How the pandemic is changing male friendships

Men are notoriously bad at maintaining friendships as they get older — a problem that likely stems from the toxic masculine behaviors we learn to internalize in our youth. Few of us are immune to it, either; I used to think I was an exception to the rule, but when I moved to a new city in my 30s, even I struggled to re-establish new bonds like the ones I'd built over time.

But as our pandemic lives continue, the forced isolation might be changing our habits of voluntary self-isolation. From The Washington Post:

Male friendships are often rooted in "shoulder-to-shoulder" interactions, such as watching a football game or playing video games, while women's interactions are more face-to-face, such as grabbing a coffee or getting together for a glass of wine, said Geoffrey Greif, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work who wrote a book about male friendship. When Greif surveyed hundreds of men about how they most often socialized with friends, 80 percent of men said "sports" — either watching or participating in them together.

Because of this, many men have probably had a harder time than women figuring out how to adapt their friendships in a pandemic that is keeping them apart.


In emails and interviews with The Washington Post, dozens of men shared stories about Zoom poker games, backyard cigar nights, neighborhood-dad WhatsApp chains, Dungeons & Dragons groups and Fantasy Football leagues where casual chats about sports and politics have suddenly led to deep conversations — about the struggles of virtual schooling, family illness, breakups, births, wedding postponements and job losses.

The moment feels heavier and so do the conversations. Some men said their friendships have begun to look more like those of their wives and girlfriends. For the first time in their lives, they're going on walks with male friends just to catch up. They're FaceTiming old college friends and checking in on neighbors — not only to talk about the NBA draft picks or their children's soccer schedule — but to ask how they're doing.

I'm not even a sports guy, but I can see how this might happen — hell, I've seen it happen in my group chats with high school friends, which have grown deeper and deeper over the Trump years as some of the guys have found a safe place to grapple with the casual assumptions and misogynistic tendencies of our horny teenage days. Deflecting from deep conversation by talking about the Red Sox just isn't an option anymore; nor are you hanging out at the bar all hours, getting just drunk enough to start opening up.

The Post article has more details on how the situation has changed for a variety of men. Hopefully, this shift in relationships can keep improving even after we all come out of our seemingly-endless quarantine.

No game days. No bars. The pandemic is forcing some men to realize they need deeper friendships. [Samantha Schmidt / The Washington Post]

Image: Phase 2 / Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)