with people you don't really like. There's nothing defective about you. Sometimes people just don't click, and life's too short to waste time trying to "fit in" with a social group that isn't working for you. Friends shouldn't cause you stress, period.

Your plan to step back but still remain in limited contact sounds fine to me.
posted by something something at 10:35 AM on April 23, 2015 [12 favorites]

They're generally nice people and I get along with them fine, as far as making conversation and telling jokes and talking about school and our jobs. But I don't feel much connection with them

It sounds like you're expecting to be deep serious BFFs with these people. It's ok to have good shallow social relationships too. It doesn't all have to be braiding hair sharing deep feelings and dreams.

Just be yourself and get along with them as you currently do. And beef up your relationships elsewhere.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:38 AM on April 23, 2015 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: Since I'm still sitting here, noooo I don't expect to be deep serious life long BFFs (but you know, if that happened, I wouldn't complain!), but I guess I expected to be clicking with someone on the level of "Hey, let's go hang out and watch netflix and have wine and chill and talk without feeling this need to compare our lives and futures" kind of thing that some people already have in my cohort. If that makes sense? I just wanted to find someone I could be myself with and be comfortable, but, I don't think that's gonna happen with the people I've met and I'm trying to accept/rationalize that, I guess.
posted by buttonedup at 10:44 AM on April 23, 2015

One of the greatest things I ever realized in my life was that if I didn't want to be friends with someone or do something I just plain didn't have to and that was OK. If you don't want to be best buds with people because you don't click, then don't! You don't have to rationalize or justify it - just the fact that this is what you want is enough, don't let anyone convince you otherwise. You can still be polite of course and do some networking if you feel it's necessary but not everyone is going to be a close friend.
posted by Kimmalah at 10:47 AM on April 23, 2015 [5 favorites]

No! You're not being selfish/stupid/a worrywart! You're doing exactly the right thing! And good for you for learning to prioritize yourself and your feelings over what others think you should or shouldn't do. I wish I had learned to do that sooner. Don't listen to your roommates. I'm sure they mean well but as fellow grad students they're lacking in perspective, too. Grad school can seem so insular and important when you're in it, I remember, but this is totally false; I only talk to a handful of my group of friends from grad school, and only when passing in the halls at our annual conference.

Focus on activities and friendships that make you feel good about yourself, find mentors in your program, work as hard as you can about as many aspects of the field as you can, and invest time in building up your CV so that you can stand on your own when it's time for job hunting.
posted by stellaluna at 10:49 AM on April 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

How is your life outside of grad school? Do you have friends and social support that isn't part of your cohort/program? Are you eating a decent diet, getting enough rest, and keeping up with your mental health (including meds if you need them)? If you are tired and run-down and frazzled, situations are going to appear much more catastrophic than they really are.

It's OK to be friendly acquaintances with your cohort rather than a tightly bonded BFF group. It's also fine to be friendly but not buddy-buddy with roommates (it actually is much better and less drama this way, IMO!). Your roommates might have bought into that "these are the best years of your life" BS.

You shouldn't expect your cohort mates, or your roommates, to be your entire social outlet and support. And as far as job connections, networking, etc. goes - I find it's more important to have an image as someone who is low-maintenance and hard-working than to be everyone's BFF. Future bosses aren't going to ask your cohort mates, "Is Buttonedup your BFF?" but rather "Is Buttonedup reliable, hard-working, and easy to get along with?"

For the record, I attended grad school for a master's, and I keep in touch with my cohort mates via Linked In and Facebook, but none of them are close friends. And that's fine.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:50 AM on April 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

I think you need to feel OK with people not liking you. It's really OK to not be liked and to not like others. I get the feeling that you don't like these people anyway, and I don't think you're a bad person. I mean, it seems that you aren't actually lonely and therefore want to be in their social circle but rather you fear not being liked. I guarantee you that when you finish your program you will forget these people at the speed of light. If you end up being in a professional environment, be prepared for most people to intensely dislike each other but work together just fine. Being professional means not letting your personal feelings get in your and other peoples way of functioning in a pleasant environment.
posted by waving at 10:51 AM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

I might be projecting, but I did not reach this conclusion until a bit later in life.

You only have a limited of time and energy for people. So maybe you can have a few close friends, but probably not 100s for friends, right?

So if you are spending time with people and use whatever criteria you want for friends in the past, maybe you exchange ideas/learn interesting perspectives/have warm fuzzies, whatever it is, it only through certain types of people - people who grok you, people who respect you, or you clique with, whatever. But if this is not happening with a group of people who you are interacting with now, do cut down the time. Because it opens up time and energy to connect with someone/ or a group of people who can give you this.

My guess is that you could learn a great deal from people in other graduate program, or if you have time, volunteer in the community. Connections from people can come from many places, it doesn't have to be limited to your immediate peer group.

I guarantee ten years from now, you won't even remember who these people are. Let them go and you will find people you can connect with. Build those memories instead.
posted by Wolfster at 10:51 AM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

I guess I expected to be clicking with someone on the level of "Hey, let's go hang out and watch netflix and have wine and chill and talk without feeling this need to compare our lives and futures" kind of thing that some people already have in my cohort. If that makes sense? I just wanted to find someone I could be myself with and be comfortable, but, I don't think that's gonna happen with the people I've met and I'm trying to accept/rationalize that, I guess.

In undergrad, your friends were likely not all in your major. You find buddies lots of different ways in college and it's usually more predicated on shared social interests than shared professional interests. You find people who have the same taste in movies, for example. Now you're in a situation where the common thread among all the people is your professional goals. There is no reason to expect that you would be movie watching friends. Eventually, if you give up on the kinds of friendships you think you want, you will develop different kinds of friends based on what you can get. Having a support system in grad school is really important. Having people who are going through the same classes, suffering from the same professors, dealing with registrar headaches and thesis formatting headaches and funding headaches is really important. You don't have to see eye to eye on politics or pop culture or anything else. And that can feel weird because it'll feel like your connection is shallow - just because people understand what you're going through at school doesn't mean they understand where you come from, what your values are. But eventually you will make friendships with people through you shared graduate school struggle. People with whom you have nothing else in common. It's a slow process, it feels weird and uncomfortable, and it certainly won't happen if you're forcing it. Just go through the motions of socializing and in a few months or a few years, you'll wake up and realize you have a whole new group of friends that are totally different from your other groups of friends. Not every acquaintance has to check every single friend box.
posted by one_bean at 10:56 AM on April 23, 2015 [5 favorites]

Hey, let's go hang out and watch netflix and have wine and chill and talk

Actually tbh that is a deeper level of intimacy, and it sounds like these people are very career focused right now and just not looking for the same sort of closer friendship that you are looking for.

Especially as I get older, I've seen the "let's watch netflix" stuff really doesn't happen one-on-one unless I'm much more close with someone. (Unless it's a big party.)
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:59 AM on April 23, 2015

What waving said. Not everybody is going to like you. You're not going to like everyone. People who you do like (and who like you) aren't necessarily going to be able to become close friends for a lot of reasons. And all of that is okay, even when it's hard because you don't have deep connections with people in close proximity to you (that's a generic "you" btw, not assuming that about your particular situation, OP).

Being in the same grad school cohort is a pretty shallow justification for friendship, really. And learning how to have good professional relationships while getting your social needs filled elsewhere is a good skill to have. It sounds like you're doing exactly the right thing for yourself with respect to your interactions with your cohort.
posted by EvaDestruction at 11:01 AM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

The other people in your program are in there because they want to study the same thing you want to study. Not as a judgement from God about your direction in life, lack thereof, or personality. It's just a random chance that you're all bunched together. You don't like 'em much. It happens. You're not going to like everybody you meet in life. Be as friendly as you need to be to maintain your networking connections for the sake of your career, but not liking some people, even a whole group of people, is not a sign that something's wrong.
posted by maggiepolitt at 11:03 AM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Guys, you guys have helped me feel such a wave a relief with your answers. I appreciate it so much!

I think I do have a big need to feel liked, I always have, and that's probably part of it. (Started going to therapy because of it too). I'm slowly realizing that I may need to shift my mentality from undergrad of last year to adult life this year. It really was so easy making friends then from different majors and walks of life, now I feel a bit silo'd. Believe you me, deciding to not hang out with my cohort has given me relief and a stronger sense of loneliness. But I'm *trying* to make friends outside of my program and school, it's just taking WAY longer than I'm used to, and a lot of the free weekends I had were trying to become friends with the people of my cohort. Hopefully now I can focus less on that and more on joining meetups with different strangers and volunteering and stop focusing on myself and my potential loneliness.

Funnily, as I was reading answers, my roommate came by and asked if I was going to a program party this weekend and I said, Nah, not this time. Gave me some flak and I wanted to reason and justify so much but I don't think I have to justify why, right? I'm just gonna say I don't have justify why anymore...

Thank you again, really. and i'm done! no more thread sitting.
posted by buttonedup at 11:09 AM on April 23, 2015

FWIW, my experience in life has been that sometimes things click and sometimes they just don't. It's definitely not you - it happens to us all sometimes. That's not much help dealing with the day to day of it, but I hope it helps a small amount with the self-esteem. You're not a failure just because you don't have much in common with a particular set of people. I mean, think about it - if every set of people you ever met was full of people you wanted to bond closely with, how would you ever get anything done? By the time you hit 30 you'd be spending every waking minute maintaining the hundreds of friendships you'd accumulated. Close friends are special precisely because they're not 10 a penny.

Sounds like you're doing a great job of keeping up cordial relations with people on your course, which is enough.

If the problem is that you're craving close friendships, it's time to start some new hobbies and see who you meet (why does it pain you to write/think of that? Sounds like a totally normal thing to do).

If it's more that you feel bad about yourself for not clicking with your coursemates - it's OK, it happens, and doesn't mean you're a terrible human being.
posted by penguin pie at 11:13 AM on April 23, 2015

I wanted to reason and justify so much but I don't think I have to justify why, right?

You got it! You never have to defend your decisions unless you want to. Often, the less said the better--keep it a simple "no thanks, I'm all set" , or, "no, I'm good, got some other plans, but thanks" and finally "that won't be possible this weekend".
posted by waving at 11:20 AM on April 23, 2015

Not going to the program party this weekend? Go to a different thing during that time period, and make friends through that channel.
posted by oceanjesse at 11:21 AM on April 23, 2015

as I was reading answers, my roommate came by and asked if I was going to a program party this weekend and I said, Nah, not this time. Gave me some flak and I wanted to reason and justify so much but I don't think I have to justify why, right? I'm just gonna say I don't have justify why anymore...
posted by flabdablet at 11:29 AM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

I've talked to my roommates (who are in different but related programs) about my feelings of hanging out less with my cohort because I feel less stressed when I'm not around them. They think I'm crazy! "These should be your close friends, the people going for the same dream, you'll get serious fear of missing out, you'll be working for each other, etc." I feel selfish and like some inept socialite.

Your roommates have weird expectations. Are they also all first-years? You should certainly have a friendly and professional relationship with your grad student peers, because yes, who knows what the future might bring (though your roommates overstate their case a bit), and because having friendly, professional, and non-intimate relationships with peers and co-workers is a good life skill. You are in no way obligated to become best friends with the students in your program, though. The fact that they are "going for the same dream" doesn't mean you have anything else in common, and in fact it can be a very good thing to have friends who are not wrapped up in your field/program.

I have a pretty minimal relationship with any of the graduate students in my cohort (beyond saying "hi" when we pass each other in the halls or are grabbing tea in the department office at the same time) but I have, as far as I can tell, had a pretty successful grad student stint by all external measures. I realized early on that I didn't have much in common with them beyond being graduate students in the same very broad area, and although there were a few fear-of-missing-out moments early on, I also quickly realized that since I didn't particularly enjoy spending time with them, I wasn't missing out on anything. I have no idea whether people have gossiped about me for this - though if they did, I am sure it got old pretty fast - but again, my goal is to be professionally friendly and helpful (and I think I am!) and otherwise to give no fucks, and so... I really don't care what might or might not be said about me. I am fine with how I am doing in graduate school, and that is what matters.

Things may also change for you as time goes on. This depends on your field, of course, but for most people classes taper down, research starts or increases, and other responsibilities like TAing pick up as well. There is less time for socialization, and a lot of the just-out-of-college kids will start to get over the novelty of being able to Drink Legally (tm) and there will be fewer parties and bar excursions. In some fields, where you are part of a research group, you will likely form closer bonds with members of that research group, who you will spend more time with. Regardless, you'll probably encounter more people from the years ahead of you, who are often a better resource for the logistical bits of grad school than people from your year, who are all running into new things at the same time as you are. The rest of the cohort will be meeting more people and getting busier too, and you'll all start spending more time with people you like, rather than people who happen to be in the same year/program. (The question of how to make friends out of your program in grad school and how to maintain long distance friendships is its own difficult topic, but that's a bit out of the scope of this question.) Really, though, I'd be quite surprised if the "let's ALL be friends" thing keeps going for more than another year; many grad student cohorts start out that way, but few keep it up.

You need to do what is best for you to succeed in graduate school. It doesn't sound like extracurricular socialization with your cohort is a big part of that, and that is completely OK.
posted by ubersturm at 11:37 AM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Coming from an engineering and sciences background, it is totally cool to not be buddy buddy with your entire grad program. It is beneficial to hang out with them occasionally and work projects and homework, but that is all that is really needed. The only
Exception I could think of is if you are getting your masters in occult sciences and you need to start planning your cabal - it is probably important to have a few people familiar with all the rituals... Otherwise - go out and meet other people.
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:52 AM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think you might find this easier if you focus on figuring out how and with whom you do want to spend your time, rather than worrying about justifying what you don't want and why.

Although you certainly don't have to explain not wanting to go to a party with other people in your program, it's much easier to say "sorry, I can't make it to the brunch because I'm volunteering at the animal shelter/going to the film festival/running a marathon/whatever."
posted by rpfields at 11:54 AM on April 23, 2015

They're generally nice people ...

Like half the cohort talks crap about her just based on her not hanging out, which I think is a bit extreme.

Sorry, "nice" people don't routinely talk crap about other folks behind their back for the "crime" of not hanging out with them. Maybe you don't click with anyone because they really aren't so nice?

Let me suggest there is a downside to trying to be liked by everyone and trying to fit in when you don't. If these folks wind up in a scandal because they are actually horrible people, not being so close to them will be a good thing.

Sometimes, there is no real benefit to a situation. Sometimes, it is damned if you, damned if you don't. In situations like that, the correct answer is to choose the lesser evil.


If you ain't feelin' it, don't force it.
posted by Michele in California at 12:08 PM on April 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

I'd recommend that you take a look at MeetUp and find some awesome folks who are into whatever you're into and get ooot and a booot.
At least it might take your mind of all the Cohort Drama(tm).

And yes, adulthood is wonderful because you really don't have to explain shit to pretty much anyone.
If necessary, become a broken record and give them the "Nah, I just don't feel like going." ad nauseum.

Welcome to Adulthood! Population: You!
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 12:10 PM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Is this a PhD program? I will disagree with some of the more extreme answers above and say that (if it is), these are people you're going to be connected to for your whole professional life. This does not mean you have to love them or spend every weekend with them. But it does mean you need to think strategically about this -- these are the people who are going to be reviewing your papers, coauthoring papers with you, studying for huge exams with you, helping you edit your dissertation, giving you feedback on your job talk, etc. And: they are going to be the ONLY ones who get how stressful and painful the dissertation-writing process and job hunt process is (trust me, I adore my partner and non-academic friends, but they just DO. NOT. GET. IT.) So, while I think is very good and healthy to make non-academic friends, even though it can be harder and take more time, I do think it is important to foster social ties within your program as well. Looking back at my program, I think the people who chose to socially isolate themselves have tended to have a rougher time of it. And when I come up with a cool idea and want to talk it through with someone or coauthor a paper, of course I'm going to turn to people I'm friendly with first because I know we can work well together.

Anyway, I say this not to try and make you feel guilty or stressed about this -- I don't think these people at all need to be your besties, and you should definitely branch out and make your social life about more than grad school (good advice even if you adore your cohort-mates). But also think carefully about how to maintain those social ties so that you can accomplish everything you want to in your field.

If you're in a master's program, I don't have personal experience so I can't directly advise, but I would just think about how important these professional contacts will (or will not) be during your career.
posted by rainbowbrite at 12:12 PM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

The only stage in my life that I don't still have friends from is grad school. No, that's not entirely true - I'm still facebook friends with former roomates and side-job people... and not a single class-mate. Don't be mean or standoff-ish with your classmates, but get a little too busy with other fun stuff to spend much time with them. Your work-life (school-life) balance will thank you.
posted by ldthomps at 12:18 PM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

The snide-ness seems a little unhealthy. Also, you stress wayyyyyy too much about fitting in and their expectations and OMG, its all tangled up in a big angsty mess! Breathe. Separate a little. Be the best you you can be, no matter what anybody else thinks.

If you are in the USA, you also might be experiencing some regional differences. The South, generally, tends to be a little slower, people are generally polite. The North-Northeast tends to be a little more abrasive, competitive, likes to spar and jostle. The westies are just weird :)

I'm stereotyping of course, but this is also somewhat true.
posted by Jacen at 12:46 PM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

I don't talk to a single person who was in my graduate program. Not a single one. Even at the time, I only socialized with them when I had to or when a project required that we interact. In fact, I ended up hanging out with people who were in parallel programs on different tracks for the same degree because our values seemed to line up better.

I was in a hard science program of a field that has a lot of sociological / communications / policy programs running in tandem ("public health" is a big umbrella). The hard science people were mostly physicians looking for some more letters behind their name so they could charge more or get paid better. The people outside the hard science program were much more politically aware and socially engaging.

And good riddance! If you don't like your cohort, don't force yourself to change to fit in better with them. Find your tribe elsewhere!
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 2:10 PM on April 23, 2015

So I'm currently in a grad programme as well... and guess what, I'm not particularly great friends with anyone in my cohort either! Sure, I get along with most of them, and I do hang out with them occasionally outside of class, but honestly we're never going to be bosom buddies and that's okay.

1) they are very different people and at very different stages in their lives. this does not make them bad people, it just means that we do not have that much in common and it's not worth my time to MAKE us have more in common.

2) honestly, I see these people every day in class as it is, if I had to rely on them for social interaction on top of that I'd go bananas. I've found that it's much easier on my sanity to try and interact with people outside of my department, which has the side bonus of being good networking for the future, too.

All that to second the consensus that you don't HAVE to be besties with people in your grad programme, especially if you don't have anything in common with them. In my specific case, I found that the members of my cohort- although composed of smart, competent, generally nice people- are far less into social justice and just generally far less aware of the world than I need my friends to be (possibly relevantly, I am the only poc in my cohort.) I've found my life is much improved by making the effort to make friends based on common interests versus simply a shared field of study.
posted by Tamanna at 4:40 PM on April 23, 2015

It is helpful to have some level of friendship with people who work on things related to what you're doing. I'll second what rainbowbrite says. Buuuut Grad school can feel a lot bigger and more important than it really is. While the connections you make in grad school are important, the ones you maintain outside of grad school are more likely to keep you sane, grounded and happy.

As far as making it work in your department: It sounds like there's a fair amount of competitiveness and such, but it's likely that others feel like you and are uncomfortable with the oneupmanship and bragging and career focus - even those who are participating in it. You might find more people you connect with or at least make conversations a bit more pleasant by redirecting status based conversations towards work-based conversations. For example, when people talk about their latest paper, don't let them focus on where it was published or how many papers they have coming out. Ask them what was exciting about the work or what kind of methods they had to use or if they got to go somewhere cool or miserable for fieldwork. You can also actively combat some things - when people complain-brag about working 80 hours in a week, you could start a conversation about problems of work life balance in academia and how it hurts diversity or how people aren't actually productive when they work that long.
posted by congen at 6:37 PM on April 23, 2015

It sounds like you have a good level of friendship and socialization with your classmates - enough that you will have them in your professional network in years to come. But if you don't feel a deep emotional resonance with them, that's fine! My experience of grad school was that first year everyone was too new and too focused to meet people outside the program. I took some time during the first summer to start pursuing some of my interests/hobbies and meet townies and students in other programs. By the end of the fourth year, when there weren't classes forcing yearmates into a cabal, things had kind of quieted down on the social front and there was just a subgroup of about 30% of them who still got together. I wasn't part of that, but so weren't a lot of other people, it wasn't as mandatory as it was first year. So hang in there, socialize when you want to, meet new people.
posted by aimedwander at 4:58 AM on April 24, 2015

Seriously, there's only one solution to this. You need friends outside of your graduate cohort. My situation in graduate school was, frankly, psychotic. Everyone there was either married and had a good life outside of school and didn't really get into it, or they were a needy co-dependent slightly stalkerish weirdo or a mean girl or a follower of a mean girl. I can not even TELL you about how much drama there was, constantly, all the time, from these women who were spiraling around, bored with their work and interested in just acting like hens pecking and causing fights, because that was a LOT more fun than sitting down and working every single day.

I've got a huge group of friends now who are just MINE - they have nothing to do with my job, they're just buddies that I see on weekends. And graduate school is a JOB. It is NOT a place to make friends. Think of it like a reality show, and you're just the person under the radar on the show who is going to make it to the end.

You're not there to make friends. Try not to piss anyone off (but with high-drama people that can even be hard, so if you do, just IGNORE it) and be friendly and a good team player, but don't go out drinking with people. Don't watch Netflix with these people. Don't tell them ANYTHING you wouldn't want your boss to know.

The smartest thing I ever did in graduate school was learning to treat it like a 9-5 job, and at the end of the day, I stop working. I don't work weekends. I am the most successful person in my graduate cohort and in the cohort above me, and I did that largely by keeping my head down, doing my work, and ignoring allllll of the drama these people like to create. And by not working too much. When I'm at work, I'm at work - this is my lunch hour! - and when I'm not working, I'm not working. Hanging out with people from school is going to make those non-work times just kind of sort of worky. Not good for your personal sanity.

Good luck.
posted by sockermom at 10:00 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also, this:

these are the people who are going to be reviewing your papers, coauthoring papers with you, studying for huge exams with you, helping you edit your dissertation, giving you feedback on your job talk, etc.

Isn't really true. You need one or two people that can give good feedback. I had one friend in grad school who was normal and gave me great feedback, and that's all I needed. Co-authors, I would look elsewhere - my best collaborations were definitely not with my drama-creating fellow students. My advisor edited my dissertation, other faculty gave me job talk feedback, and I figured out my way without involving myself with the other doctoral students to a large degree. And it does not matter what other students think of you. My advisor said to me, in my last year while I was looking for a job, "Those people have no power," when I told her that the assistant professors and phd students at one school seemed to like me. Those people have no power. You want the people who are more senior than you to like your work; the people that are at your own level do not really matter. Harsh, but true. That doesn't mean screw them over, that doesn't mean treat them poorly, but it means - don't worry so much about networking with them. They're on the same level as you. At best, one or two of them might have something to do with you later. If all they remember is, "Oh yeah, she got really busy her last few years and worked super hard," that is NOT a bad thing.
posted by sockermom at 10:06 AM on April 27, 2015

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