Birds of a Feather Flock Together

February 6, 2006

There’s a word for it: homophily — the tendency for people to form social networks with others whose age, race, ethnicity, education, religion, sexual orientation, etc. mirror their own.

As I’ve moved through various life phases, certain criteria for social bonding have waxed and waned. As a teen, taste in music was a paramount marker of social compatibility. Now it hardly rates.

Once I was married, I began to witness a subtle tide drawing my single friends away from me. There was a split in our drives and priorities. Once I had a kid, I perceived even more vulnerability in those social ties. Would we end up socializing exclusively with other parents? I dreaded that possibility. We’ve really fought the trend, and relish a social network that includes lots of single friends and friends without children.

Of course, it requires having an identity outside of parenthood, and it requires some conversational discipline: I can’t talk about my kid nonstop and expect childless folks to remain engaged. Hell, I can’t expect that of other parents, either.

By resisting homophily with regards to these criteria as well as others, we’ve been rewarded with a great crew of friends. I’ll admit, though, that I haven’t reached out to or been drawn to people on the other end of the political spectrum from myself. There aren’t too many of them where I live, and the closet homophilist in me kinda enjoys that.