Pate: So, why does she hang with them?
Me: For the same reason most people in their twenties "hangout" with people: mobility means that people go to college in different places than where they grew up and then move to another city to work or go to grad school. Our generation is constantly forced to establish new social groups because our nation no longer participates in the old organizations like bowling leagues, bridge clubs, etc.
Pate: Right Putnam and all that.
Me: We end up establishing "drinking crews" of coworkers. Alcohol provides a social lubricant which allows you to "like" a group of people you have nothing in common w/ besides location and job.
Pate: But part of the Bowling Alone phenomenon is people not moving back home after school.
Me: Yup, exactly. We came to believe that moving home was failure, that "going out into the world" meant success; anything else meant complacency and fear of the unknown.
Pate: Like in October Sky. Where the only way out of the mine is a football scholarship, until the boys build a rocket. We were taught that small town=death from the black lung. At least figuratively.
Me: Yup, which is reinforced by the reality that jobs with upward mobility are largely located in a few major cities.
Pate: Right. I mean, for me personally, it would have been failure to get stuck moving home, because you can't do what I want to do in Lenoir City.
Me: Memphis isn't really one of those cities, which means that educated 20-somethings here are not only in the "where are my friends?" state, but also without a ton of people in the same position and the accompanying communities of hipsters and yuppies you find in cities like NYC, LA, SF, and even Nashville
Me: There is an additional factor: the American system accustoms us over 17 or more years of education to building friend groups from people in our schools. We are never forced to make friends with neighbors or people with similar beliefs in our city.
Me: So becoming accustomed to that takes us years, some never do it
Pate: We are 25 before we actually get to choose our friends by anything except proximity.
Me: Yup, doesn't that seem like a system which would naturally breed lonliness, anxiety, depression and "boredom"? As well as an increasing lack of social cohesion
Me: Our society's answer is to self-medicate via: mass media, prescription drugs, weed, and alcohol. As well as to remain connected via social media and vacations to the friends we really like.