why having a diverse friend ecosystem matters

as i put together my most recent medium post, i’ve been doing a lot of thinking about friends, friendship, and community (though i’ve been thinking about that stuff for at least a year). one thing that kept coming up but i couldn’t find a good way to fit in was diversity as it relates to resilience. my thoughts wandered around two dimensions of diversity. one being diversity among my zone 1 & 2 friends and the second being diversity in terms of proximity (i.e. having an appropriate mix of friends from zones 1 all the way out to 4).

so this first point is about having a diverse set of close friends. in natural ecosystems, diversity is required for resilience. monocultured ecosystems are not resilient because they highly susceptible to shocks. if a forest only had pine trees and a disease hit the pines, the whole forest would die. but with many different types of trees, it’s much harder for a single issue to destroy the forest.

the analogy doesn’t carry perfectly, but part of having a diverse set of friends that are close to you is that you then are opening yourself up to lots of different perspectives. if the communities you come from are different, what has influenced each of you will be different and the things floating around in your consciousness (and news feeds) will vary. and when you share those things with each other, you’re opening yourself up to more of the world than say if all your close friends are cut from teh same cloth. there’s more here, but i’ll leave it for now…

the second point is about having a diversity across closeness of friends. imo, we can logistically only have so many close friends anyways so it is important to recognize how close you are to someone and vice versa. there are serious benefits to having friends in your ecosystem who you’re not close to, too. one of them is that people less close to you are more likely to be more different. so maintaining a healthy mix of very close to very distant friends, again, adds vitality to the friend ecosystem by opening us up to many different types of possibilities, perspectives, and information.

there really is so much more to both of these points but i’m gonna leave this here for now. gotta go teach my second personal storytelling for social change workshop at the podcast garage! woohoo!

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