One of the most memorable nuggets of British social history I ever gleaned from my degree was a discussion in some journal article or other (now that’s referencing!) of friendships, and specifically how the working class experience of friendship differed profoundly from its middle class equivalent. Note that this was social history and is almost certainly no longer applicable for a host of obvious reasons, but I still find it helpful when thinking about the modern evolution of ‘friendship’ into the twenty-first century Facebook ‘you’ve been tagged…’ version. It was this: the working classes were much more likely to have one main ‘set’ of lifelong friends who were each connected in a multitude of ways. This happens if you all grow up in the same area, go to the same school before progressing to work locally together and have low rates of migration in and out of the area. The middle classes, on the other hand, would accumulate lots of little ‘pots’ of friends over their lives from growing up, going to school, university and then working with all sorts of different people in different places. Your friends, on the whole, don’t know each other – from your perspective, the entirety of your social relationships orbits you.
Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, naturally. The middle class version is great for networking, variety and – depending on how you feel about this – living out different personas. It’s also less vulnerable to great social changes that affect a whole community: whole industries suddenly closing, for example. But it might also be more vulnerable on an individual level, prompting feelings of alienation (‘…do I have any real friends?’) and demanding quite a lot of time and energy to keep it all going. It’s not that it lacks ‘community’ as such, since it’s a hotchpotch network of bespoke communities, it’s just that no one community is geared to look out for those people who suddenly drop out of all friendships.
Anyway, none of this is particularly helpful for anyone interested in making a choice between the two since we’ve all surely moved inexorably towards the ‘middle class’ way of friendships. Don’t get me wrong – I like it this way – it’s just rather complex and intricate. And also, it makes it harder to blog. I’ve had many fun times over the past couple of weeks, and caught up with lots of good friends, so it’s hard to know where to start. Robert’s back from America. Saoirse hosted a really fun dinner party and made some delicious gnocchi too. Harriet and I seem to have settled into a twice-yearly routine of going for a drink in The Island. And… well, instead of just listing things, I’ll spam you with recent photos instead