Really enjoyed this post. I can relate to the old friends dropping you rather than vice versa, and this article articulated the ‘why’ very clearly.

In my case for many friends from high school I cannot understand and or relate to many of their choices as the decisions they’ve made very clearly lead to a path of self destruction and misery. It’s crystal clear (to me) why they are having major problems in their life. I recognize I can’t help them as they seem set on going down this path.

As open minded and non judgemental as I try and be I’m sure this (my discomfort in their choices) contributes to their feelings of unease. On the other hand it ties into your thoughts on association value. For myself there is very little to gain and in some cases a negative association value and perhaps I subconsciously communicate this.

If you could point to more articles or books that talk about this - when you move up in class the disconnect that happens between your former friends and family and the difficulty feeling comfortable fully integrating and socializing within the new class please share them.

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I think their may be a better answer to your question: empathy, or agape.

I had a similar albeit not quite as extreme experience growing up. I behave differently with high school and similar friends out of a desire not to create or increase their regret or sense of loss over the differences in our life outcomes.

So you share your emotional vulnerabilities with them because it gives them a chance to continue to meaningfully participate in and contribute to your life, since you know they cannot share in the professional experiences and milestones that your college educated friends might.

And, frankly, in those spheres I find that the ones from high school that I still talk with have a lot more to add in those spheres than college educated acquaintances.

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College degree, hum, there you just did it, head down eh! A PhD isn’t a college degree it is something altogether different.

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this post really hits home. as a GenX Asian American who grew up in The Paper Belt (ie, suburb of Boston), I forced myself to be a chameleon for many of the reasons articulated here. These are some really precise thoughts around being an insider/outsider.

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Why is it called the Paper Belt? Never heard of it.

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Great phrase from a book called The Paper Belt by Michael Gibson

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Interesting. I am probably most financially successful in my extended family (although a professional-class wage-earner for most of my career). I was the first to earn a bachelors degree, and then masters, in that same extended family, and as far as I know this includes most if not all of my ancestors on both sides. I attended high school in a small rural farming community in CA (not too far away from Rob's high school) after moving from the Midwest where most of family is from. I have worked a lot of blue-collar jobs, and then moved to professional-class jobs.

I am friends with people from all economic strata. I don't think I am different with them other than just knowing each personality. I certainly tailor my interaction with them to some degree. For example, what topics might we discuss. However, I am not a different person with each of them. At least I don't think so.

Maybe I am just blind to the resentment some may feel about my financial success. I feel grounded and humble though. I feel I am really no different than anyone else. I know there are differences in capability among people, and then there is luck. However, I see that most of what separates people in economic classes (in a country like the US) is goal-setting, focus, persistence, drive... and much of this is connected to owning a well-functioning psychology that does not get in the way of personal progress.

I see most of what prevents people from progressing is their own behavior connected to their own personality and their own psychology. Learning how to behave is key... and I think almost everyone can.

Knowing this I see people as all largely the same, even though each soul is unique.

Relate to all of this is my read of our nation's extensional crisis. Remember Robin Leach's Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous? Class resentment has always been a thing that has taken down counties into a collectivist mess. The US did not have it. The US did not have it because the average person noted the many paths to achieve a good life. The feeling was (if I wanted to work that hard, and take more risks... I also have the opportunity to have wealth and maybe be famous).

Murray documented this is his "Coming Apart" book. Middle and upper class families lived in the same neighborhoods, attended the same church, ate at the same restaurants, enjoyed the same entertainment.

This has all changed.

I think part of the problem that we are becoming more like other counties were if well-off you should walk on eggshells around those that are not, is because those that are not have had their economic opportunities exported to other countries by those that are well-off.

China in the WTO was a big effing mistake.

And those that are well-off include an elite cohort that... and let's be frank here... have adopted a fear-based ideology that includes the growth of the global population as a threat to their existence (or maybe just a threat to their entitlement to aesthetics).... that there are too many people and especially too many people below the social and economic class line... like ants... and that the elites really would like for there to be fewer of these ants.

So what is being projected by these well-off elites is not just class exclusiveness and a continued support for bad economic policy that prevents economic opportunity for the non-elite... but actual hostility that feels as if the elites want to kill those below the line... kill the ants.

And in consideration of this it starts to make sense while those that enter the higher economic strata would be more sensitive and feel the need to "pull back" being authentic.

And lastly, if you make your money in the media business... even if the independent media... that is another area where you would feel the need to "pull back." The working class see the media as being complicit in their destruction.

Why are the elites so threatened by the working class that they want to squash them? I don't know, but for those that note they are being squashed, I am not surprised that some us in the upper income levels are getting more vibes of resentment from those in lower economic circumstances.

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CS Lewis “You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve," said Aslan. "And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.” Prince Caspian.

As to friends giving you up, I have seen both the successful and the unsuccessful reject old friends, but I think you are correct that the latter is more common. Single people accuse married ones of dropping them, especially after they have had a child, and I have seen this. (I hope I have never done it.) But I have seen the other more often, of the single person feeling somehow accused or thought less of, and focusing more on other single friends, but blaming the married. It seems to bother them that the married people talk about their children so much. I sort of get it that this is a change, and this is not how they talked ten years ago. But life is always change, and new jobs, new boyfriends, and new neighborhoods are not considered such objectionable topics of conversation.

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This piece prompted a vaguely formed thought.

Might WEIRD doctrine about bringing your ‘whole self’ to everything be a manifestation of safety culture? You’re encouraged to be ‘real’, regardless of circumstances, so that there will never be any nasty surprises and everyone feels safer.

Hardly a thesis. But it came to mind.

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Curious how this relates to envy. I also wonder if this is one of those things that differs between men and women. (In general I keep my successes close to the chest, or act as if they "just happened," not that they were the results of effort and skill.)

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Another great one, still batting 1000.

I get two nuggets out of this one, the first about society and friendship politics on that scale, then the second more intimate about the nuances of one on one friendship.

So two free associations I got.

This quote: “In fact, research suggests that WEIRD people view individuals who are the same in every interaction as more socially intelligent. On the other hand, people from non-WEIRD societies view individuals who are the same in every interaction as less socially intelligent.”

It struck me as evidence that perhaps WEIRDs are deteriorating generally in personal boundary maturity and skill that to traditional societies that still teach each generation to have boundaries are retaining. That boundaries are part of wisdom and central to defining maturity ( a la the nature ego defenses).

So the joke’s on us WEIRDs who see ourselves on a high horse, the impaired boundaries of narcissism.

The latter about associative value made me Immediately want to cross reference Aristotle, one of the only ancient philosophers who tried to exhaustively define friendship (Nicomachean Ethics).

While he had several definitions of different types and levels of friendship the way I always interpreted them was to view friendship in 4 factors for different psychological functions.

Friendship as “consistent, mutual, shared positive emotion.”

The consistent comes from mature boundaries, the mutual is both reciprocal altruism and associative (fair), the “shared” speaks to our flesh and blood need to be proximate, shoulder to shoulder doing, building or sharing something as Rob alludes to in his stories of the military and school (which Sebastian Junger does recently on a podcast with Bari Weiss on Honestly).

The positive emotion speaks to the limbic aspect of raising each other’s self-esteem (love, Philia) and which gives valence to our measure of “value” itself.

I use it as a tool of enrichment and evaluation of relationship quality of any type.

I love this one thank you my friend.

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Curious, do you believe that narcissistic traits are promoted in WEIRD cultures?

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I’m speculating that factors are there, related to consumerism, that encourages boundarilessness - which certainly encourages narcissism. Sales and marketing must open your boundary to open your wallet. That and “selling fame” via social media, advent of the internet opened the doors to this. Haven’t built a block by block case for this as yet.

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Now I’ll keep my head down, lol!

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“Positive emotion” e.g. friends ultimately make each other feel consistently happy.

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“It struck me as evidence that perhaps WEIRDs are deteriorating generally in personal boundary maturity and skill that traditional societies still teach each generation. (Maybe WEIRDs have too many societal “narcissisogenic” factors such as everyone seeing themselves famous on social media etc, everyone coddled a la Jonathan Haight.) That boundaries are, by contrast, in traditional non-WEIRD societies, part of wisdom and central to defining maturity ( a la the mature ego defenses).”

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How can you not but act differently depending on the situation your in. Diversity in ones behavior is (woke!)/good. Love reading you blogs


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Yep it's kind of like the happy wanderer Tony Soprano talks about. Or in The Wire when Cutty returns to the neighborhood asking about a girl he used to date who he thought could help him with a job. The lady he asks about her is all bitter, saying she got herself correct to get up out of there. Went all Condoleeza on them. That's a serious problem I agree, people might be afraid of doing too well because then they might cause envy and lose friends.

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This is very true, I've had the same experience as you.

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2024] it's been good to see your head rising a bit as you accept the marketing needs of your fine book, which deserves all the publicity you can generate. My guess is that all of your old friends would be happy to hear from you, even to hear that you're super busy but are also glad they're your friends.

It's the good advice for myself that I am trying to do more of.

As you gain fame, you gain more responsibility to find the time to invest in continuing friendships, and offer times to meet or talk.

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Very nice topic. I've always thought that changing based on your room and/or audience requires a more advanced social awareness and I have been called out, but I won't apologize. Obviously, I don't speak to my in-laws the same way I speak to my family. They don't love me unconditionally. They don't know my tics and behaviors, and why should they? I keep the most comfortable version of myself for my husband. I don't owe the public a glimpse into my private life or thoughts. I call it reading the room. Humans should be able to adapt. My adult autistic son does not have this ability. People are uncomfortable with his blatant honesty. Of course they are. Your mom may want to hear every great thing about you. Strangers? Probably not. We change just as much for others as we do for ourselves. It's a skill. And, a good one.

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As for changing your personality in different rooms, I am increasingly convinced it is all genetics plus incentives. You bring a certain hardwired tendency to malleability or not, and the social context influences you after that. I change some but not much, When I was young I did change a great deal when my grandmother was in the room. That seems appropriate, frankly.

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Fascinating post. And completely illustrates the day to day interactions we have with people in our lives. Finding common ground is so important. Interestingly you find some additional commonality as you pass through life, friends with children become closer or more distant if you also have kids, geography also figures because you have more or fewer chances to see one another based on where you live. Humility is so important because fortunes do change, for better or worse (and back again). Even with family members we find ourselves calibrating our interactions and they tend to rally when times are tough, but not always. Understanding what’s going on is a tool we can use to keep the friends we’ve got, make new ones and hopefully they recognize how much richness they contribute to our lives. Having a family of one’s own, spouse, children become a foundational structure that hopefully stands through future generations.

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