Oct. 25, 2021

How to win friends and...

How to win friends and...

How to keep them. What does it mean to create and maintain close personal relationships in this world—this world that gives us connection, for better or worse, around every corner?


Online friends. Friends whose relationship changed during the Covid-19 pandemic. Peripheral friends. The closest of friends. Friends who disagree. We need them all, but today it’s sometimes difficult to ensure each and every one of those groups gets priority.


But doing so is integral, and this episode will explain why.


This episode and all of Season 2 have been brought to you by Thinking Is Cool’s presenting sponsor, Fundrise. So thank you, Fundrise! And thank you, you! For listening! And hopefully for sharing! You’re the best. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram and hey while you’re here might as well sign up for my newsletter.


What does it mean to be a friend? What does it mean to keep a friend? What does it mean to feel connected? Let’s think about it.


Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening to every single one of you and welcome to Thinking Is Cool, the show designed to make your next conversation better than your last. 


I’m Kinsey Grant, a journalist, the host of this show, and someone who at one somewhat regrettable point in her high school life counted how many people wished her a happy birthday on her Facebook wall and used said tally as an instrument for measuring social capital.


This is my Season 2 finale. Throughout the 17 episodes I’ve published so far of Thinking Is Cool, I’ve always endeavored to ask big questions. Sometimes, I have answers to those questions. Most of the time I do not. But the constant has always been a heavy dose of “what might the world look like if…


If we abolished Greek life. If we could find common ground politically. If we recognized the power of and appropriately regulated Big Tech. If we ended homelessness. What might the world look like if we did what we needed to do to make it better?


A lot would change. We might have to rejigger our tax season expectations. We might have to get used to voting because it’s the right thing to do and not because Instagram made an I Voted sticker for stories. We might have to question our own assumptions more regularly.


But I think the biggest change of all might be the change that doing the right thing would shepherd into our relationships with one another. Good and bad, moral and immoral—they’re rarely black and white and they’re never obvious. But I think, I really do think, that all of us can agree that it’s always best to try to do the right thing for the most people.


Perhaps we’ve lost sight of that common aim—that drive to do good by our fellow man—in a world that moves too fast. I’ve been guilty of it, getting so wrapped up in the fight over what’s good and what’s not that I forget...most of us are all working toward the same goal. We might have differences in opinion on how we get there, but humanity isn’t lost yet. I’m at times discouraged, but I’ve never fully lost hope that by and large we want what’s best for each other.


And by centering ourselves on that one commonality instead of our vast differences, we might be able to more than just talk about making the world a better place.

So today, I want to do something a little different. I want to open the floor to a topic that’s nebulous and unspecific and incredibly important: the very idea of friendships. What does it mean to be a friend? What does it mean to keep a friend? What does it mean to feel connected by that one aim to leave this place better than we found it?


Today, we’re going to think about it. 


As always, thank you to our friends at Fundrise for making this episode—and this entire season—possible. I loved exploring the eccentricities of the real estate world with Fundrise in my last episode and I hope you loved hearing about it. More from the Fundrise crew later.


And thank you to all of you for getting me here—the finale of my second season of my very own show. If you read my newsletter or follow me on TikTok, you know that I’ve had a really tough couple of weeks. I’ve at times been struggling, and I wouldn’t have gotten to this season’s finish line without your support, your perspective, and your encouragement. Thank you—this really feels like a community, and I’m counting my blessings that I get to be part of it.


Now...let’s talk about friendship. As always, nothing is off limits, everything is on the table, take it anywhere—and remember, thinking is cool and so are you.


*Roll transition music*


This episode is about connection, so let’s connect. It’s going to be you and me here today and just us. I’m going to tell you about all that I’ve learned throughout an entire season questioning the ties that bind us to one another, and my hope is that you learn something new and think a little more about what it means to be part of this ever-connected and interconnected world. The kind of world in which friendships, relationships, connection...they’re all waiting for you at the click of a button.


Let’s get started by giving ourselves an honest assessment of how friendships and the effort to make them change.


When we were little, we met friends mostly because of circumstance. You became close with whomever was in the same class in preschool, you stayed close if you had mutual interests come first grade, and that was pretty much that.


For me, there was Sarah and Kelli. Sarah’s mom and my mom were in the hospital at the same time, sewing the accidental seeds for a long friendship and many joint birthday parties. We were in the same class at school and we both loved horses. Kelli came to our school in 3rd grade and immediately gravitated to us, the horse girls. Then, one day, I ran into Kelli at my piano lesson where she also took classes. That was all we needed to ensure a solid decade of friendship.


In 6th grade, a new family moved into the house next door to mine and their daughter, Hannah, was my age. That daughter is today my closest friend in the world. Truthfully, Hannah and I don’t have all that much in common aside from some very good years as neighbors. Back then? She played volleyball, and I got cut from tryouts. Today? She’s married and has the world’s cutest baby, and I have a houseplant.


But as early as middle school, we knew we would be each other’s lifelong friend. Sometimes we talk all day, other times we go a whole week without catching up. I haven’t seen her in person since February, but her friendship is like the stars. Even when I can’t see it, I know it’s there.


You might be wondering why I’m waxing poetic about my best friend, so I’ll tell you why. First of all, my best friend Hannah is the kindest, humblest soul and I take every chance I get to talk about her. And second, I want you to think about the defining friendships of your youth in juxtaposition to the friendships of today.


Let me tell you about another friend—Lauren. Lauren is a friend I made during the pandemic. We first became connected through work—I hosted an event for her and got to know her first through Google Docs. The first time we met in real life was several months later, when she pitched in to help plan the Thinking Is Cool launch party. Today, I’m lucky to see her and hear her infectious laugh often. But for the first six months of our now-friendship, she was an avatar in a Google doc, a phone number with wit.


The way we make, keep, and classify friends has unalterably changed to a point of no return. Once college orientation is over, it seems we age out of the very obvious situations in which everyone is trying to make connections and age into a new world dominated primarily by forging friendships from behind screens.


And that’s where I want to start today. Let’s devote some time to really thinking about friendship in the information age.


It wasn’t a happy accident that Facebook used the word “friend” and subsequently turned it into a commonly used verb. It was a conscious choice, and it was one that’s reverberated through our human evolution. I could tell you about the toxicity associated with “friending” and “unfriending” and the concept of a MySpace Top 8, but you likely already know that song and dance. So let’s instead consider for a moment how a once-novel concept has changed the way we connect with like-minded individuals.


To me, the advent of online social networks have upended the ideals of friendship, sometimes for the better. We have an endless array of choices when it comes to whom we befriend and why. You can connect based on a shared love for corgis or a penchant for fall-themed coffees or an almost cult-like worship of an influencer, geographic proximity be damned.


For all their unbelievable shortcomings, social media gave us that—the ability to connect with people you might otherwise never encounter. I’ve made true friends online, friends who support and lift me up and do more than just like my Tweets and proofread my scripts—Dan, the other Dan, Mary, Julie, Dani, Jake. I’ve only met some of them in real life. But that doesn’t diminish the positive impact they’ve had on me.


With many of those friends, the relationship started with something as simple as a DM. I liked what you said about x, what are your thoughts on y, can you believe the audacity of z? Simple conversation—sometimes it goes nowhere, but sometimes it opens the door to meaningful connection if two parties are willing.


I’m not just talking about the random people you met on spring break 2012. I’m talking about people invested in your life and you in theirs. People willing to be there for you just as you are for them. It’s possible for those kinds of connections to start on the internet.


But like we talked about in the very first episode of this season about dating apps, there is such a thing as the paradox of choice. When given infinite choices, we find ourselves unable to settle on anything. Just as there are seemingly infinite Chads working in I-banking from Greenwich to go on one or two shitty dates with, there are seemingly infinite friends to be made online. It would be entirely reasonable to suggest that such a paradox of choice makes forging and maintaining online relationships difficult or even impossible.


It makes me wonder—does a friendship facilitated by the internet become less meaningful because of the nature of its genesis?




The honest answer is unsatisfying, but I’ll give it to you anyway: It depends. 


It depends on how willing two internet-connected people are to put in the effort to become close and stay close. It depends on your appetite for long-distance relationships. It depends on your existing social circles and circumstances. It depends on what you’re seeking—discourse, clout, a new revenue stream...or a friend.


At the root of it, though, is the idea that we seek out meaningful relationships until we no longer have the capacity to do so. Let’s talk about something called Dunbar’s Number.


In 1993, a British anthropologist named Dr. Robin Dunbar devoted himself to understanding the nature of meaningful relationships. And FYI, Dr. Dunbar defines meaningful relationships as those people you know well enough to greet without feeling awkward if you ran into them in an airport lounge. It led him to a hypothesis creatively named and known as Dunbar’s Number.


I’m going to read you this bit about Dunbar’s Number from the BBC because, quite honestly, I found it totally interesting: “According to Dr. Dunbar, the “magic number” is 150. Dunbar became convinced that there was a ratio between brain sizes and group sizes through his studies of non-human primates. This ratio was mapped out using neuroimaging and observation of time spent on grooming, an important social behaviour of primates. Dunbar concluded that the size, relative to the body, of the neocortex – the part of the brain associated with cognition and language – is linked to the size of a cohesive social group. This ratio limits how much complexity a social system can handle.”


With that, Dunbar came to the conclusion that humans can handle about 150 meaningful relationships at a time. For many people, more than 150 overloads their social system and potentially degrades existing relationships.


For me...I’m not sure I can even get to 150. So I tried.




Using historical, anthropological, and contemporary psychological data about group sizes, Dunbar’s team found a pretty remarkable pattern: This theoretical 150-relationship limit rang as true for early hunter-gatherer societies as it does for more modern group like offices, communes, factories, residential campsites, military organisations, 11th Century English villages, even Christmas card lists. Networks, whatever they look like, tend to corrode when they exceed 150 or so.


Of course, Dunbar’s hypothesis isn’t perfect—extroverts tend to have larger social circles, women tend to have more close friends than men, and much of the research supporting this 150 figure skews toward the WEIRD communities of the world—WEIRD in all caps, meaning Western, educated, industrialised, rich and democratic.


And according to the BBC: “But Dunbar’s own research suggests generational differences in this regard. Those aged 18–24 have much larger online social networks than those aged 55 and above. And the primacy of physical contact in the social brain hypothesis may apply less to young people who have never known life without the internet, for whom digital relationships may be just as meaningful as analogue ones.”


And Dunbar’s number mostly applies to the limit of close connections we can establish and maintain—many of his contemporaries consider about 1,500 to be the average limit of everyday acquaintances people can recognize.


But I am endlessly interested in the implications of applying Dunbar’s theories to the online world. I no longer use Facebook because Facebook sucks and also mine was hacked in January, but I do use Twitter and Instagram and TikTok and LinkedIn. On Twitter, I have 27.5K followers and I follow 391 accounts. On Instagram, I have 6.6K followers and I follow 976 accounts. On TikTok, I have 1,600 followers and I follow 63 accounts. And on LinkedIn I literally do not care because LinkedIn sucks.


How many of those follower-following relationships would I classify as meaningful? Are any of them meaningful? If I saw Bella Hadid in the airport, I’d happily greet her without feeling awkward, but I’m not sure she would say the same of me. I wonder how social media has changed our concept of friendship.


For what it’s worth, Dunbar still posits that his hypothesis holds in the modern social media world. He says online relationships aren’t necessarily close ones. They’re not personalized. “It’s extremely hard to cry on a virtual shoulder,” Dunbar has said. “Having a conversation isn’t like a lighthouse; it is not just blinking away out there and maybe someone is listening, and maybe somebody is not.”


That’s a parasocial relationship, defined by psychologists as one-sided relationships, where one person extends emotional energy, interest and time, and the other party, the persona, is completely unaware of the other’s existence.


The introduction of these parasocial interactions surely changed our idea of connection, but I don’t think it has really meaningfully altered our ideas of friendship. We know the difference between internet friends and Bella Hadid. Today, we know that we can make friends online. We know that we can stay connected with friends online. It’s not how it used to be with your neighbors or the girl with pigtails next to you in piano practice...but it counts.


And for the last 18 months...these online friendships have been some of our only ties to reality. More on that after a short break to hear from our real friends at Fundrise.


*Roll Mid 1*


Let’s just put it all out on the table: The pandemic changed friendships, some of them forever. I wrote to you in my newsletter in September about how my life and the people in it sometimes feel foreign. Part of that piece?


“I’ve lost interest in the things that once bonded me with the group of friends I made at 18. I’ve found solace in things I never thought intriguing before. My life has changed, and that means that the people and things I surround myself with might change, too. Making peace with that hasn’t been easy.”


And I know I’m not alone in that.


But what about friendship, exactly, changed in the days since March 2020? A lot of it has to do with what I’m going to refer to as friend layers. I know friend layers from my own experience, but...


Allow me to explain: Whether you have 150 friends or 150,000 friends, not all of them are close ones. Friendship has layers, degrees. We have our core group of close friends, the ones who play an integral role in our lives, social and otherwise. The ones we call when we’re heartbroken and when we had a really good sandwich. 


But there are also the outer circle friends, the so-called “weak ties.” They’re perhaps not quite as important as our closest relationships. They’re the people who comment fire emojis under your Instagram but probably don’t know that you hate radishes. They’re incredibly important to our overall social health. We need them, and lately we’ve been going without them. 


That friend layer has been decimated by the pandemic—it’s made up of people you probably don’t talk to every day and maybe don’t know that well. The friends whose birth charts you don’t have memorized. What happened to your relationship with them over the last 18 months?


One of my favorite writers, Amanda Mull, considered these weak tie friendships mid-pandemic in a fantastic piece in The Atlantic eulogizing the loss of almost-friends: “The guy who’s always at the gym at the same time as you, the barista who starts making your usual order while you’re still at the back of the line, the co-worker from another department with whom you make small talk on the elevator.”


Mull articulated a feeling we’re all familiar with...the loss of the peripheral friend layer. I know many of us, myself included, have a “who needs ‘em” attitude when it comes to that friend layer, but I’m about to tell you why that’s misguided.


Here’s more from Amanda Mull, citing the work of Stanford sociologist Mark Granovetter: “Casual friends and acquaintances can be as important to well-being as family, romantic partners, and your closest friends. In his initial study, for example, he found that the majority of people who got new jobs through social connections did so through people on the periphery of their lives, not close relations.”


If you Google about friendship long enough, you eventually find yourself reading and re-reading the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson. I first came across the trip down AP Literature lane care of The New Yorker in which Jane Hu wrote this:

  • “In his essay “Friendship,” from 1841, Ralph Waldo Emerson begins with a parable: a “commended stranger” arrives at another’s house, representing “only the good and new.” Brimming with expectant generosity, the two hit it off: “We talk better than we are wont. We have the nimblest fancy, a richer memory, and our dumb devil as taken leave for the time.” But, after some dinner and some more talk, “the stranger begins to intrude his partialities, his definitions, his defects, into the conversation,” and then, suddenly, “it is all over.” The only friend worth having, Emerson tells us, is one who remains somewhat unknown.”


That’s the perhaps dramatic reenactment of the importance of weak tie friends. Friendship of all kinds matters, but we often fail to nourish those weak ties the way we would our childhood BFF. And worst of all, we don’t surround ourselves with people who have vastly different life experiences. If you’re only engaging with your best friends...you’re missing a lot of the world.


Our failure to maintain weak ties is in part because those peripheral friendships are based primarily on proximity, a concept we’ve missed for most of the last two years and are really only now getting used to reintroducing into our lives. 


Consider this from the NYT: “According to one research firm, Unacast, which analyzed GPS data from millions of cellphones, Americans gathered in groups 80 percent less than we did before the pandemic.”


If you’re like me, that means you’re out of shape. See, I went to an art exhibition opening recently, which, tbh, is not a sentence I ever would have uttered pre-pandemic. But I went. I went with my dating app boyfriend—who I guess now that we’re at the finale we can start calling by his name, Coleman. I went and I looked at art, trying to appear mysterious and cool despite being very out of place in a Soho storefront. I had proximity at my fingertips—the place was teeming with Carhartt and leather blazers and probably really interesting people. And yet...I was glued to Coleman’s side. I was reluctant to imbibe on the free wine and the raw bar. I didn’t speak to a single soul other than Coleman, who I speak to almost 24/7. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring myself to make new friends, because it’s hard to do that as an adult and it’s even harder to do it as an adult who has relied on technocratic apps alone to foster her friendships for the last two years.


But after writing about the importance of the potential weak tie friends I could have made at that opening, I’m hopeful I’ll attend the next similar gathering with a different mindset. I mean...what do I have to lose? Someone doesn’t want to say hi back? I’ll live.


Some people miss those loose associations, those mere acquaintances. Others are, frankly, glad to not have to keep up with mindless pleasantries. But they (and by they I’m talking about myself) would be smart to remember that a social network is made robust by varying degrees of closeness. We need friends and we need acquaintances and we need them both at the same time.


And we need to understand...that no two friendships are necessarily the same. In a moment, we’re going to talk about staying friends with people whose opinions you couldn’t disagree with more. But first, a quick message from Public, where some of my actual friends work.


*Roll Mid 2*


I made a good amount of friends in my teen years and early 20s. Many of those friendships were based on things we had in common, which in my teen years and early 20s was mostly boys, parties, and clothes.


But then I started getting more political. I started to care more and read more and write more and pontificate more. And I was met with a stark reality: Just because someone also likes shopping the sale section at Revolve doesn’t mean they also believe that affirmative action works.


Inevitably, friends disagree. But that disagreement has never felt as inevitable as it does today in a world characterized by fraught politics and side-taking.


So how do you disagree with a friend? Can you, in good conscience, stay friends with someone who honestly doesn’t see the issue with saying “all lives matter”? What do you do if a friend doesn’t get vaccinated for political or moral reasons that make no sense to you? 


In short, it’s difficult. That’s because, as the NYT put it, “Friendships are “relationships of choice,” and the ties are more easily undone than those formed with relatives or romantic partners. We expect our friends to be supportive and understanding, even when we aren’t perfect.”


It’s easier to cut a friend or acquaintance out of your life than it is your Facebook Uncle or your meat is murder cousin. But that doesn’t mean you should...at least not always. I’m not going to pretend that I could be friends with someone I know to be racist or sexist or cruel. I would happily trim that fat from my life. On certain issues, I’m unwilling to budge.


But relationships, especially friendships of choice, are more nuanced than we often realize.


I can’t believe I’m doing this, but I’m about to quote the character of Leslie Higgins from Ted Lasso in a late-season 2 scene during which he’s talking to Jamie Tartt about Jamie’s relationship with his father. Here’s what Higgins says: “I try to love my dad for who he is and forgive him for who he isn't.”


What if we applied that logic to our friendships, too? I think we’d be a lot more comfortable with the notion of acceptance—a necessity to sustaining friendships over the long term.


I’ll admit here and now that I’ve not been the most accepting friend. I’m a fan of instant gratification and an almost paralyzing perfectionist who expects the same of her friends, often unfairly. I’m not as understanding as I want to be, especially toward the people in my life with whom I disagree most. 


An example: There’s an unfortunately sizable contingent of people in my family with whom I could not disagree more in terms of politics and general morality. I think they’re pig-headed and mercilessly lack compassion and follow bigots blindly. But they’re still my family. They’re still the ones who will be there when everything else goes to shit, no matter how many times I’ve brought up prison abolition at Thanksgiving dinner.


There are minds that can be changed and minds that cannot. I’ll never stop trying to speak peacefully to my friends and family about the things that I know are right—equity, fairness, accountability. But at the end of the day, I’ve come to accept that my parents and I will never agree on some things, especially political things (as an aside maybe with some prodding he’ll agree to an appearance on the show). I accept that my parents’ interpretations of the world around them are not manifested out of nothingness—they’re a complicated tapestry of the life experiences my parents have gone through, just as my beliefs are for me.


I’m sure my Mom and Dad are listening to this episode and thinking “but where was this understanding the time you got so mad you almost cried at family lunch at the Flatwoods Cafe?”


To which I say...you're right. 


I’m an incredibly passionate person, and I know my passion sometimes translates into a regrettable sort of pretentious mental elitism. More often than I care to admit, I use my privilege of knowing a lot of random things to attempt to undercut other people. I’ll cite unrelated statistics and stories not as a means of fostering conversation but as a defense mechanism. It’s spineless, but it’s true. And when that doesn’t work...honestly, I cry. I get so mad that I cry.


I’m telling you this to come clean—I’ve not always practiced what I preach. I’ve been moody and short-sighted and judgmental and prejudicial. But I’m working on it.


The older I get, the more I realize that relationships are what matter most to me. I’ve lost some good friends and some bad ones. I’ve grown closer to people who were once just acquaintances. I’ve exchanged pleasantries and I’ve grossly overshared in the last 27 or so years. But at the core of what makes my life so beautiful are the moments I get to share it with others.


And I would hate for disagreements over who should be president for four years to ruin what could be a relationship that lasts a lifetime. So I’m committing myself here and now to attempting to be more accepting. To stop saying things like “I could never be friends with someone who voted for Donald Trump.”


And I’m committing to arguing better with people who might have—to being less judgemental and pretentious. To resolve conflict and de-escalate my own passion. To identify the complaint, not the criticism. To be specific and to avoid casting blame unfairly. To air differences like an adult.


Because that’s what makes friendship last. And in a world that almost always feels out to get us, those friendships are the sustenance we need most.


*Roll transition music*


Devoted Thinking Is Cool listeners will remember that I like to cite statistics and studies and concrete evidence in my episodes. Perhaps it’s my slight but perpetual skepticism, perhaps it’s the journalism degree I earned—but either way, I like to point to real, tangible evidence when making an argument. That’s why I cite so many pieces and interview so many people. I’m always out to illustrate what I’ve found to be the truth in a specific and inscrutable way. 


With today’s topic, that feels almost impossible. How am I to seek out evidence that friendship and connection matter? I think I can’t—because no numbers and no studies and no experts really do it justice. We know that friendships and relationships matter because we live their importance each and every day. 


That’s why this episode has been a solo mission—we don’t need reassurance that friendships matter from some expert in friendship. We know they do. We know they’re fraught and complicated and steeped in shared history. We know they’re funny and sad and joyous and heartbreaking. We know that our relationships to each other define our relationships to ourselves and vice versa. We know that this—friendship, connection, relationships—matters. 


But because you can take the girl out of mock trial but you can’t take the mock trial out of the girl, I’ll offer this concrete evidence from the NYT to show that friendships matter...especially when we’re facing difficult circumstances.


KINSEY: How powerful is friendship? Researchers at the University of Virginia wanted to find out whether friendship influences how we approach the challenges of daily life. In an unusual experiment, researchers stood at the base of a steep hill (a 26 degree incline) on the university campus and asked 34 students as they walked by to help them in an experiment. Some students were by themselves; others were walking in pairs.


Each student was given a backpack filled with weights equal to about 20 percent of their body weight. While the students may have had the impression they were going to have to climb the hill, the researchers simply asked them to estimate how steep the climb would be. 


Notably, students standing alone perceived the hill slant as steeper and thought it would be harder to climb while carrying the weighted pack. But students who were standing next to a friend thought the hill looked easier to climb and gave lower estimates of its steepness. Interestingly, the longer the two friends had known each other, the less steep the hill appeared. 


Other studies support the notion that social support helps us cope with stress. When female college students were asked to complete challenging math tasks, their heart rates went up. But when they were asked to complete the math problems with a friend in the room, their heart rates were lower. Scientists also know that when rhesus monkeys are moved to a new environment, the level of stress hormones in their blood increases. But when a monkey is moved along with her preferred companion (monkeys form friendships too), the stress hormones measured in her blood were much lower. (Similar results have been seen with rats and guinea pigs.) 


In most of those examples, friends were bolstered by each other when facing dire circumstances. I’m sure they said this in the Stone Age too, but today it feels as if our circumstances are pretty dire. Sure, we have access to incredible life-extending technology and endless information and more options than we know what to do with. 


But at the same time, we’re existing in a period of sincere uncertainty. What will come of this world? Will we solve climate change? Will we work to repair the colossal and systemic wrongdoings of our ancestors? Will we seek common ground and shared experiences or continue to eviscerate each other over the smallest disagreement? Will we seek and accept accountability? Will we offer people autonomy over their own bodies? Will we work to, as I said at the start of this episode, leave this world better than we found it?


My hope is that the answer is yes, but I’m profoundly aware of how difficult it will be to engineer that kind of world. With each opportunity to make this place better, we simultaneously face an unfathomable challenge. Changing for the better isn’t easy...but as the evidence shows...facing any challenge is a lot easier when you do it with friends.


A great deal more than 150 people listen to this show (thank god), but I think even Dunbar would agree that we’re all a community. I’ve been able to face and think through challenges because of ideas and support and friendly, pure-hearted criticism that all of you have offered me. You are part of my circle, and because of that I feel invincible on my weakest days.


*Roll transition music*


I told you this in the trailer for Season 2 of Thinking Is Cool: “We live in a society, as the meme goes. It’s what governs us, what keeps us stable and secure, and at times what fails us so miserably. So this season, we’re exploring the trajectory of the modern twentysomething, from the general horniness and angstiness we all feel when faced with the reality of existing today to the ways we deal with it to the solutions that will guide what can, hopefully, be a brighter future for our shared global society. This season is about identifying the biggest struggles we face and, in the span of 8 or so weeks, coming to a place of optimism.”


It took 10 weeks, but I’m hopeful we got there together.


All season, I thought this finale would be about my deep yearning to go off the grid. I was prepared to even try doing it—going off the grid—to see what kind of Walden Pond I might be able to find in Manhattan. I was convinced that the pinnacle of my human experience would be this poetic self-excision from what I’ve fondly referred to on more than one occasion as our shared hellscape of a world. So much is wrong, so much is broken, so many people are terrible. What could be better than voluntarily getting the hell out of that? 


Well...something funny has happened while I’ve made this season. I still feel my characteristic, vitriolic anger toward a select few people like Joe Rogan and Mark Zuckerberg. But I’ve realized that focusing on what’s wrong matters quite a lot. It’s necessary. But it’s just as necessary to focus on what’s right—what are we getting right?


I think friendship might be up there. Sure, it’s become more difficult to forge and maintain friendships given...everything. But we know deep down that we’re in this together. There are, as the poet Taylor Swift called them, invisible strings that lead us to each other. 


So I hope today, you’ll spend some time thinking about the ways connection is stronger than disagreement. About the ways that friendships and bonds are strong and resilient. Ask yourself and ask your friends, regardless of layer…

  • What does it mean to you to create friendships in the modern world? How do you think technology has changed your idea of closeness? Do you still actively make new friends? And acquaintances?
  • How did the pandemic change the meaning of friendship for you? Do you feel better or worse about your friendships today? Have you ever made a friend on the internet? And I don’t mean dating apps...
  • Do you think you know how to disagree with a friend without ruining a friendship? How do you do it?


And as always...let me know what you think.


Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Thinking Is Cool. It’s been a sincere honor and pleasure to bring you episodes every Monday this season, and I can’t begin to explain how much it means to me that some of my ramblings here in front of this mic inspired conversations for so many of you. 


All I’ve ever wanted out of this show, and in all honesty this life, is to inspire people to think a little differently. To imagine the world from a perspective outside their own. To use the head on their shoulders for good. To appreciate and celebrate nuance and to become more curious.


I’m so grateful that so many of you have done just that during my second season of this show. I’m going to take a couple of weeks to recuperate, recenter, and get ready for what’s shaping up to be an epic third season. That’s right...I’m not going anywhere. 


I’ll be back with Season Three of Thinking Is Cool in January. Before then, I’m going to be dropping into this feed here and there with some incredible interviews that I’m so thrilled to share with all of you. So keep an eye out for more thoughtful conversations, newsletters, and ideas in the coming weeks.


I’m so grateful to Fundrise, our season 2 presenting sponsor, for making this show possible. And I’m so grateful to you—for coming along on this wild ride. Cheers to all that lies ahead and cheers to each of you.


Remember...thinking is cool and so are you. I’m Kinsey Grant and I’ll see you next time.