Monday, February 7, 2011

Social Networks

My cyber friend Linda,  the baglady, recently wrote about maintaining social networks in retirement.  She pointed out that people have differing needs for social contact. Some of us require more social contact than others. Another blog friend, DJan, wrote about the changes to her daily routine since she retired.  One of the benefits of joining the blogging community  has been getting to know other bloggers who are at the same stage of life as me.  I'm constantly learning something new and forced to examine my own thinking.

So the baglady got me thinking about my own social contacts.  One of the things that has been challenging for me in retirement is that I no longer have the casual social connections that I had when I was working.  There are a lot of informal social outings that come about because of daily contact with a group of people.  Someone will mention that there's a craft fair on Saturday and someone else will suggest that it would be fun to go as a group and with little or no effort a weekend becomes full with group activities.  There are automatic invitations to holiday parties when you're working.  There's also an immediate support system when something goes wrong.  You're immediately missed when you don't show up for work.  All that stops when employment ends.

I haven't been diligent in establishing new social contacts or maintaining my relationships with pre-retirement friends.  It takes work and I haven't put forth the effort on a regular basis.  I have enjoyed the few activities that I 've organized.  But, there's the gist of the issue... I have to organize it. I've come to realize that my need for social contact isn't very high.

I don't have a best friend.  I am sometimes envious of Oprah's relationship with her best friend, Gayle...but not envious enough to work at being a better friend.  I think it gets harder to establish friendships as I get older.  There's something so comfortable with old friends.  You don't have to explain the history and they accept you for what you are and forgive you the obvious flaws.  The hard work in building the relationship was done years ago.  The problem with old friends is that things change.  People die, or move away, or get a divorce.  The crowd of old friends is diminishing. 

As I get older, family assumes a greater role in my social network.  They provide all the benefits of old friends and they're always there...usually with only a few snide comments about not having heard from me in a long time.

I live in a rural area.  There aren't a lot of organized social activities in which to participate.  I have a writing group that meets a couple of times a month...I organized it.  I attend the Lions Club meeting every other Wednesday.  I can't bring myself to attend the senior citizen lunches.  My old friend, Dick, invited me to go with him, but I guess I haven't fully accepted that I am a senior.

I think I'm just going to adopt a cat for companionship.


  1. This is a nice post, Jann. I agree with you that making new friends is hard. I don't have as much energy for it as I used to. Fortunately, I am staying connected to some people I've known for a while - a few from work, the rest from other places.

    I grew up in a military family, so I learned to make friends and leave them. I can still do that. It doesn't sound like a very nice thing, but there you are.

  2. I grew up in a military family, too. But making friends in a new place hasn't been as hard as I thought it would be, but I've worked at it, too. I think a cat is a GREAT idea, however you decide to do it. Plus you've got us, Jann. I look forward to your views, very much. Who needs bodies to have a full social life anyway??

  3. I enjoyed your post. I can relate to it more than most would believe. I have always been very social. As I age, and since retirement, I do little socializing and dread when I must do so.

    I'm still thinking about the topic. It will show up in a blog post before long I am sure.

  4. I have some good friends, but I tend to keep them at a distance. I'm not sure why, but I do. thinks like facebook and email are great for me because it sets boundaries...
    I like to gather with people, I have a great time when I do, but then I love going back to my private family world...

    GREAT and thought provoking post!

  5. I wonder how much this has to do with the Internet revolution -- it is so easy to sit here at my computer in the privacy of my home -- in my bathrobe and pjamas, in England -- don't have to worry about how I look or if I've brushed my teeth and combed my hair, etc. etc. It's all very enabling, but at the same time I don't have to leave my comfort zone in order to have social contact. Today I am meeting one of my best friends for tea, which we try to do at least once a week. Most Sundays I go to church. But it takes more and more effort the longer I am retired to organize the social occasions, like people for dinner -- I'd rather sit where I am right now and blog!

  6. In my two years out of the loop, I've managed to entertain myself both with friends and without. I don't feel lonely and I don't feel like I'm missing anything. It makes me a bit worried about what it's going to be like when I have to go back into the classroom next fall.

    Great post, lots to think about.


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