The Picky Introvert's Guide to Making Friends?
May 16, 2008 7:02 AM   Subscribe

I'm a male introvert with very, very few close friends. I can make casual friends no problem, but I'm rather particular about the type of people I'd want to be serious friends with. Difficulty: I'm an atheist liberal eco-friendly vegetarian tech nerd who doesn't drink, smoke, or do drugs.

Meeting people casually has never been an issue; I'm plenty friendly and can "play the part" pretty well, but when it comes to strong friendships I'm pretty easily turned off. I don't like people who drink, I don't like religious or "spiritual" people, I don't like conservatives, and I don't like luddites. (Note: I'm BASICALLY Straight Edge, save caffeine and sex, but I hate the people and music that go along with the scene so I don't use the label.)

Finding a godless liberal who doesn't eat meat isn't terribly difficult, so it seems like the biggest problem is the anti-drinking/smoking/drugging part. I'm definitely an introvert - I live with my girlfriend of 3 years, work full-time for a tech company, and neither of us go to parties or bars or are terribly social. Weekends are spent together, either out doing simple activities or inside watching movies, etc. We're homebodies. I can entertain myself just fine, but I feel like I could unlock more islands, so to speak, of my life and myself by making some close friends. (I've been playing a lot of GTA, sorry about the metaphor.)

So, please, help me out here. I just feel like if I'm going to invest in a friendship, it had better be with someone who I respect. Settling for less seems like a recipe for disaster. Advice? Where/how do I find like-minded people?

(PS - If you happen to fit the qualities I mentioned, uh, we should be friends! Leave a comment and I'll msg you from my real account.)
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (50 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Heh, you sound like me :) How many friend is very, very few? One? Two? I have only a couple of friends I would consider truly close, and a fair number of people I would label friends or acquaintances.

Is it that you really want more friends, or is it that you feel you should have more friends?

My email's in my profile, drop me a line!
posted by tomble at 7:09 AM on May 16, 2008

Hey, same boat! Except that I really enjoy eating animals of all shape and kind. Especially pigs. God, they are delicious.

You're in (what I assume is) a stable relationship, you have a couple really good friends, you're friendly to people you meet, have a good job, and seem to have your priorities in order. YOU SOUND LIKE A GROWN-UP. I fail to see a problem...
posted by phunniemee at 7:15 AM on May 16, 2008

I think you might be doing yourself a disservice to write off people so quickly who don't match your list of criteria. Of course you need have things in common with people, but you might find that you're missing out on really great opportunities and friendships.

While I pretty much think the only thing the Bible is missing are unicorns, I still find I can have great friendships with people who are Christian. Granted, we don't necessarily delve into conversations on religion, but we have plenty of other things in common.
posted by at 7:17 AM on May 16, 2008 [15 favorites]

Do your friends have to also be "basically straight edge"? There are plenty of interesting, sane people you can respect that won't fit that narrow description. Do you have a problem with people who have the occasional drink, or are you just trying to stay away from the "party" crowd?
Do you have any hobbies outside of tech? I've met a lot of people through indulging in my passions. I've also met people with similar values to mine by volunteering for a group that does something I believe in. What about your girlfriend, does she have friends you could get to know? Not in a tag-along way, but going to dinner as a group can be really fun, and can expose you to a lot more people.
posted by OLechat at 7:17 AM on May 16, 2008

I'm an atheist liberal eco-friendly vegetarian tech nerd who doesn't drink, smoke, or do drugs.

Guess what? None of those things make you better than other people. None of those things make some people more worthy of your respect than others. There are people who aren't like you who you're missing out on knowing because you're built some pretty big walls around yourself. I get the feeling you are just out of college, because outside of a college environment, it is not hard to find people who don't drink, smoke, or do drugs. What are some activities you've always wanted to try? Places you've always wanted to see? Think about trying to meet people who have similar interests as you. I think you'll find that even if you meet someone who loves, I don't know, video games as much as you, they can be completely different in others way, and that back and forth, that energy, can change you and mold you and hopefully break you out of the rut you are stuck in.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:21 AM on May 16, 2008 [17 favorites]

I'm an atheist liberal eco-friendly vegetarian tech nerd who doesn't drink, smoke, or do drugs.

I'm also an atheist liberal eco-friendly nerd who doesn't do drugs or smoke (and to add a few, I'm an expatriate, gay, and like merino wool as a sweater material). And that's a very significant percentage of ways that we are similar, but why should you care if I enjoy a cosmopolitan or nibble on a chicken breast if, say, we're both into Rothko paintings or Scrabble or Interpol? It seems like these labels you define yourself with only put up barriers to meeting new people.

I just feel like if I'm going to invest in a friendship, it had better be with someone who I respect. Settling for less seems like a recipe for disaster.

Close friends are often radically different from you, but that doesn't mean you respect them less - I respect my friends who are different from me more, in fact, than the ones who are more similar, because we have to work harder to keep things going, which means more hanging out, more phone calls, more friend-on-friend action, so to speak.

Don't take this the wrong way, but while I have plenty of friends who sound a lot like you, all of them are fine with everything about me, and those who can't handle the fact that I am who I am, or treat my identity, and not my personality or my interests, as a basis for friendship don't really get called back, you know what I mean?
posted by mdonley at 7:24 AM on May 16, 2008 [10 favorites]

Do people have to be carbon copies of you for you to respect them? A lot of my friends and people I respect, have differing views and opinions on different topics, and different lifestyles. I'm an atheist too, but the topic pretty much never comes up with any of the people I hang out with (some of whom are religious). I think religion / non-religion is a pretty personal topic, and most people past a certain age have learnt to keep their opinions to themselves. And the same goes for politics and ethical food choices.

Also by choosing to not become closer with people different than you, have you ever thought you're missing out on a chance to grow and learn and develop? Differences are things that add to people's awesomeness, most of the time, not detract from it.
posted by Sar at 7:27 AM on May 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

I just feel like if I'm going to invest in a friendship, it had better be with someone who I respect. Settling for less seems like a recipe for disaster.

Definitely. But why can you only respect like-minded people? If they believe different things than you, it's not like they're necessarily less intelligent or logical than you. It's probably because of their upbringing, their particular situation, their physiological makeup, or whatever.

A friend is someone you can talk to and hang out with. It doesn't have to be someone who does exactly the same stuff as you all the time. It also doesn't have to be someone who believes or does all the same stuff. You don't drink? They don't go drinking with you. You differ about politics? Don't discuss it. These things have little to do with what makes someone "friend material" for you. Find people who are fun to hang out with, and keep them around.
posted by goingonit at 7:27 AM on May 16, 2008 [3 favorites]

I think you're letting your labels get in the way of meeting real people.
Real people who might be different than you, but real people who could make amazing friends.
We are all connected, but it's our small differences that make us who we are and add spice to life.
You're not walking down the supermarket aisle shopping, checking off things as you put them in your cart.
I do a lot of things via, and love it, because it really allows me to get out of the house, meet different and unique people and have fascinating conversations with good food.
Rather than brandish those labels like a badge of honor, why not take them off?
See what happens.
posted by willmize at 7:29 AM on May 16, 2008 [4 favorites]

What mdonley said.
posted by awesomebrad at 7:31 AM on May 16, 2008

The one thing that stands out to me from your self-description is that you seem pretty at ease with the fact that you're judgmental. (Which, hey, we all are to some degree: I know I subconsciously devalue people who smoke too, and it breaks my heart a little because one of my closest friends is an inveterate smoker.)

The first question to address is whether this is something it may benefit you to change. For one thing, people can usually tell when you're looking down at or appraising them and most aren't often willing to befriend someone so (to play with your wording) disrespectful. For another, your inflexibility means you may miss out on meeting some very cool people--just because someone drinks (within limits), she isn't necessary a moral failure.

Now, if you're OK with your current specifications: what about adult sports leagues in your area?
posted by kittyprecious at 7:34 AM on May 16, 2008

You're "an atheist liberal eco-friendly vegetarian tech nerd who doesn't drink, smoke, or do drugs." So your question is how to find other atheist liberal eco-friendly vegetarian tech nerds who don't drink, smoke, or do drugs.

Wrong question.

Stop focusing on trying to find people who resemble you, and just accept the fact that other people are different.

This does not mean agreeing with PinkSuperhero that "none of those things make you better than other people." Actually, they may very well make you better than other people. But making friends isn't about trying to find the absolute "best" people in the world.

The reason for this is not because you're "no better than anyone else." It's that if you narrow it down to the vegetarians (what, maybe 5% of the population), non-smokers (75% or so), liberals (a minority), teetotallers (a minority), and atheists (around 10%), you're talking about less than 1% of the population as people you'd even consider as friends.

And who knows how many of them you'd even get along with. For example, I'm pretty close to fitting your description, but I wouldn't be very interested in meeting someone with your close-minded attitude.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:37 AM on May 16, 2008

You could be me, in a lot of ways. I think you may want to work on being more flexible and less judgmental when it comes to evaluating people as friends. I think your criteria make a lot of sense for choosing a girlfriend, not so much for choosing friends with which your interaction isn't quite so intense/prolonged. You don't have to be an ideological clone of your friends, just respect them even with their differences.

I could basically run down the list of your qualities and give anecdotal evidence of people I know in each of the criteria you've listed and say "but, in general, they're good people so I hang out with them and just avoid the bits that make me really uncomfortable." So there's my suggestion. Find good people (however you end up defining that), regardless of the details. Part of mutual respect is knowing when to agree to disagree.

For instance: I'm an strong agnostic atheist, but two of my closest friends are very religious. It works for us because they're liberal (ie: don't believe I'm automatically going to hell, if their worldview turns out to be correct; don't actively bomb abortion clinics; don't actively lobby political organizations to restrict my rights) members of their respective groups. Do I disagree with them? Sure. Do they disagree with me? Sure. Are we still friends who respect and would do basically anything for each other? Sure. Caveat: I would not romantically involve myself with someone like that, because the stakes are much higher. But you're already taken, so not so much an issue for you!
posted by Alterscape at 7:45 AM on May 16, 2008

I just feel like if I'm going to invest in a friendship, it had better be with someone who I respect. Settling for less seems like a recipe for disaster.

What are you afraid would happen if you hung out with someone who eats meat or drinks sometimes or believes in God?
posted by moxiedoll at 7:46 AM on May 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

You're in (what I assume is) a stable relationship, you have a couple really good friends, you're friendly to people you meet, have a good job, and seem to have your priorities in order. YOU SOUND LIKE A GROWN-UP.

Which is why the crux of the problem is that the OP is approaching friendship like a teenager. Adults choose friends based on non-superficial reasons.
posted by kittyprecious at 7:47 AM on May 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

to go with what everyone else has said:

1. Broaden your horizons.
2. Be happy with having only a couple friends.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 7:53 AM on May 16, 2008

You only mention a set of criteria for friends; you don't really go into what you'd want to _do_ with a friend (something I wonder about for myself, too). I think if you can figure out what roles you and your potential future friends might play in each others' lives, it would help make clear how to find these people.

I fit just about all your criteria, in a sense, but I also work really hard (sort of) to not judge people -- or at least I like to think of myself that way; the people who do know me would assuredly call me a bit judgmental. Anyway, the way you write about "I don't like people who" [do X activity] makes me a little nervous of you. It leads me to feel like we'd just end up sitting around criticizing the lame-o drunks where you work (believe me, I sympathize, I've worked for tech companies and been disappointed that I couldn't really hang out with my co-workers or even really relate to their versions of "fun"), and also -- really -- makes me wonder if there's some thing I do that would instantly alienate you. Remember we're both introverts; I don't know about you, but I'm easy to scare off.

Maybe I'm just older than you are; I definitely wasn't a very gentle person when I was just out of college. I mean, I wasn't physically brutal by any means, but I certainly didn't give any of my co-workers, or even most fellow students, a chance to really make an impression on me; I just assumed we had nothing at all in common, they would find me weird above all else, and I had really no use for them. I wasn't mean, I just never felt free to be myself around them. Not that such a thing would have been easy, but I didn't even admit the possibility.

Anyway -- good luck. It's awesome to realize that you can use your tech-focused problem-solving abilities on your own life!
posted by amtho at 7:54 AM on May 16, 2008

You can't have it both ways.

You're either a total elitist, or you're a guy who wants more quality friendships.
posted by shownomercy at 7:54 AM on May 16, 2008

BTW, it's fine to prefer to hang out with other vegetarians and people with similar beliefs -- it makes so much easier, especially choosing where to eat together, and eating together is such a basic social activity that this can make a huge difference. Your true friends will very likely have much like this in common with you.

But, like love, friendship might come from an unexpected direction.

The Christians have an annoying saying: love the sinner, hate the sin. One must never speak it aloud, but one can think it.
posted by amtho at 7:58 AM on May 16, 2008

And it needs to be said, that if you are looking for those qualities in other people, be prepared that not every one will have all of those exact qualities that you want. Instead, maybe Mary is the one that you can talk politics with. Perhaps Joe is vegetarian for the same reasons you are. And then there is Henry who is anti-drinking, smoking and drugs. Anna is athiest and eco-friendly. I'm just saying that not everyone will fit your profile, but that many people will fit one aspect of your profile and so you can build a relationship from that and also get your needs met on various aspects of your personality that are important to you.

I am very nature-oriented. I also like to do crafts. I also like living frugally. I am religious. I love to read. I don't have one single friend that encompasses all of those traits. But, I do have a friend that is as nature-crazy as I am. Another friend, I turn to do work on craft projects. Yet another friend is excited about frugal living and saving, like I am. I have a religious friend that I can talk to. I belong to a book club and have friends there that love to read like I do.

It's important to have things in common with your friends. But you don't have to have ALL things in common.
posted by Sassyfras at 8:00 AM on May 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

The OP is approaching friendship like a teenager. Adults choose friends based on non-superficial reasons.

I just don't understand why he feels like he's got to have a whole bunch of friends. You don't need a whole bunch of friends. (Maybe it's because all of his friends he has currently are exactly like him...)

Dude: Hey, I love not eating animals!
Dude's friend: Me, too! And how there's no god!
Dude: OMG, yeah! Let's go do nerdy tech stuff!
Dude's friend: OK! And then afterward, we can go out for a non-alcoholic beverage!
Dude: Yeah!

Seriously, though: is what you're looking for in a friend someone who is going to talk about being an eco-friendly atheist vegeta...etc? Or do you actually have interests that extend beyond your labels. What if one of these people, for instance, was really into America's Next Top Model, listening to Slayer, and rugby. Are you really into America's Next Top Model, listening to Slayer, and rugby? Everyone is different.

But mostly...why do you think you need more friends?
posted by phunniemee at 8:03 AM on May 16, 2008

Nthing the suggestion to loosen your standards a bit. Figure out which of your values would genuinely get in the way of developing a friendship, and which ones you can agree to disagree on -- e.g. I could probably never be friends with a racist, but I can get along fine with a pro-lifer no matter how vehemently I oppose their stance.

When I met my boyfriend (before he became my boyfriend), I drank regularly and smoked like a chimney; he did neither. I quit smoking a year into our friendship and am still smoke-free. If he had brushed me off because I smelled like an ashtray, we both would have missed out on something great. (The other lesson here: people change, especially their eating/drinking/smoking habits.)

On the other hand, I've had some friends who have gotten pretty snotty and sanctimonious about being vegetarian. I consider vegetarianism to be worthwhile, but their attitude has slowly pushed me away from them and into the loving, non-judging arms of bacon. You don't win converts by scoffing at them, after all.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:07 AM on May 16, 2008 [3 favorites]

You won't unlock more islands if you'll only accept the ones where the sand on the beach feels the same as what you're now standing on. People who are good with other people often seem to be that way because they're open to the experiences and diversity of others. They're curious, and don't need to compete in their head for the one true way to live.

I don't drink or smoke or do drugs either. There's a lot I don't do, and may have allowed what I don't do to define me. That can be a closed, fearful, judgmental way of living. Maybe those of us who have chosen to abstain from the standard vices can be guilty of being a bit immature sometimes, looking upon the smokers and drinkers as people who do "bad things", as if we're all still ten years old. Sure, we'll probably never relate well to the "dude, I got so fucking wasted on Friday, ha ha" guys, but we can try to be more charitable, allow others to have their fun.

You and I could have been friends, but then I saw that you play video games. When I was young there was only Pong, so I don't understand immersion in video games as a hobby. Now I don't feel that I can have a high enough regard for you to accept you as a friend. Sorry. It's too bad. I could use a couple friends.
posted by TimTypeZed at 8:09 AM on May 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Finding a godless liberal who doesn't eat meat isn't terribly difficult, so it seems like the biggest problem is the anti-drinking/smoking/drugging part.

Maybe go to AA, NA and X-smokers to find some friends?

But seriously, I think you need to drop this from your wish list. It suggests you have a desire to control the behaviour of those around you, and not only is it impossible for you to do this, you have no right to.

My dad is a complete teetotaller, has never touched a drop of alcohol in his life, is anti-smoking, anti-drugs, etc. He also has a ton of friends. And a whole lot of them indulge in less than healthy activities on a regular basis. So what does he do?

He enjoys their company, and doesn't consume anything himself. And he never preaches his views. It's that simple.

You have no right to dictate to others what they can and cannot put in their own body. Not that you're trying to do this, but by having a wishlist for straightedge friends I think you are going to be disappointed.

We accept people for who they are. We learn from other perspectives. There are some wonderful, responsible, and great people who like to imbibe from time to time.

If you're not willing to tolerate some common social practices, seriously, try the AA route, maybe AlAnon to meet up with people who are abstaining.

It's a big bad world out there...don't shun the diamonds in the rough
posted by Flying Squirrel at 8:27 AM on May 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

i totally fit the bill. got over my drinking/drugging/smoking a few years back. while i'm not a vegetarian, i'm "married" to a vegan, so i'm not all about forcing meat on people....

i haven't read all the responses, but i don't think you should cross someone off the potential friend list just because they eat meat or because they are religious/spiritual--as long as they don't force those things on you. that isn't being a good friend.

i do understand the aversion to d/d/s because sometimes friendships start and center around those things; they're social lubricant. so clearly you shouldn't go to bars or raves to make friends. but what if you're at a restaurant with a new friend, and you're enjoying your tofu and they're enjoying their cow, and they want a beer? is that outside your boundaries? are you going to get all high and mighty if you're watching movies at their place and they have a scotch? i mean, that's your perogative, but it doesn't make you someone that a lot of people are going to want to be friends with.

the basis of friendships is finding people you mesh with and accepting their differences and not trying to change them to better fit your mold. trying to change people makes everyone involved unhappy. and sometimes you just won't mesh with people because of their rampant catholicism/republican-ness/litterbug-ness. and that's okay.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 8:47 AM on May 16, 2008

I was somewhat surprised a while ago to discover that a pretty good friend of mine is actually a member of a fairly conservative Christian church. (I'm a former Catholic turned atheist. We both live in pretty liberal cities. Like with Alterscape's friends, it helps that we're not at opposite poles politically.) We did have a very cool weird conversation about religion once.

In another area, I am totally disinterested in sports, but I've gotten to be good friends with one of mr. epersonae's childhood friends who is an ex-jock and still nuts about sports. We don't watch sports together or anything, but the three of us can have a lot of fun doing other things, including D&D!

In both of these cases, I've actually gotten to understand more about their points of view, and I think it's made me a better person. No, really.

I have a really hard time making friends, and it doesn't help, I'm sure, that I tend to have the same attitude of wanting to have friends with the exact same points of view, interests, etc. Thinking about people as an interesting mix, and being able to learn from & appreciate their differences, can only help!

their attitude has slowly pushed me away from them and into the loving, non-judging arms of bacon

Exactly. (Also...mmmmm...bacon....)
posted by epersonae at 9:08 AM on May 16, 2008

The fact that you don't respect anyone who believes in God, eats meat, or uses drugs of any sort sounds, to me, like you're using gross stereotypes to define anyone who has those qualities. "Oh, man! People who drink alcohol!? They disrespect their bodies so much! They're complete losers! If you drink alcohol, then you are wasting your mind!" "Oh, and those people who believe in God! Man! What is WRONG with those people? Don't they realize that they are just sheep, acting irrationally because of how their parents raised them? They're such losers!"

The problem is, any evaluation of others that depends only on stereotypes is not very good.

If you want more friends, and if you want only friends you can respect, then you probably should learn more about why some people believe in God, eat meat, or use drugs. Some people who do those things are complete losers, yeah... But some of them, trust me, have good reasons for what they do. Some of them, but these are the ones who matter for our current purposes. If only you could understand their reasons, maybe you could realize that just because they disagree with you doesn't mean they're horrible, foul people.

I think what other people mean when they say "expand your horizons" is that you have to try to grasp what leads some people to do what they do. Seek out people who disagree with you and try to come to understand what their reasons are, what their rationalizations are. Don't immediately disregard them because of how they differ from you, but, instead, inspect them, analyze them, seek out the kernel of reason behind their ways. Even people who disagree with you can put careful consideration in their lives--find out what the nature of that careful consideration was, and the thought process that made them to live their lives the way they have. Maybe there are good reasons for someone to decide to drink a couple of beers now and then--can you imagine that? Maybe there is a good reason for a person to attend church once a week and pray to a being they cannot see or comprehend--can you imagine that?

If you can't even consider the possibility that anyone who makes different decisions than you is as worthy of respect as you are, then you're failing to understand something about them. Try to come to get why a smart, liberal, reasonable person would drink or believe in God or eat meat.. Do that, and you will learn how to respect a person who disagree with you. It'll be like friends are falling from the sky.
posted by Ms. Saint at 9:15 AM on May 16, 2008

Anarcho-technophile here. Similar boat although I drink on a semi-seldom basis. Lately I've been thinking of throwing in the towel on the whole 'alternative' culture and being an MTVchild, so I'm keen to see what others say in this thread!

I back up what most other people are saying, don't cut people out based on their vices or lack there of. I reckon you could meet a lot of similar minded people through IndyMedia collectives. I met a lot of like minded people that way, although I think couple are plain crazy, but you're going to get that in any circle. A lot are anarchists, or have left wing tendencies, and most are also technophiles and support vegan, straight edge (to declare a stereotype) or other alternative lifestyles.

Other than that, perhaps look at the clubs at a local college or university, I recall there being a few non-students who came to our environmentalist and liberal related clubs.
posted by chrisbucks at 9:15 AM on May 16, 2008

1. Godless, liberal, vegetarian, substance-free judgementalists are better than everyone else. Duh.
2. In my view tolerance, honesty, and loyalty are the big three for any friendship. Certainly the more in common the better in terms of interests and shared experiences, but the big three will carry the day in any comparison.
posted by ewkpates at 9:17 AM on May 16, 2008

I'm an atheist liberal eco-friendly vegetarian tech nerd...

I bet you're not any of those things.

Here's my guess: you don't believe in God; you care about the environment; you think killing and torturing animals is wrong; you're into technology.

What's the difference between your claim and mine? I'm describing some traits; you're applying labels. When you label yourself or other people, you put them in a box. You limit yourself to seeing only certain aspects of those people. You see them as categories, not as people. I understand that you'll start seeing them as people once you're friends with them. But it's worthwhile seeing them as potential people before that.

Guess what? I don't believe in God. I care about the environment. I love technology. I think killing animals is wrong. But we would never become friends. Why not? Because I'm not a vegetarian. So you'd write me off.

Though I'm eat meat, I think it's wrong. I actively struggle with it. I think about it all the time. I read books about it. Etc. I'm imperfect, but I share your core values. But you've lumped people into clear-cut categories. If you posted an ad on Criagslist, looking for friends, I wouldn't respond, because you'd ask for vegetarians.

I'm a strong atheist. I'm not a "spiritual person." I don't believe in God, Nature, objective morality, psychic powers, The Power of Love, The Innate Goodness of Humans or free will. Yet my best friend is a devout Christian.

How can he and I possibly get along? Easy. We're both smart and we have no forbidden topics. I can be openly atheistic around him. He asks me questions about my beliefs (or lack thereof); I ask him questions about his. We have totally open discussions about religion and atheism. They're really fun and interesting. I can even send him juvenile cartoons of Jesus taking a shit or whatever. He doesn't get offended. He sends me ones that are even more juvenile. He's comfortable with his faith and I'm comfortable with my non-faith.

When I was much younger -- when I used labels like you -- I THOUGHT I couldn't get along with Christians. But I was wrong. What I really couldn't get along with were intolerant, close-minded people who had no sense of humor and who forbade me to talk about certain subjects. That's not the same thing as Christian, even if many Christians you've met have been like that.

You love tech? Great. Me too. I can talk about my iPod for hours. I can wax poetic about Design Patterns and algorithms. You know what that really means? It means that I'm a geek -- I'm someone who gets incredibly passionate about minutia.

And you know what's really cool? Meeting other people who are geeks -- but different sorts of geeks. History geeks; food geeks; whatever. I learn from them and I get off on their passion. What I don't like is people who don't have passions and obsessions. I probably can't be friends with them. Our energies would be too different. But I can't imagine limiting myself to geeks in one narrow area. BOOORING.

Liberal people who don't drink? I echo others here. How old are you? There are a gazillion people like that.

Look, I don't want to paint a false picture of myself. I'm introverted and picky. I rarely make close friends. If -- say -- my Christian friend wouldn't let me talk about my atheism in front of him, I couldn't be friends with him. Open and free discussion is key for me, and friendship won't happen without it. But I don't have time for labels. They serve no good purpose. They are walls.

Live your live. BE an atheist vegetarian and don't apologize. But don't chastise others for not being that way. If you concern yourself with yourself, people who are attracted to you will naturally flock to you. And they won't suddenly turn on your for force you to censor yourself. Since you'll have been honest with them about who you are, they'll either accept you that way or move on.
posted by grumblebee at 9:20 AM on May 16, 2008 [8 favorites]

But what do you like to do?

If your list of requirements defines your interests, then you're stuck with having boring conversations along the lines of phunniemee's observation: "Thank nonGod I love to not eat meat!" "I'll not drink to that!"

The people I know who define themselves along the factors you mention are the people I avoid. When someone feels the need to tell me early in a conversation that they're atheist, vegetarian, lactose intolerant, or liberal, that's shorthand for "I don't have any other interests or conversational skills."

I've met my newer friends while skydiving, or biking, or in a bookstore, or swimming, or playing music, or otherwise randomly. And they all have some or many of the attributes you mention, but I sure as hell didn't know that at the time. Yeah, I'm a picky introvert, too.

Thank God for bacon, though.
posted by lothar at 9:24 AM on May 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Do people really make friends by listing all their qualities and then matching themselves against potential friends?

If I were you I'd cut my friendship criteria way back and instead of focusing on non-smoking, non-drinking etc. look for approaches and attitudes e.g. decency, openness, honesty, respect, whatever. Basically, open up your circle and be yourself; people that are more like you will be drawn closer and those unlike you will move away.

And, when trying to make friends, think about why they'd want to be friends with you.
posted by rikatik at 9:32 AM on May 16, 2008

rikatik just said what I was thinking. But I'll elaborate anyway - what qualities do you have that would make *you* a good friend? It's very easy to be high-minded about your own awesomeness when it's all theoretical, are you actually just looking for validation but scared that you'll be the one being rejected?

If so, fret not. If you don't want your beliefs challenged, don't harp on about them with people who don't share those views, it doesn't mean you can't bond over something else. If that sounds intolerable (and I'm an introvert too so I get why it might), you have to accept that it pretty much limits the opportunity to connect deeply. Close friendships take a lot longer (and considerably more latitude) to develop and maintain than romantic relationships.
posted by freya_lamb at 10:09 AM on May 16, 2008

Everybody wants you to give up your standards. I say start off by excluding these jokers from your search.

I'm surprised that more comments don't recognize that there is some real value in common labels. I've learned, for instance, to steer clear of people who can't stay sober and who don't read philosophy. I'm reading about valid constructions, they're drinking, it doesn't work out. Tomato, potato kind of thing.

In the end, books might be better friends than people. Its worth considering.

p.s. I suspect "liking bacon" is shorthand for "I'll get mine... even if it's over your dead pot-bellied pig's body."
posted by ewkpates at 10:11 AM on May 16, 2008

p.s. aren't liberals all about that whole tolerance thing?
posted by Flying Squirrel at 10:26 AM on May 16, 2008

Everybody wants you to give up your standards. I say start off by excluding these jokers from your search.

It's not about "giving up your standards", it's about trying to make friends with people before applying the standards. Friendships are not like resumes; you can say "I don't like X" all you like, but there's no reason to completely rule out all people who do X, because not all people who do X are the same. Some of them might actually be OK as friends, despite their interest in X. In my experience, shared interests are a great way to meet people, but they have little to do with which of them become long-term friends.

In short, it's perfectly fine to stop hanging out with someone because they offend you, but it helps if you wait until they actually do!
posted by vorfeed at 10:33 AM on May 16, 2008

I'm surprised that more comments don't recognize that there is some real value in common labels. I've learned, for instance, to steer clear of people who can't stay sober and who don't read philosophy.

Those aren't labels.
posted by grumblebee at 10:40 AM on May 16, 2008

I've started a response to this question at least a dozen times, been dissatisfied, sighed, and deleted it. But I was just talking with a friend of mine about this thread a few minutes ago, and I was like, "Man, if I held out for someone who fit the same categories that I do for religion and diet and politics and approach to psychoactive substances, I'd never find anyone cool. I think I'd overlap with like maybe 1 percent of obnoxious out-of-their-mind Wiccans or something. What does respect for people have to do with personal similarities?" She put it better than I could:

"Doesn't this guy play video games? Put it in RPG terms for him. You can't have a party with just a bunch of fighters in it; you need a black mage, a white mage, maybe a thief..."

So that's the advice from one of my closest friends, who, like all my friends, differs from me in a whole slew of significant ways. Think of your potential social group in the traditional "Final Fantasy" style.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:53 AM on May 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

Everybody wants you to give up your standards. I say start off by excluding these jokers from your search. -ewkpates

Wow. I'm with vorfeed on this. And I stand by my previous statement. Here it is with different words:

If you can't become friends with someone unless they're wearing a t-shirt that says, "I'm a Liberal, Vegan, Atheist, Sober Geek," then by all means exclude exclude exclude.

I don't think that's your intent, though. You're just sensibly hoping for friends with similar interests, beliefs and desires. I've had great luck in making great friends by doing the great things I enjoy. I suggest that those who apply a list of attributes a priori to potential friends are those who I find a humorless, curmudgeonly bunch. I learned in college not to admit at parties that I was a philosophy major, simply because those who needed to jump on that bandwagon were totally missing the boat.

Great question, by the way. The answers given also work as meta-answers (no domain name pun intended). Whose answers here make you consider a friendship with that person?

A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds. -Francis Bacon

Mmm, Bacon.
posted by lothar at 11:09 AM on May 16, 2008

To expand upon grumblebee's point:

Being an alcohol drinker does not mean you "can't stay sober and don't read philosophy." Being a philosopher most certainly doesn't mean you never drink and spend all your time learning about valid constructions. Avoiding anyone who drinks alcohol because you take that to mean they're too busy getting wasted to be interested in philosophy is a good way to avoid becoming friends with many great philosophy-minded people. Seeking out anyone who spends their free time studying valid constructions is as likely to leave you with a deranged psychopath as it is with someone interesting and cool.

That's the main message people are trying to tell the OP when they say he shouldn't base friendship off of labels: labels are too broad and they miss the point.
posted by Ms. Saint at 11:24 AM on May 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

As a preface I haven't read any response to your question (yet).

To be blunt, I don't think you sound introverted at all you just sort of sound like a dick! You don't respect people who aren't like you?! Man, no wonder you're having trouble making friends!

Joking aside. Very few people will ever live up to your highest expectations and you will not live up to theirs and there is no reason either of you should. You'll live a very unsatisfying life (imo) until you realize this. Heck, stop trying to find people like you and try to make friends with someone who is the opposite.

I'm sure in saying this you have deemed me to be someone you do not respect or agree with and therefore will not take my advice so it's all for naught anyway.

my 2 cents.
posted by wolfkult at 11:46 AM on May 16, 2008

I think you need to look at the list of qualities you use to define who you are and think about what among those are your priorities. For me, for example, I would find it very difficult to be friends with people who are religious or who are conservative. So I might be a casual friend of someone like that but it's unlikely to deepen into anything further. On the other hand I don't smoke or do drugs but those aren't huge issues for me so I'm unlikely to find a person who does drugs or smokes unworthy of deep friendship. So you need to figure out where you want to draw that line. It's difficult to respect people who have different values from you, but I think that it's going to be impossible to find another person who's exactly like you in so many ways, and, besides, why would you want to? Part of growing up is understanding that people who have different tastes in things than you and who have different values in life aren't better or worse, just different. So my basis thesis is: it's ok to have some qualities that you'd like to have in all your friends, but don't make that line too hard and fast. Sometimes you might become great friends with the last person you'd expect to.
posted by peacheater at 11:50 AM on May 16, 2008

For me, for example, I would find it very difficult to be friends with people who are religious or who are conservative.

I don't want to put you on the spot, peacheater, and I don't think you're a bad person for feeling that way (I've had similar feelings at times), but when you do, I think it's worth asking yourself "Why?"

I would find it very difficult to be friends with people who are religious or who are conservative because...

What comes after the "because" will be much more enlightening that the stuff before it. When I've examined my own feelings this way, I've usually* found that the rest of the sentence starts with the word "they" and then continues with an assumption.

because they are usually intolerant of people who...


because they believe that....

In which case, it's worth rephrasing the original statement as, "I would find it very difficult to be friends with people who are intolerant of... and who believe that..." Because there may be some people who are "religious" and "conservative" yet who surprise you with what they actually tolerate and what they actually believe.

*Usually, but not always. Sometimes, when I do this thought experiment, I realize that what comes after the "because" is "they are on the other team." In other words, I would have a hard time hanging out with a "conservative," because I define myself as a "liberal." And part of that definition means hanging out with my tribe and not the their tribe. I don't think that's necessarily bad. But it's a worthwhile piece of self-knowledge to have.
posted by grumblebee at 12:21 PM on May 16, 2008

I think the labels are relevant to the question, and if you don't use a string of them every time you describe yourself, it strikes me as being fine - if it's a conflict/divergence of interests that comes up over and over, it's hard not to (at least temporarily) underscore your identity in response, especially if it's a list of stuff that's often hit with accusations of self-righteousness/being judgemental.

At the same time, I think loosening the restrictions is pretty essential if you want more friends rather than to slot into a scene, and taking people on a case-by-case basis, with maybe an emphasis on your interests by making friends through groups or activities that relate to them. Not everyone who drinks/smokes/does drugs lets that aspect them of them dominate on, say, a Tuesday night activity or a Saturday afternoon adventure, and lots of them will enjoy the balance that comes from nights out where they get tipsy-to-fucked-up and other times when they're doing things and getting a buzz from fun and life instead. Ditto a lot of the other categories - the political one is hard if you're a political person because it can lead to circular discussions or just plain old bickering, but it's not impossible.

I'm a smoker and not wild about tech and 'liberal' might be an understatement, but I'm with you otherwise. It was, until recently, a constant disappointment that I didn't find a scene or a group where I felt at home, but I've ended up with a weird mishmash of friends from all over the map, and I think the intersections are about being sharp, fun, original-thinking, witty and kind. Since I've gotten to know them, I don't feel comfortable lumping them into categories, but they range from heavy drinkers to proclaimed non-feminists to people subsisting on meaty junk food to people who hunt and fish.

The more I relax into being who I am and get away from needing to proclaim it, the more comfortable I feel around people who're doing the same, even if their identities are wildly different to my own. No constant barbs or insulting the other's values, lots of unexpected and delightful conversations in which I constantly get my preconceptions checked. Being wrong about my prejudices is an absolute joy for me.

I also find that being involved in activism/volunteering/discussion groups is useful on the personal side, not only for meeting people but also for giving your values enough heft in your identity that it's easier to deal with people who've got the right core characteristics but opposing personal politics.
posted by carbide at 3:34 PM on May 16, 2008

grumblebee: This juvenile cartoon of Jesus taking a shit.. where might one find it on the wide world of the Internets?
posted by wierdo at 3:44 PM on May 16, 2008

I could have posted this question myself. Seriously. We might be alter-egos. Or maybe arch-nemeses, whatever. Feel free to send me a message.
posted by AV at 7:43 PM on May 16, 2008

Ditch the hangups on the labels. How old are you? Defining yourself in that way is a young, unexperienced person's game.
Not gonna work in the real world unless you obsess less over every single trait of your friends that doesn't match yours. When you first meet someone, there is no reason for you to know their religion, food choices, drinking status, music "scene," political views, and level of environmental concern right off the bat. If you make those things less of a deal-breaker, you could find out you get along with someone really well and then find out that they eat chicken. And that will be okay. Because not everyone is you.
posted by fructose at 8:30 PM on May 16, 2008

Here's a little experiment: You're having a party and you are inviting your best friends who all happen to be famous or recognizable people. Writers, musicians, actors whatever. All people with qualities that you admire or who you'd like to have as close friends. Name 5 or 10 such people and then see how many fit all of your criteria. I started with Martin Luther King, Bob Marley, Ernest Hemingway, Billie Holliday; all of them would fail your personality test on question 1. I think there'd only be two people at your party: You and your girlfriend.

People have qualities, quirks, flaws and failings. It's the differences that make them human and your acceptance of those differences that will make you a person that people are drawn to. If you can be more accepting you might even find that you become an evangelist for your lifestyle, and drinkers, smokers, carnivores etc. change their habits to be more like happy and fun you. But I doubt it.
posted by rikatik at 2:59 AM on May 17, 2008

Sigh. This is what I get for only skimming the "more inside" before posting.

I came in here to defend anon from the pile-on, but I think some equivocating is in order.

On one hand, to anon's defence, I can say from personal experience that not eating meat or not drinking (and in some places, being a liberal or an atheist) are things that really tend to draw out people's ire in a way people who haven't made these choices or who live in like-minded communities generally don't understand. It can really make a person wish for the friendship of someone else who, for lack of a better term, "gets it" - and I don't think anon's unique in that respect. Seriously, how many average Mefites have right-wing conservative born-again types in their inner sancta? The root of anon's question is that he wants to find the company of like-minded people, and I think we'd all probably be hypocrites if we blasted him for that.

In anon's particular case, finding like-minded people can be a little harder because a lot of people can be defensive about or dismissive of his particular set of choices. If I may elaborate (and I will start out by assuring you that I do not evangelize my lifestyle at all - most of my friends drink and eat meat, in fact, and we hang out together while they do): I've frequently experienced random hostility from people just upon learning that I don't drink or eat meat, sometimes not even learning it from myself. Over time, the cumulative effect of this can build up and make it seem like it's impossible to find friends because most people are going to reject you outright from inability to handle your politics. By way of illustration: I was at a baby shower for an acquaintance a couple of weeks ago. The guest of honour came over to my table to chat, during the course of which conversation she asked whether I had gotten enough to eat. I assured her I had, and she explained to the people sitting next to me (who I didn't know, but who I had gotten along with up until that point) that I'm vegan. After she left the table, the woman sitting next to me basically turned on me - I could not steer the conversation away from why I'm vegan, why on earth I would decide to do something like that, were my parents hippies or something, etc. She was incredibly rude, but, not wanting to be perceived as anon has here, I was as nice as I could possibly be until I was able to make a graceful exit. Even so, it was really awkward at the table from that point on. It may have been the woman next to me who made it so, but that's not how a lot of people perceive it. Things like this have happened frequently enough that - well, it results in the eagerness to find like-minded friendship that I exhibited upthread. If that's what anon is ultimately getting at, I think we should cut him some slack.

But shit, anon, the first sentence of your "more inside" made me want to retract my earlier offer. I understand where you're coming from in that it can be hard on a fundamental level to respect people who don't make the choices that seem obvious to you. I think it would be hard for me to be married to someone who eats meat or is religious. But a friendship doesn't require a meeting of the minds on all issues at that deep of a level.

You have to understand, too, that some people will have the same priorities as you, but that they will exhibit them in a different way. Some people will have the same fundamental concern about protecting innocent life that led you to become vegetarian, for example, but will exhibit it by making, say, child abuse prevention one of their pet causes. Or someone may have your same fundamental concern about the environment and exhibit it by eating only organic and local foods, even if those include meat. Some people will focus on making religion a positive influence in their lives and the foundation for adopting other liberal values, rather than using it as an excuse for bigotry. It would be unwise to discount everyone who hasn't made the exact same choices as you, because you may very well have the same values in common that would make for a solid friendship.

And finally, a plea: when you adopt relatively controversial lifestyle choices, such as being (effectively) straightedge, vegetarian or atheist, for better or for worse, you become an ambassador for those communities. If you can't find it in yourself to be open-minded for your own sake, do it for the reputation of the other godless sober herbivores out there.
posted by AV at 5:08 AM on May 17, 2008

dammit, 'equivocating' isn't the word I wanted. Or at least not its usual connotation. You know what I mean. I should go back to bed.
posted by AV at 5:16 AM on May 17, 2008

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